Friday, October 26, 2012

What I Learned the Last 5 Years

As I was finishing my AC update I started typing and words began to pour onto my screen. It turns out there is a lot more that I had to say overall about the impact running has had on me. I started this blog in 2009 when I signed up for my first full marathon to help me raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and I have kept it going since. I remember when I had tear away fliers in the Cancer Center at Penn (where I was working at the time) to promote the blog and the amount of support I got from the patients and my coworkers. This blog has helped me find gratitude and love even in the most painful situations. This might be my last entry and I wanted to give an overview of what I have learned since I ran my first mile in my first race.

My first Half Marathon was in Feb of 2009. Since then I have run 6 Half Marathons (Tallahassee, Philly (2x), Nashville, Disney, AC), 3 Full Marathons (NJ, Philly, Disney), and 2 Ultras (20 in 24). That is pretty amazing, considering I was scared to run a 10K in 2007 (My first ever race). When I start Nursing School in January, my life will change completely. Every time I get an email from or other race sites telling me about the races coming up, I do get a little sad. This was my last race for awhile and it hit me with those last tenths of a mile. I started to tear up from joy and sadness at the same time. I am so grateful that for some reason I decided to start running a few years ago. Countless people have encouraged me, from the very beginning, and I have had a chance to help other people get into it too. The races I ran with Back on my Feet and with Team in Training, all of the friends I have made purely because of our common hobby, and of course the people I meet on each race day, are simply irreplaceable. My life is absolutely better because of those people, organizations, and the places I have gone.

Every time I have started a race, I have finished feeling like a champion. I have never broken records, and do not plan to. I joke a lot about why I run (medals, t shirts, soft pretzels) but the truth is that I have proven to myself that it is possible. From that 10K Run (Ben Franklin Bridge Run in 2007) to the 20 in 24, every step I took went beyond what I thought I could do. I have literally gone miles past my expectations because I took it one step at a time. I am getting choked up typing this because I am realizing what a huge part running has played in my life. I know in my heart that anyone who sets their mind 100% to doing what they truly want, can do it. When people congratulate me and say ‘I could never do that,’ I tell them ‘ you absolutely could.’ The human mind is so incredibly powerful and it is up to us to shift that power.

That first race in 2007 came 18 months after I finished college (the first time). My mind had not thought about shooting for the stars in a very long time before then. I trained for that race and suddenly I had something to talk about with people, other than my job. When someone asked ‘What’s new?’ I jumped at the opportunity to tell them. I was excited to do something I had never tried before.

When I moved from Jersey to Philly in Dec ’07, I was nervous about making friends and what my life would be like living in a city. My mom had given me the information about Back on my Feet and I joined in Jan ’08. 3-4 mornings a week, I met with BOMF members and volunteers at 5am and we would run before the sun came up. We entered a few 5 K races and then it came time for Broad Street and I thought ‘10 miles, that’s crazy,’ as my mouth told the other members ‘you’ve already come this far, you can run 10 miles.’ I started to run on my own and shift my thinking. What would I say to someone else if they were running with me? And that incredible mind power switched from negative to positive. Some people may just have the gift of being able to switch to positive and optimistic without any outside influence but for me it helped to pretend I was encouraging someone else. I would run with other people and mean those positive things I said to them, so why couldn’t it be true for me too?

Michael, Sera, & Laverne- BOMF
20 in 24- 2008 BOMF Team Mercy (8.4mi)
1st Half Marathon- Tallahassee, FL 2009
In Feb of ’09 I ran even farther than I had before, in the Tallahassee Half Marathon. I ran for Back on My Feet and fund-raised for that run. Knowing during that race that I was running for other people, gave me the motivation I needed to keep my mind slightly more positive than negative. After that race I went back to 5Ks for a few months until I got a pamphlet in the mail about Team in Training. I showed up to an Info session solely to find out what this was about, I made up my mind to not commit to anything that day. 2 hours later I had given my $100 deposit and was signed up for my first Full Marathon. I had to raise a lot of money but it was for a great cause and I also was on a team of people who were in the same boat as me. We met once a week on the weekends and they helped me get 100% ready for anything that could happen on marathon day. Nashville- April 2010, tornado warnings caused the race officials to cut the marathon time at 3:30, forcing me and the majority of other first timers to only run half. I was devastated, but TNT gave me the opportunity to run NJ the following week and that was my first Full Marathon.
1st Full Marathon- Long Branch, NJ 2010

A week after I ran NJ I started school again (after 4 years of solely working). Something happened while I was working at the Cancer Center. I started to believe that maybe I could help these patients more than just scheduling their appointments. Maybe I was smart enough to go back to school and become a nurse. I am just now starting to see that maybe when I crossed that finish line, after running farther than I ever had my whole life, I realized that I could be more and do more than I ever imagined I could.
1st Ultra (61 miles)- 20 in 24 Philly 2011
Philly Rock N Roll Half- 2011 (with Carol)

Philadelphia Full Marathon 2011 (Donna & Rachel)

Pushing myself farther with my running gave me the courage to start pushing in other areas of my life. From May 2010 until right now I have completed my prerequisites and have been accepted in to LaSalle University’s Nursing Program, am at a job I thoroughly enjoy and also get to learn (Medical Field), and as stated above I have run hundreds of miles more than I ever thought I could. Life is always changing and I know this temporary pause in my running will not stop the miles I will go in the other areas of my life. The fact is had I not started to walk that first mile, I am not sure where I would be today. The mind is incredibly powerful and for today my switch is on positive.

Disney World Full Marathon 2012 (I met these guys 26.1 miles before this pic)
Broad St Run 2012 (Jessie)

I want to thank all of you who have followed me on here and I hope to one day return and share the distances I have gone from now until that time. In summary, running opened a door for me that I never knew was in my room of life. On the other side was wonder, challenge, beauty, pain, and friendships that will last a lifetime.
20 in 24 (61 miles)- Philly 2012