It Takes a Village

December 3rd marked the start of my training for the 2019 Boston Marathon. On day 2 of training, my Facebook “memories” informed me that I had run my first 5K–a Reindeer Run–on that day 8 years ago with my friend Suzi. I don’t remember whose idea it was to do it, but it was a cold day, I don’t think either of us had trained, and it ended up taking us about 45 minutes. But feeling the energy of everyone around me made it fun, and Suzi and I were able to lean on each other to get us through the run. We were a team of two, wearing Rudolph headbands, but we were a team nonetheless.

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So this past week and a half, I’ve had teammates–the tribe that keeps you going–on my mind–a LOT.  My family and non-runner friends are hugely supportive of my running and I would not be able run marathons without them babysitting, changing their schedules around so I can run, helping me fundraise and cheering me on on race day, and I am insanely grateful for them. But other runners understand on a personal level what you’re going through when you run, because they have likely been through it. And long runs go by WAY faster if you are running with someone else. As the hours go by, you talk about basically everything–your aches and pains, your families, your childhood, your jobs, your favorite music–even poop. Yeah, there is a lot of talk about bodily functions when you run together.  Needless to say, you get to know each other EXTREMELY well, and these people become some of the best friends you will ever have. So without further ado, this post is about the runners, including Suzi (who has gone on to run numerous road races and volunteered at mile 17 of the 2018 Boston Marathon) who have inspired me over the past 8 years and have made it possible for me to even contemplate running a marathon.

Although I ran track in high school for one season and jogged here and there over the years to keep in shape, I never really considered myself a runner. And if I’m being honest, I still kind of don’t. I certainly am not the “typical” runner. I am not lanky or light on my feet. I’m not ever at the front of the pack. One day I hope to have a race photo where I don’t look like I am walking or about to keel over and die.

So I remember distinctly almost 10 years ago hearing my best friend Katie talk about running with Team in Training and preparing for her first road races. Katie, who had previously said she “would not run unless being chased.” Katie, who has gone on to run multiple marathons, triathlons, and even completed an Iron Man. But beyond what she accomplished race-wise, what stood out to me was the friendships and bonds she formed with her teammates. These were ride or die, best friends for life. And I thought “Maybe if Katie can do it, I can, too.” I mean, not an Iron Man. That’s just crazy talk. And not even a marathon at that point…but the running. Maybe it was doable. But without a crew, or even a running partner to push me, I was still not terribly motivated to get started.

Enter Carolyn. When I met her in 2013, I had no idea she would end up becoming a best friend, one of my favorite people in the world, and my running inspiration. She was training for the Boston Marathon at the time and I remember thinking “This is insane! How can she do this?” Despite following Katie’s training over the years (she lives in California, I in Massachusetts, so I was observing from afar), I honestly really had no idea what training for a marathon entailed or, if I’m being honest, how many miles it was. I just knew that the Boston Marathon was long and difficult, had something called Heartbreak Hill in it that apparently really sucked, and that as a kid I used to get annoyed I couldn’t watch cartoons on Patriots Day because the marathon was televised instead.

Although she couldn’t finish in 2013 because of the bombings, Carolyn went on to run Boston again and finish in 2014, and I was there to cheer her on, which was an amazing experience.

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She has since run numerous marathons, triathlons and finished an Iron Man as well. Her passion for running and finishing what seems impossible sparked something in me, and I started running (often with Carolyn) on a regular basis. I finally had a partner in crime for this crazy ride. Her enthusiasm for running was infectious. I loved hearing her stories about her two Bostons and other races, and maybe it’s the teacher in her, but she passed along so much knowledge about the background of the Boston Marathon and running tips that it was impossible not to start getting curious about running Boston.

Without watching Carolyn’s and Katie’s successes, I can’t say if that seed that was planted back with my first 5K in 2010 would have grown into anything. But seeing what they accomplished and having their encouragement as I started to run regularly meant everything, through more 5Ks, 5 milers, 10Ks and half-marathons. I took a break from running while I was pregnant (I admire women who run throughout their pregnancies…but I am not one of those women), and got back at it shortly after my daughter’s birth in 2015, running a half marathon with hardly any training about 4 months later (I DON’T recommend this).

I should add here that my daughter’s birth was complicated, because that’s how I ended up running for Boston Children’s Hospital. She was born in complete liver failure due to what we were later told was a genetic fluke (read: they have no idea why it happened) and needed a liver transplant immediately. As of this writing, Natalie is the youngest surviving liver transplant recipient at Boston Children’s Hospital, having received her transplant at 10 days old. We owe BCH and her liver donor Natalie’s life, and I vowed when she was in the hospital I would do anything I could to help give back to the hospital for what it had done for us. [You can read more about Natalie’s story here: Natalie ]

Cut to late summer 2017. There was no build-up to deciding I was going to run a marathon. I literally just woke up one day and decided I was going to try to run Boston in 2018. No forethought…which is probably a good thing or I might have talked myself out of it. I did some research and applied to the charity that meant the most to me–but which is also extremely popular and somewhat competitive to get on without a personal story–the Boston Children’s Hospital Miles for Miracles team. I was lucky enough to be asked onto the team, and my training began.

Remember that whole thing about me being a slow runner? Yeah. That’s rough when you’re on a team with a bunch of incredible athletes like the Miles for Miracles Team. Thankfully on my first group run with the team, I met Matt. He had posted something on the Miles for Miracles team page about looking for runners who wanted to run his pace, and that happened to be close to mine. [I’m just going to say right now that Matt SMOKED the 2018 Marathon and ran it in close to 4:30. I mean, WOW. But I digress.] We ended up running most of the rest of our group runs together, until I got injured a month before the marathon and had to do my workouts in a pool. But in that time, we formed an incredible friendship. And while I was injured, Matt texted me almost every day to see how I was doing. I honestly want to cry thinking about it because I don’t know if I would have kept it up without his support. But it wasn’t just Matt. We had formed a little group on the Miles for Miracles Team that we affectionately started calling “The Caboose Crew” because we were always the last to finish. (I was actually always dead last, so I am the caboose of the Caboose.) Over the months of training Matt, Mia, Jeremy, Rebecca and Sam became family to me. In fact, when my 2018 Facebook “Year in Review” popped up this year, 3/4 of the pictures were of me with these amazing people.

We come from all different backgrounds and have different stories of why we run and why we run for Boston Children’s, but our bond is absolutely incredible. I’m so happy to now also call their significant others and children my friends and extended family as well.

 

We helped each other make it through that hellish marathon. We’ve supported each other at various races since Boston, and even run a few together. When I decided to run Boston again in 2019, it was them I ran the idea by first. And it’s because of the friendships I formed with them that I thought I COULD do it again and couldn’t consider any other charity than Children’s to run for. I’m even running for my former teammate Jeremy’s daughter Elodie as one of my patient partners!

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Katie and Carolyn also played a huge part in me being able to finish the 2018 Boston Marathon. Katie raised thousands of dollars for Boston Children’s Hospital and traveled across the country while in extreme pain from an injury and ran with me. Incredible. And who was waiting for me after I made it over Heartbreak Hill? Carolyn and her husband, Tim. Knowing they were there waiting for me was literally what got me through the last miles of the race when everything hurt, I was bawling my eyes out and didn’t think I could pick my feet up.

 

So, if you are reading this, I just want to tell you that I am so incredibly thankful for all of you. You have inspired me, you have driven me, you have supported me, and you have quite literally picked me up when I was down. I wouldn’t be a runner if it weren’t for you. (Did I just call myself a runner?)

I love you, my tribe.

 

My goal is to raise $15,000 for Boston Children’s Hospital. If you can help, please donate here: Donate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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