Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pre-Marathon Festivities: In Photos!

2 days until we run! So many words, so many little time. I thought as a little teaser, I would share my day in photos so you can see what's been going on. 

Bib pick-up was smooth sailing!


Mom and I found Meghan -- who had just completed the BAA 5k -- and we went to the expo together! I bought all of the things.

At the Sam Adams booth:

Samples of special edition 26.2 brew!

Outside on Boylston:

From the other side of the Finish Line. There was a ton if security today because of all the events (5k, invitational mile, expo, etc). 

Mom and I then headed over to the Marriott Copley to check in with Dana-Farber. Here they had a board showing our team fundraising progress (over $5 million!!!) as well as e names of "Pacesetters" who have hit certain goals.

Here's my name with the $8k pacesetters!

At the Old South Church they were giving out scarves made from all over the country. They were intended to show strength, comfort and support to runners. Mine was made by a child: Lorna from Spokane. Thanks Lorna!!!!

Mom and I met up with my friend Lauren and had a lovely lunch. Deep dish Pizzaria Unos (hold the cheese please) without any guilt? Yes, ma'am!

The day was stunning. Here's a view on Newbury Street.

Cherry blossoms in full bloom:

Once home I started unpacking all my goodies - 2 huge bags from the expo and Dana-Farber! They were filled with the official race shirt, shirts (yes, multiple) I bought, souvenirs, posters to decorate, cowbells and poms-poms for race cheering, and more! Here was one of my favorite items:

I modeled one of my shirts with an official Boston Marathon mug. Because obviously I needed a mug. Duh.

And then Mom decided we should be taking more selfies. Because, again, obviously. Duh.

Just as I was about to lay down and get off of my feet...the best part of my day came through on my phone,

$11,000!!!! Oh my god!!! 

And now, let's cue Les Miserables: One Day More!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Finding Meaning in 22 Miles

Last weekend I went home to complete my final crazy long run with the Dana-Farber team.

I didn't know what to expect from this run other than that it would be 20-22 miles and on the marathon course. Team members who live in New York assured me that this was a run not to be missed, so I took their word for it and decided to give it a try.

I stayed overnight with college friends and appropriately carbo-loaded with them. My friends are really supportive and willing to participate without much coercion in the pasta-eating portion of marathon prep, I've noticed. 

One of my new DFMC friends -- Betty -- and her boyfriend Andrew picked me up in the morning and drove me to the meeting area at the Boston College gym. (DF team members become like family so quickly!) There, we could use the locker room bathrooms, prep for the run, and mingle with some other fellow runners before we started our little jog.

Me and Cassie -- another kick-ass New York DFMC runner!

If you are training for a marathon, about three weeks prior you will have your dreaded long run of 20-22 miles on the schedule. If training in any city, you can tell who else is doing this run. In New York you can see the determined look as they run by you on the West Side, or the limping fatigue through Central Park. They're with friends, or solo, or sometimes with one of the charities like Team For Kids or Team in Training. They're all over Manhattan and the bridges and the boroughs, and you come across them and you know...they're doing it too.

Last weekend was that weekend for all those prepping for Boston. And turns out it's a very, very different experience.

Before we set out on that crisp, running-perfect morning, the team made some announcements and awarded recognition to those -- like myself -- that had achieved certain fundraising milestones. 

Then a woman spoke. Her son Matty had been treated for cancer and passed away several years ago. She told her story and explained the importance of remembering her son, but also thinking of those -- like the siblings of children who are treated for cancer -- that need support too. She asked that we run and remember, as a team. 

Up next was a guy who was running for his friend. She has breast cancer, and it has spread to the brain. She is 31 years old. He asked that we sign a banner for her to show our support for her. As a team. 

I could barely hold back the tears. THIS is why we donate. This is why we ask our friends and family. This is why we run. We are doing something important here by trying to raise $5 million in 2014 to make the lives of people better. I know that this act of giving back is -- quite possibly -- the most meaningful thing I've personally ever done.

And, just as I write with tears now, I started running with tears in my eyes. We were off.

D-F had fueling stations for us spread out every 2 miles or so for our run, so we'd hit each station twice (if we wanted to). Stations were amazing. Volunteers had water, different Gatorades, preztels, was a bonanza of fueling fun!

But it wasn't just us out there. Dana-Farber is the largest charity for Boston at about 700 runners. But it is by no means the only charity. There are thousands of charity runners collectively raising millions of dollars for amazing causes. It is the only way in to Boston if you can't quality for a really fast time. A lot of charity runners didn't finish last year, because it was us slow-pokes who would have finished after that infamous 4:09:43 on the clock last year. (Check out this wonderful ESPN article for a great write-up on unfinished business for charity runners). This year, charity runners like my friends Meghan (Samaritans) and Ashley (Boston Medical Center) as well as those with my D-F team will get a chance to go at it again. They'll finish what they started.

All the other charities too had tables set up, with volunteers manning the stations and cheering us on! I learned that some small charities started at the beginning (a very good place to start) and ran to Mile 20-ish. Others began around course Mile 6 and ran to the Finish. Because Dana-Farber started at BC (~Mile 20), ran backwards along the course to Mile 9 or so, and then turned around to run back. If you did the full out and back without turning early, you'd therefore complete 22 miles. And we were running head on into fellow runners coming our way at first. Head on into charity runners like the indestructible Meghan and the unstoppable Ashley, both of whom I saw as we each conquered the hills of the course in our separate directions, 

Running stores and even major companies like Saucony got in on the fun and had set up fueling stations for us runners.

A hysterical poster from inside of a Saucony-sponsored port-o-potty. After needing an emergency stop on the way back at Mile 14, they will have some brand loyalty from me FOR LIFE

What got me most, however, were the random people who were there cheering. People! Cheering a training run! It was insane. There were several cars pulled over that had even set up their own make-shift fueling stations and were offering free food and beverages to runners. And there were families with kids holding out fruit. They were smiling, and they were cheering, and they were supporting our every step.

It was amazing. The energy was contagious. It was like nothing I've ever experienced. Put it this way: if Saturday had been the main event? It would have been enough. It was that good. I can't even fathom what race-day will be like. 

What I'm doing here is so much more than "just" another marathon.

I know that this is a special year and it's bound to be more than "normal." But there is just something about Boston any year. About running The Boston Marathon. 

It's difficult to put in words what last Saturday did for me and meant to me. Raising money for Dana-Farber. Running the premiere, most distinguished, and most famous marathon in the world. Joining in with my home city as it shows strength, dignity, courage, and the willingness to overcome. Its's like being there on that course with my team finally allowed it to sink in. The emotion I have felt since Saturday sometimes just swells and I have trouble holding it back.

Even on, like, crowded subway cars. Or in line waiting for a salad. Awkward.

I'm glad our 22-miler run -- which I finished without any issue -- did not allow me to practice crossing that now infamous finish line in Boston. Because I've never been so glad to participate in anything as passionately and fully as I am to be running this marathon for this charity in its 25th year of running. And I know that Monday, April 21st is going to be one of the best days of my life. I'll cross the finish then, and I'll know that every glorious, hard, painful, beautiful step will have been worth it. 

We run Boston in 17 days. Together with the support of over 100 donors, we have already raised $10,200. Join me on behalf of Matty and of the 31-year old patient. On behalf of my Dad who -- healthy -- drove an hour to pick me up from my run and drive me back home. On behalf if the loved ones in your life. We run to fight cancer. And we run Boston Strong.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

That Time I Ran Alone...For Over 3 Hours.

I woke up on Sunday morning with the second-to-last of my loooong long runs for Boston Marathon training facing me. I had figured out a group that I could try to join in with for "8-13 miles" (such a big difference between those things!) and woke up with plenty of time to get to the West Side and join them.

But then I realized something.

Ok, fine. Not entirely accurate in the macro sense. But that morning I was not in the mood for pleasantries and get-to-know-yous. I wasn't in the mood to smile when I felt like having neutral-face. I wasn't in the mood to be around anyone but myself.

And so, I set off to conquer 19 miles on my own. As someone who has never gone more than 16 solo (and that was rough!) it was a bit of a daunting task.

I programmed in about 3 hours of NPR podcasts and reports onto my iPhone and, now appropriately nerded out, began my little journey around the isle of Manhattan.

To break up the time and have a "task at hand" (other than, you know, the running), I decided to observe my surroundings as much as I could. I captured some of my favorite sights from my jaunt which began at my apartment on the Upper East Side.

I ran down 1st Avenue and then cut over to the water in the 30s.

East River park, looking north

I ran south along the east side of the island and then ran across the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn.

I kind of love how grimy and non-touristy this bridge it.

East River

The Manhattan Bridge path. Very few people see this view of this well-traveled bridge.

And battled the brisk (still winter-feeling) air back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Approaching the bridge. 
Looking back

 Back on the Island, I headed over to the South Street Seaport.

And continued to make my way down south, around the tip of Manhattan, and up the west side.

Colgate clock in Jersey City

I entered Central Park at Columbus Circle.

And finished my last 1.5 miles comfortably, alone, in Central Park.

19 miles ending on Cat Hill? Don't mind if I do.... 

The run was tough, but not as tough as I expected it to be. Between NPR, the scenery, and all the crazy thoughts that ran through my head, I truly never bored. There's a lot that can go on in this little brain of mine when left to its own devices -- it's actually quite terrifying. To be honest, at some point I may have figured out how to work through tough issues such as nuclear fusion or the Middle East Crisis or during my 3+ hours of solo MeriG thinking time. But who can remember these details now.

I did want to stop around mile 13 when I was just "not feeling it." So I actually did for a few minutes. I stopped. I breathed. I took a sip. And then I said to myself, do you really want to spend $30 on a cab home at this point? And the answer was a decided no. Might as well just run there.

During this lonesome run I only had to worry about myself (my favorite motto). When I was thirsty? I drank. Cramping or sore? Didn't hesitate to stop and stretch. When I had to use a restroom? I did so. Running with a group has its perks for sure. But running at your own pace without having to worry or accommodate anyone else? Well that certainly has its own Pro list as well.

Forrest Gump: When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went. Elderly Southern Woman on Park Bench: And so, you just ran? Forrest Gump: Yeah. 

Boston Marathon training has been a series of firsts and superlatives for me. Longest treadmill run. Coldest run. First run with a new group. And this longest solo run means as much to me as those if not more. This was all me, and it felt great to know that I could do it.

To quote the poet Jason DeRulo:

I then got the greatest surprise when I arrived home and found out that I had officially reached my $10,000 fundraising goal for Dana-Farber. It was an amazing moment, full of complete shock, awe and gratitude. More on this later.

Screen shot!

Only Archie remained unimpressed.

* * * * * * * * * *

I am running the Boston Marathon in 26 days with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge! I have raised an astounding $10,050 towards my goal of $10,000+! Find our more or donate here: