I've been struggling with writing about this race for well over a week now but I decided I owe it to the people who donated to it and supported me to recap it. Be prepared for a lot of pictures because pictures are my thing, in case you don't follow my pictorial stream of consciousness on Instagram and already know that (don't ask me how many I have on my phone since I upgraded to the 32g iPhone 5 in June...let's just say that the next upgrade will be to the 64g).
Oh and this is probably going to be long. I'll try to edit myself but...we'll see how that goes. I broke it into paragraphs, maybe that will make it easier.
Why I did the race
A Run for Thier Life is a 5 walk/run and a 15k run in Syracuse that was started by the Carol Baldwin Foundation to raise money for breast cancer research in Central New York. I had never run it before because 1) I had never before been personally affected by breast cancer so I never really felt a draw to it and 2) I am usually deep in the midst of half marathon training at this time of year (last year I did two in three weeks at this time but I have already run 4 this year so I ran a lot of smaller races this fall that I have never done before). I also had NO idea that Carol Baldwin is the mother of THE Baldwins and that she lives in Syracuse. Cue me spending even more time than I already do in Camillus hoping that I see one or four of them walking around (Ok, I am really only there for two reasons: my gym that I belong to only for running on the treadmills at 9pm is there and their Wegmans has the best chicken for salads on their salad bar of any other Wegmans in the area...which I shouldn't tell you because now you will go there and eat all the chicken and I will have none).
I decided to do the race this year because two people I know had been diagnosed in the past year. One, a very good friend of mine (Libby) and the other, a wonderful woman who is the friend of someone I know well (Kelly). I hadn't fund raised for anything since I sold candy bars in high school to go on vocal ensemble trips (and truth be told I just sent the box to the bowling alley with my mom and it would empty right out) and had no idea how I would do but I wanted to try my best to raise money to donate in the names of these two amazing ladies (Kelly because I knew the money would benefit her personally as she lives in CNY and Libby...for a lot of reasons) so I signed up for the race on a whim at the State Fair and forgot about it for a few weeks.
(This is not my best angle and my running partner is never allowed to take pictures of me again)
Then I thought maybe I should get going with fundraising so I set my goal at $200, crossed my fingers that I could get half that and posted about it here and on Facebook. Imagine my surprise when I hit that number in a half hour! I was shocked so I started campaigning more and watched the number rise and rise until I hit $500 two days before the race! I cried when that happened, I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for my amazing friends. I thought I would stop there but by the Saturday before the race (on Sunday) I ran with one of my running clubs and when I left to run I was at $525. When I got back to the car I was at $600! Cue more crying. I ended up blowing my original $200 goal out of the water and ran the race with $625 donated in Libby and Kelly's names so thank you to everyone who donated! I just can not express how much your support meant to me, I am still in shock over it.
The morning of the race
I was really nervous the night before/morning of the race which my friend I went to dinner with the night before can probably attest to (Sorry, buddy. We learned a lot about salmon fishing though!). I have kept my base mileage at around 10-15 miles for the last year or so (so that I can run a half marathon whenever I want to) but I haven't been running hills a lot and I had heard the course was very similar to the Mountain Goat course which is 10 miles of hills (a 15k is 9.3 miles, for the record). I wasn't nervous about the difficulty per say, I was nervous because I was running this race in honor of other people and I wanted to do the best I could. I was so worried that I would tank somewhere and have to walk and that would upset me so much. Still, I got out all my pink gear and glitter and showed up to the race ready to go. There was a lot of energy there and that was really fun to see, they even had zumba going when we got there. My running partner and I did a one mile warm up and the weather was perfect: about 55 degrees and overcast, I couldn't have asked for anything better. And I am pretty sure that he loved that I put on my glitter tattoos in his van so it looked like a strip club exploded (in my head there is a lot of glitter in strip clubs but that's a hypothetical thought since I have yet to go to one so don't ruin it for me if it's not true).
The shirt is one that was created to fundraise for Libby to donate money last year to a cancer charity close to her (she is in St Louis). It says "Honeybadger, she'll beat cancer if she wants to" and "Nipplegate 2012" (which is what I named her treatment because I refused to call it cancer).
This glitter tattoo kit I got the night before the race and it not only stayed on the whole race, it stayed on for DAYS after. Which I'm not complaining about because hey, I love glitter.
We started out running pretty easy and I saw quite a few people that I knew running the course. The 15k people started on the road and the 5kers on the driveway and we met up and combined at the end which was good because it was a way for us to bypass all the walkers. At around mile 2 of running we hit Thorden Park which has one of the most evil hills in all of Syracuse (in my opinion and I have run many). It's short but it's steep and it's one of the last hills in the Mountain Goat so I'm usually pretty drained by the time I hit it. This time I was fresh though since it was at the beginning of the race so I nailed it with no problems and then went sailing down the other side. Right before mile 3 the 5k people split from us (we had been running the same course until then) and then it was time to so some real work. Of the 2000 or so people who did the race (I believe) only around 200 did the 15k so it was a much smaller crowd. At around mile 3 is also the time my little toe on my left foot started bothering me but I tried to ignore it (it ended up being an epic blood blister and I will spare you the pictures).
I am going to boil the rest of the race down to this: the hills were brutal. I was a semi familiar course because it was part Moountain Goat, part of Syracuse University which I have also run a lot but it took us through a lot of roads I had never run before and just when I would think the hills were done I would hit another one. I tried to stay strong through them all and every time I wanted to walk up something that I felt I was running parallel to I thought of Libby or Kelly or someone else even closer to me who was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago and how they don't have the option to give up and I ran them all. I went into this race saying that it wasn't about me, it wasn't about how fast I ran it or how well I did or if I broke any personal records. This race was out of gratitude of being able to be a part of the people's lives who I hold so dear to me and I thought of every single person who I love during those 9.3 miles and every single person who has ever supported me in anything I've done, especially this race.
I wasn't sure when I was going to start crying and for a while I thought I was going to make it through without it. But in the last mile when I hit the final stretch and could see the turn back into the Fieldhouse parking lot to the finish I started bawling so hard that I almost had to stop running. The thing I have learned about someone you love having cancer is this: it becomes a team effort. Everything you do helps add to the team strength and I know they have to go through it alone but I feel like I have fought through it with all of them, even if it's silently. I don't want to get into the details of anyone's story because it's not mine to tell but I can tell you that being able to do nothing to help hits you so hard when all you can do is watch someone you love go through something like this. In my way this is how I finally could help.
I came up to the finish line crying and ready to walk because emotionally I was done but when I was about 200ft away I just got it in me to start sprinting. My running partner yelled, "It's about damn time!" and took off with me and we crossed the finish line with our hands in the air. I have never done that in any of the 100+ races I have run in the last 4 years, I've never felt the need to. But it just happened and I felt so amazing crossing the finish line for all the reasons I ran this race for. And then I heard my best friend yelling at me from the sidelines and she hugged me and I just cried into her shoulder until she pushed me off her and told me to knock it off because I was getting snot on her coat (we've been best friends since we were 17, these things happen). And then she told me that I still run with my shoulders up to my ears because apparently she's a running coach now? ;)
She and her fiance took me to lunch after the race which made up for her heckling except for when he was being obnoxious about my blister (you can see me standing on the side of my foot in that picture, my feet hurt SO bad, I really need new shoes). But they let me order a mega brownie so all was forgiven (this is why I love Beth so much, btw. We often get told we are the funniest people they have waited on and it's pretty much true).
Besides the brownie I let them get away with a lot because I am going to be the maid of honor in their wedding in May which means I get to give a speech on whatever I want (quite possibly why Michelangelo was the best teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and how I saw them on Chip's underwear when I used to babysit him (yes, I babysat her fiance)) AND she isn't making me wear a hideous dress. Proof:
(We needed a happy non-running picture in this post, am I right or am I right?).
The only other 15k I have ever run is the Boilermaker and I ended up PRing (Personal Record) this race by almost 5 minutes despite the fact that this course was much more difficult than the Boilermaker (although running conditions were much more favorable). And 5 minutes may not seem like a lot but I got that time back in 2010 when I used to able to throw down 7:30-8 minute miles in 5k's without much issue, the likes of which I may never see again. How about that?
There is so much I wish I could tell you about how this race was different than any other one I have ever done. I wish I could tell you why it meant so much to me but I just don't think I have the words to explain it. Cancer has affected my life in so many ways over the years, the last 12 months being the very worst. I have lost count how many times I was on my knees praying to take some of the pain on so that the people I love the most wouldn't have to go through it alone. But despite all of that, despite the fear and the helplessness and the questioning why, I know that I never gave up hope for them and I never will.
For Libby, for Kelly, for the person who holds my heart more than anyone else on this earth, for anyone affected by cancer whether it be you or someone you love: I ran this race for you.
I hope I did you proud.