Sunday, February 22, 2009

On January 11, 2009 I completed the Walt Disney World Marathon for the second time. It was a long six months of training but it all paid off and like every race with Team in Training, it was unforgettable!

Our team met on race day at 3:00 am and headed to the starting area which was in the Epcot parking lot. I’m not much of a morning person but we were all too excited to sleep the night before anyways. My training buddy, Carrie and I put on our mouse ears and got ready to walk through the “happiest place on earth.” At 6:00 am Mickey Mouse and his friends announced the start of the race and set off the fireworks. We both were having a great time, even as the sun came up and the Florida heat kicked in. At mile 10 we headed into the Magic Kingdom and we got to walk right up Main Street USA towards the castle. Other than finishing, that was my favorite part of the race! While everyone else was stopping to take pictures with the characters, Carrie and I just kept pushing forward. By the time we got to mile 16 and were headed towards the Animal Kingdom, I started to realize that we were right on pace to finish in 6 hours and 45 minutes, well under my 7 hour goal. I have to admit, Carrie’s non-stop “sunshine” and optimism was starting to wear off on me but I knew that there was still a lot of race left. I knew from previous experience that I was going to struggle through miles 19 to 23.

I have been coaching with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for three years now and it was very strange to be on the other side of the race. In order for me to participate in the race, it took a lot of selflessness on the part of the other coaches and trainers. I absolutely could not have done it without the help of our amazing walk trainers and my friends, Marcia and Monica. They were a huge help throughout training so that I could focus on my own training but even better, they were out on the course on race day coaching and cheering for everyone on our team. Just when I knew I was going to need it, Marcia was waiting for us at mile 18. As expected, I hit the wall just past mile 19. My body was holding up just fine but mentally, I was exhausted. Sensing that I needed some “alone time,” Carrie and Marcia started to walk ahead of me just a few feet. I know that if they wouldn’t have been there, I would have slowed down to a crawl at that point. I kept following along and I focused on getting through each mile, one at a time. We had been using a pace chart to keep us on track and despite hitting the wall, we were still on target for that 6:45 finish!

Our TNT run coach, Jim, always tells the marathoners that the first 10 miles are about using your head and having a smart race. The second 10 miles are when all of the training kicks in and you use your legs. The last 6 miles though are all heart. We are out there to raise money to find cures for blood cancers and those last 6 miles are when you think about those that cannot be out there with us. And that is just what I did! I thought about the heroes that I was walking in honor and in memory of and I dug deep as we made our way to mile 25 in the World Showcase in Epcot. I know that I was looking pretty rough at that point but I knew I was going to reach my personal goal of finishing in less than 7 hours. My body was finally starting to feel the strain of that pace and I started to slow down. I was already starting to tear up when I saw the sign for mile 26. There was a gospel choir singing to us (No, I wasn’t hallucinating!) and just around the corner was the finish line. My best friend Julie and her husband had run the marathon and were in the stands with her parents cheering me on. I saw and heard them but I didn’t have the energy to even look up! So much for a good photo op! I crossed the
finish line in 6 hours and 46 minutes, setting a new personal record! I was so excited. Carrie and I exchanged a huge hug and went over to get the coveted Mickey Mouse medal.

It was an unforgettable day and it was amazing to have so many people supporting me on race day. I could not have gotten to race day though without all of your financial support. Thanks to your generous donations, I was able to raise over $3600 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Team in Training is all about making a difference and we do that by acting as a TEAM! We raised over $7 million for blood cancer research and patient services. We are getting closer and closer to cures. One of the doctors at the James Cancer Hospital is even confident enough to say that the cure is already out there, we just need to funding for clinical trials to find out which test tube actually holds the cure. That is a pretty powerful statement and that is why I continue to stay involved with Team in Training. Thank you so much for all of your support. It means so much to me but it means even more to those that have benefitted from the research.

I am back to coaching and until that cure is found, I’m going to keep volunteering and keep fighting for those that have lost their battles.