I want to start off with the fact that we hit 6 months in February! Six months in the land of dreams. Six months of new adventures. Six months of self-examination. For me, this week also marks one year since I traveled across the US to check out what this St. Joseph Worker program was all about. And here I am. I had no idea that my life would look like this a year ago. No idea that I would be a case manager. Zero clue that I would have just finished my first half-marathon. Couldn’t even imagine the personal growth. My life has taken so many fabulous turns in this year, and I just want to offer up some serious gratitude for the life I live.
But what I’m really here to write about is the wonderful adventure that the St. Joseph Workers started all the way back in September.
March 9th I ran my first marathon, with the girls at my side. What once started as an outlandish idea, bloomed into this beautiful project that allowed us to work for a cause much bigger than any of us. Teaming with World Vision allowed us not to “run aimlessly” but rather run for a cause we felt deeply connected to.
First off I need to thank all of you have been there from the beginning to finish. Whether it was a donation of workout clothes (shout out to my big Sis and Bro-in-Law), our very expensive running sneakers, donations to Team World Vision, liking my status on Facebook, prayers, suggestions or enough encouragement to last me 13.1 miles, we’ve all been so blessed from the beginning. I don’t know if I ever truly realized how tangible the power of prayers and positive thinking could be. I could feel it, especially around mile 23 (I ran the LA Marathon course, but the second half of it. My partner in crime, I mean charity relay partner, Gabby ran the first 13.1 miles and Michele ran the full) when the idea of giving up briefly crossed my mind. It was brief for a few reasons: 1) because I had come too far to stop now and 2) I knew that I couldn’t give up, not with so many people counting on me and cheering me on. All my thanks goes out to YOU. Seriously, I couldn’t have done it without you. Running a marathon is like no experience I’ve ever had before. And it’s truly because of the community that surrounds you. From the streets of Hollywood to the interwebs to my fellow SJWs, there is such a powerful connection. Also, a special shout out to the Sisters of St. Joseph who supported us from day one of this crazy adventure. They support us so much, both through donations, well-wishes and prayers. We are deeply indebted to you and you amazing women were definitely part of my inspiration for finishing.
Ok, enough sap, and here’s all the juicy deets you came to this blog for 🙂
The day before the marathon was filled with all sorts of uncertainty. Will we survive? Will KT Tape actually give us super powers? And most importantly, does that have carbs? My roommates and I headed to the LA Convention Center to pick up our bibs. It was amazing seeing all the different types of people in this room. All shapes and sizes, all fitness levels, all convened under one roof for the same crazy mission: to complete a marathon. For me, I was super unsure of myself at this point. Am I fit enough? What if I had trained a little better? What if I don’t run fast enough? What if I can’t run at all? So seeing such diversity at this event helped quiet some of my nerves.
That evening I also dedicated quite a bit of time to remembering why we were even running the race. Sure, running a marathon for personal fitness is a great goal. However that has never been a great motivator for me. The reason why I even thought about doing the marathon was because of the charity I ran for. Team World Vision holds many events across the United States, raising money for clean water in Africa. Interestingly enough, Team World Vision is a charity I had researched last semester for a project on poverty. I was inspired by the stories of the children who walked up to 9 miles, three times a day to obtain water for their family. There is never a guarantee that the water is clean, and many times it is the female child who is forced to walk under terrible conditions. She is not only forgoing her education, but she is also at risk for being kidnapped and trafficked. Deaths due to dirty water is the #1 most preventable cause of death in the world. One of the reasons why I support Team World Vision is that they teach these villages who lack basic sanitation on how to choose the right system for them. They teach them how to keep is sustainable. They really subscribe to the “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” mentality. The girls and I have put a lot of time and effort to fundraising. We’ve held yard sales, we’ve done talks, we’ve held bake sales. We have become more aware of our own water usage. I wasn’t only running for myself. I was running for those villages, those families, those children, and those young girls. I used my KT Tape as a small reminder that this run meant much more than a finish line for me.
Eventually I made it to the 13 mile marker sideline. As the time was getting close for us to make the exchange, I got a call from Gabby indicating that she injured her hip and would be walking the last mile. When she got to my point, I could see how much pain she was in, and knew how hard she worked to reach me. When I saw her I grabbed her hand and, in one of my favorite moments from the entire race, we finished the last leg together. At that point I said goodbye and kept running, leaving everyone behind and starting my own personal journey 🙂
Honestly, a lot of the race was a blur. I tried to stick to running every other traffic light, until I started tiring out. It also started getting hot quite quickly. I hit the pavement at 11am, and it was already in the 80’s. A lot of the race was spent looking for the next water station (and subsequently the next port-a-potty). An amazing part of the race is seeing all the people along the streets. They stand there simply to encourage complete strangers. Some come bearing gifts of red vines and peanut butter pretzels, while others allowed us to continue having a sense of humor while reading their signs. But all of them made sure we knew that we could do it. At times they provided the strength that I was totally lacking.
One concern I did forgot to mention earlier was my diabetes. Despite a few long runs under my belt, I only experienced lows after my runs. However from all the adrenaline, I started the race pretty “high.” Luckily I was able to get it down pretty quickly, but for me that meant two lows in a row. Any runner knows that glucose is imperative to continue running, and I depleted it twice. Luckily around the second low and mile 19, I was able to meet Gabby and Michele’s parents. I will never forget the look on their faces when we saw each other. I think at that moment I could have stopped, knowing all that I had accomplished at that moment. Michele also met up with us and we continued together, struggling through each other’s metaphorical “walls.”
Up until mile 22/23, I was feeling great. Exhausted, but limited pain. That was until out of no where my knee began bothering me. Much like out of scene of a movie, I told Michele to go on without me. I thought I was going to have to walk (or crawl) to the finish line, and didn’t want to slow her down. After attempting to stretch it out, I still experienced a deep pain. At this point I knew I had two choices: quit or keep going. And I knew I didn’t come ten miles to stop now. I stopped to stretch a little more and saw a text on my phone from my mom telling me to keep going. So I took out my beloved rosary beads that were given to my mother by her grandmother and prayed the last two miles of my run. I prayed for my knee, I prayed for my roommates, I prayed for all those who were praying for me, I prayed for all the other runners, I prayed for all those who will now have water because of Team World Vision’s efforts and all those who still need water.
Amazingly enough, I finished the last two miles in twenty minutes. My best time for the entire race. I was able to run to the finish line, with my roommates cheering me on to the end. Hitting that finish line was extremely emotional for me, especially as I called my mom, and we cried together on the phone. To me it still is so surreal that I actually did it. And as my sister so lovingly put it, I always have been stubborn, but even this seemed really out of the realm of possibility for me. To put my mind to something and actually achieve it, has been an incredible experience for me. I may not be the perfect body, I may not be the pinnacle of health, but how can I hate a body that allowed me to achieve the unthinkable? How can I look at my body with anything but love, knowing that it carried through 13.1 miles, barely complaining the entire time? We are so much more than we appear. We have more strength than we know. And we can achieve more than we can imagine.
Thanks for bearing with me on such a long post. And again, thank you for your continued support. You were part of my reasons for finishing.