Sunday, September 13, 2015

The "Twofer" - It CAN be done!

Who says you can’t do two races in one day? Not this girl, because I actually DID do two races in one day! That’s right, made it through #19 and #20 yesterday, and it was AMAZING!

How did this come to be? Well, it just so happened that two very important purposes were represented in two different races on the same day. Luckily, those two different races were at two very different times of day, making it logistically possible for me (crazy as I am) to do both. The races were also in two very different locations (Richmond and DC). I am so fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive family who did what they needed to do this weekend to help me manage the logistics of this “twofer” day!

The first race was the Speak Up 5K in support of the CKG Memorial Foundation. ( Their mission: To fulfill Cameron’s dream and legacy by being a positive force that works to cultivate awareness and understanding of teenage depression and anxiety. Cameron Gallagher was a young woman who lost her life much too soon when she died from an unknown heart condition during a half marathon. She also struggled with teenage depression and anxiety. Given that this race was in support of depression awareness, I felt it was critical that I participate.

It was pouring rain on my way to the race. I was tempted to not even leave my hotel room given how dreary it was. My number one cheerleader husband, however, encouraged me to still go, to at least show up. They might cancel the race, but at least I will have made the effort. Well, sure enough, I show up to Byrd Park in Richmond, the clouds parted, and the sun shown through – it’s funny how those things happen, isn’t it? There was a great crowd, lots of positive energy flowing, and the rain had helped to cool things off a bit.

I attended this race alone. I didn’t know anyone there. There was no one there to cheer me on. There was no external motivation to push me forward. Sure, there were wonderful volunteers and a great crowd in attendance, but no one there just for me. At first, I was a little bummed I was by myself. But then, as I started the race, I realized, it was kind of fitting that I was alone for this race. Why? When the race started to get tough, it was up to me to dig deep and find the motivation to keep going, just like it’s up to me to dig deep every day and not let my depression get me down. Granted, in my everyday life, I do have so many amazing cheerleaders and supporters there by my side, but even then, it’s always still up to me. Ultimately, it’s MY choice to say I matter, to say today is important, to say “I got this”. So I found my experience at the Speak Up 5K tremendously symbolic and inspiring – I got this, I really do.

After a shower and quick respite at the hotel, it was time to head north on 95 to the Arlington Police, Fire and Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K Run. None of us will ever forgot Sept. 11, 2001, and so many of us were closely affected. My father was in the Pentagon that day, and the terrible darkness and fear that entered my mind when the Pentagon was hit still haunts me sometimes. By the grace of God, through all the crazy phone issues that day, Dad was able to get through to my mom at the same time I was on the phone with her, so we found out together that he was OK. We’ve all been changed by that dreadful day, but one thing’s for sure – for every bit of evil out there, there is still plenty of good, plenty of beauty, plenty of love, and that is worth fighting for, every day.

So, needless to say, the purpose behind this race was also very significant and meaningful. You can see why I had to do both races, right?? And did I mention this race course went around the Pentagon??? And, there were bag pipes??? And a marching band??? And giant American flags everywhere??? And tons of free beer afterward??  I could barely contain my warm and tingly “proud to be an American” feelings!! It really was an awesome race, a great way to celebrate and honor those we lost that day, those who helped people survive, those who continue to fight to keep our communities and our country safe. And, it felt great to run again, even after doing another race that morning! Surprisingly, no pain, good energy, perfect mentality.

So here I am, having crossed into the 20s now. Pretty unbelievable. I can’t say thank you enough to all those who continue to help make this project possible. From logistics to costs to time to mental support, there are so many in my life who continue to lift me up, who genuinely want to see me succeed, and that, by far, is the greatest inspiration of all. I see you, and I thank you for allowing me to see me…

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Halfway Point - Girls Definitely Run The World

So, did I mention I'm a terrible blogger? Here I had high hopes of posting after each race, sharing insightful lessons learned in relation to my personal growth along this journey, partly to help me track my experience, but more importantly, to help others who might also need the support through a similar battle. Yet, here I am, over TEN RACES since my last post, with nothing to show over the last few months - my apologies for being a terrible blogger - just not one of my strengths...That said, this whole thing is about taking care of me, so I guess I should stop beating myself up, right?

Let's catch up...

I believe the last time I posted was around Race #5. Since then, I've kept busy over the summer, getting all the way to Race #18 just this past weekend. I'd like to catch you up on all the fun the last 13 races have been, and I hope to do so in an upcoming post (don't hold your breath, based on my historical record). But what I'd like to focus on tonight is my most recent race experience, #18.

Race #18 was the Charlottesville Women's Four-Miler on Saturday, Sept. 5. If you don't know, this race is an all-female race in support of breast cancer research. I used to work with the people who coordinate the race when I was with the UVA Health System Development Office, so I thought it would be a good race to add to the list. Little did I know the tremendous impact this race would have on me and my journey.

Given the "all female" bit, I decided to throw out an invitation to some of the female runners in my life to see if anyone would be interested in joining me. SEVEN ladies signed up!!  I thought I might get one or two, but SEVEN - how awesome is that! And, it was a steep registration fee, not to mention traveling to Charlottesville (some people have that whole "I don't go over the mountain" thing), so to get seven amazing women to join me, I was deeply touched. Plus, the women who signed up with me came from all different parts of my little Harrisonburg world, so it was a perfectly diverse group of women supporting me, and doing something good for themselves as well.

I was so excited and grateful to have this group, so I made shirts. Why not, right? My dear sister helped me come up with the best and most appropriate slogan ever - "Girls Run the World"! (You see what she did there? A little Beyonce reference/pun? Get it??) And while I tend to stay quiet when it comes to feminism or female power, I will say, this experience might be cause for me to get a little louder on the subject. Why? Turns out, when a group of women come together to do something for good, it's quite powerful, super human, in fact. I kind of already knew this from other experiences I've had, but this race was the perfect reminder to help me focus on all my sisters out there, and that, when women come together, there's NOTHING we can't handle!

This world is a pretty crappy place, and it's hard, especially when battling depression, to not let the darkness consume you. The race was all about breast cancer, for crying out loud - talk about one of the crappiest diseases EVER, that has taken too many good people from this world. That said, the light that I felt shining on race day, surrounded by seven truly inspiring women, was just what I needed to remember that the world isn't all that crappy all the time, and when it is, I'm never alone.

I think God provides us with opportunities to find strength in each other. It's up to us, though, to allow others in, to let that support shine through. So often in my darkest days, I would push people away. I even stopped going to church after my husband shared our struggles with a few people there. Whether it was embarrassment, cynicism, social anxiety, or just plain exhaustion, I was constantly pushing people away - still do sometimes.

But I'm learning, little by little - the more good people I surround myself with, the better life gets. And the seven women that joined me on Race #18, well, they're some of the best of the best. If I'm half the woman that these seven are, I'm doing alright. Girls rule, that's just all there is to it.

So here I am, over the halfway point. I might actually finish this thing - WHAT?!?! Whether or not I blog about it, well, we'll see...I'll try again before my next 13, deal?