making my miles matter this autumn

So, why do you run?

Inevitably, this question pops up in conversations —  and with about as much frequency when I chat with runners and with non-runners. I can easily wax and wane philosophic about why I do this stuff for fun, why I’ve considered myself “a runner” for most of my entire life, or why, oh why, something that can break my heart can instantly, if not also simultaneously, invigorate and exhilarate and leave me shakin’ in my boots…and why I insist on coming back for more.

I could also try to be sassy and say that I run to eat, or drink, or because it’s cheaper than therapy, or because it sufficiently empowers me to wear clothing so skin tight, it might as well be painted on… and all of these aforementioned are at least partially true…

If I’m being honest, though, and consequently, feel comfortable with likely crying in front of the person who has asked this innocuous question, I’ll say that I run, and got into marathoning specifically, because I wanted to chase after something bigger than myself, to feel like my running was contributing to some sort of social good. While I knew/know that it’s hiiiiiiiiighly unlikely that yours truly will ever single-handedly find a cure for cancer, or single-handedly eradicate poverty, or single-handedly convince the world that educating girls and women is a damn good idea, worthy of their serious consideration, what I can do is make my miles and training matter.

In 2007, when I decided that it was time to train for and run my first marathon, I signed up with the north Chicago suburbs’ chapter of Team in Training, the fundraising arm of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Out of all the charitable organizations out there doing great things–and there are many–I chose TNT because I wanted to honor my dear college friend, Traci’s, mother, who had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma while Traci and I were in undergrad together.

In addition to honoring Traci’s kick-ass mom, I also wanted to honor my own kick-ass mom who had been diagnosed with breast cancer when I was a first-year student in undergrad, in 2003, and who went on to beat it, after an aggressive treatment of chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy. Just a few years later, in 2006, during my final year of undergrad, my mother, after having a clean bill of health for years, had a stroke, resulting in paralysis of her right side (which was her dominant side) and expressive aphasia, among other things.

In 2007, when I first learned about Team in Training and the LLS, and what LLS stands for, and the work that they do, it was a no-brainer that my very first marathon (and, at the time, my one and only!) would be through TNT and that my fundraising efforts would go toward LLS.

Fortunately, because my friends are awesome and just about as crazy as me, Traci also decided that running and training for a marathon was a grand idea and jumped on the effort (and has since gone on to complete five marathons with TNT before enrolling in medical school–after earning two Masters degrees. I told you, my friends are fuckin’ amazing).  Shitty hot weather aside, my memories from my first marathon, in Chicago, couldn’t be better and more meaningful.

Traci with her parents, post Chicago Marathon 2010
Traci with her parents, post Chicago Marathon 2010

Since I began marathoning in 2007, I’ve been fortunate to participate on behalf of TNT at Chicago (2007, 08) and Nashville’s Country Music Marathon (2008) and, until somewhat recently when I finally figured out that the TNT singlets I have chafe my arms so hard that I bleed, I always raced in a TNT singlet.

finishing the 2008 Akron, OH Marathon
finishing the 2008 Akron, OH Marathon
circa mile 9 of the 2008 Chicago Marathon
circa mile 9 of the 2008 Chicago Marathon
IL Marathon 2012... post-race cry :)
IL Marathon 2012, my first marathon postpartum, and my first BQ postpartum (and new PR at the time)… and obviously after my usual post-race cry

Continuing to support TNT and LLS remains close to my heart because I can’t think of TNT/LLS without thinking of Traci, or her mom, or my mom, and it’s quite likely that I wouldn’t be running like I am now were it not for this fine organization that got me on the right path seven years ago.

with my mom at my first Masters graduation in 2010. I am so happy that she beat the cancer and the stroke.
with my mom at my first Masters graduation in 2010.

My running, and specifically, my marathoning “career” is rooted in that organization, and I attribute my love of the sport, and the wonderful foundation I have had for my 23 marathons, to the excellent and inspiring coaches I had in Chicago from TNT. Hell, until we moved, one of my regular running partners, Jack, was one of my former TNT coaches. The organization is like family.

TNT/LLS, as an organization, is what brought me to the sport.

Its mission is what has kept me going.

The incredible and knowledgeable and, just generally speaking, kick-ass coaches are what (or who) brought me back to marathons year after year (if not also month after month), healthy and happy to ready to race and realize my full potential as a newly-minted marathoner.

It has been a few years since I’ve raced on behalf of Team in Training, and in “the universe always makes sense” department, nearly one year to the day of Traci’s mother’s passing–a passing ultimately due to the long-term complications that, unfortunately, come with the territory of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma–seemingly out of nowhere, I was asked if I’d be interested in running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco, a race that exists exclusively to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Once my hands stopped shaking as I was holding my phone, and once the tears in my eyes swelled down enough that I could see, I immediately shot roughly 230803  texts to Traci, committed to the race in October, and promptly went for a run… wherein I saw, would you know, a runner outfitted in TNT gear.

I’m telling you, the universe always makes sense.

Were it not for the NWHM’s explicit connection to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, admittedly, I would have no interest in running it. And, were it not for a race recruiter reaching out to me, the race wouldn’t have been on my radar at all. Sometimes, though, opportunities just fall into our laps, and sometimes, it’s worthwhile to just go with it and figure out the details later…once our hands stop shaking and our eyes stop watering.

I am beyond excited to fundraise for the first time in many years for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society because the need remains.

I am totally humbled that a damn-expensive and kinda exclusive half marathon–nearly $200, and accessible only by lottery–reached out to me to see if I’d be interested to help get people stoked about Team in Training in the hopes that these runners would participate.  Last year, at the 25th anniversary of the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, TNT trained more than 600,000 participants and raised more than 1.4 billion — with a B — dollars. I am floored and quite honored to be part of this for the 2014 race.

And, maybe more than anything, I am really happy to continue this unicorn pursuit–of somehow making some sort of societal difference through my running–here in CA and really, for the first time, explicitly, in several years. It’s refreshing — and incredibly empowering and motivating.

My “endurance running” pursuits began as a way to honor some incredibly special women; it seems only fitting, then, that I recommit my running to these women as I begin a new life chapter in California.

Nike Women's SF fundraising

Please consider supporting my fundraising efforts this autumn for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by donating to my campaign HERE.

And! If you’re super jazzed about this wonderful and mission-driven organization and want to do even MORE, please consider fundraising for LLS by running the Nike Women’s Half. Click HERE for more information.

How do you make your miles matter?

4 thoughts on “making my miles matter this autumn”

  1. Wow, what a wonderful tribute to both of your moms (and to the organization that helped inspire your marathoning career) that you got the opportunity to run the race! They are truly inspirations to us all. My mom passed away from leukemia, so your words really hit home. I am amazed that TNT has raised over a billion dollars so far! Anyway, I wish they would make a singlet that did not cause you skin irritation! Good luck with the training/fundraising and thanks for this fantastic post. :)

  2. As someone who has lost way too many loved ones to cancer, I support you all the way! You continue to amaze and inspire me to dream and go after my goals. I am so happy to have met you ! Your passion for running is infectious and can’t wait to see what in store for you! Keep on truckin! Mad love and props to you!

    1. aw, thanks, Trish! Your words are super special to me! thanks so much for the support here and elsewhere and for all that you’ve done to welcome me to CA over the last six months. :) xo

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