Ryan is Ten!

Ryan 2004-2014

Ryan 2004-2014


Today, my firstborn son, Ryan, is ten years old.  Reflecting, it just seems unbelievable my baby is a decade old.  Every parent wonders “where has the time gone?” more than once, during their children’s childhoods, but as I realize I am more than half-way done with raising my son to adulthood- it just seems like the time has flown by.

The moment I found out I was pregnant with Ryan- I realized my life would never be the same- it was a life defining moment. It was never going to just be me from that moment on- I was a mother, and now had a baby to think about too.  As I sat in a chair on that spring afternoon, the impact of this hit me, but I could not have fully understood any of it. I could not begin to even imagine what becoming a mother meant- I could not have known the extraordinary love I would experience.  The bonding, the feeling that there is something more important than me, and the pure, innocent love, that you can only have for your children, Ryan brought that to my life.

Ryan was an amazing, calm, quiet, reflective, serious, happy baby.  Ten years ago, when he was born, I could not have imagined loving him more than I did that day- my pure, sweet, tiny, innocent baby.  But as I think about the last ten years, it’s overwhelming- my heart holds more love, compassion, understanding, joy, and happiness, having been Ryan’s mother.  He makes me laugh every single day we are together. He is so compassionate, smart, sweet, good-natured, funny, and determined.  It has been an absolute pleasure to see him grow from a baby, to a toddler, to a little boy, to a boy, now to a young-man.

I would have never imagined ten years could go by so quickly, and I’m sure the next ten years will fly by too, if not faster.  My baby isn’t a baby anymore, and he’s becoming every day, more of who he is supposed to be, with his own thoughts, opinions, hopes, and dreams. As a mother, that is all I could ever hope for him. I want him to be happy. I want him to treat others with respect, and kindness. I want him to know and live the differences between right and wrong. I want him to understand different perspectives, realize how you treat people matters, and to have empathy. But most of all, I want him to be true to himself.

Ten years ago, I was given this perfect little gift. I didn’t know yet what it meant, or what it would become.  I still don’t for sure- but the glimpses, I’ve been privileged with, he is beautiful, amazing, loving, and remarkable. My work in raising a son is far from over- but at the decade mark- I could not have hoped or dreamed for a son more than whom Ryan is today.  I’m so excited to see him bloom and become the man he is destined to become, in the next ten years.

But for now, I’m going to hold and hug my ten-year old son close and cherish the days of him as boy we have left.  Because one day- you never quite know- you wake up and realize, your baby isn’t a baby, your toddler isn’t a toddler, your boy isn’t a boy- they are who they are supposed to be- and they are closer to being an adult than a baby, or even a child.  And you feel somehow- someway- you did something right, to have been blessed with this child, who is more than you, and who will be better than you, but is a part of you.  A child is life’s finest gift, at times the most challenging, the most important one, and the one that teaches you, your most significant lessons.  Ryan has taught me more than I could have imagined, and I know, both my boys are the greatest thing I will have ever done with my life.

Happy Tenth Birthday, Ryan! I love you so much, and I’m so proud of you!

First Half Marathon: 4 Years in the Making- Part 2

Part 2 of my first half marathon attempt, at the Denver Rock & Roll Half and Full Marathon

(Part 1 can be found here)

Four days before the race, I had an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist for my elbow.  The surgeon released me, saying I was two months ahead of recovery schedule and he gave me his “blessing” to run, saying there would be no consequences to my elbow. The physical therapist said I was ahead of schedule as well, and with another month, she was confident we could work out the last of the resistance in my elbow to it being fully extended.

I was so excited- it felt like a giant weight had been lifted, and I now had the confirmation I was going to be OK- I wasn’t going to be limited to one arm, in pain, for the rest of my life. That was it- there was no reason medically I could not run. The next day, Thursday, I did a light workout, just to get the legs moving, and I felt a shin splint pain, when I was done. It was in the same place it had been over the summer.  I rolled it out on the foam roller, and tried not to freak out.  I told myself it still had two full days of rest, and it would be fine.  I took it easy with rest until Sunday- race day. I could barely sleep the night before, but managed to get a few hours in, until my alarm woke me up at 4:30AM.  Today was the day I had been working for, for four years- I would know in a few hours, if I could do this!

I arrived at the race at 6:15AM- an hour before race time.  I had to park a mile away and walked in.  It was about 45 degrees out- much warmer than I had thought it would be.  I had brought my warmer running jacket, because it had lots of pockets to hold all my race stuff, but realized it would be way to warm to wear.  So I was mentally trying to figure out if my running shirt and running capris would hold my 2 GU fuel packets, a packet of sport jelly beans, tissues, and lip balm.  I figured I would just have to make them fit in my two pockets.  The walk was a good warm up and I was happy I had no shin pain whatsoever.

The race site was already buzzing and energetic.  The sun was coming up.  I saw lots of people together, and a lot of solo runners as well- young and old- it was nice to see such a variety of runners. I drank a little water, ate a small bagel, and figured out where the bag check was. I warmed up and stretched for about half an hour. I took one of the GU energy packs.  I had to walk back to the starting corrals, and my friend texted me- he was in a different starting corral than I, but we wished each other well.  I took off the last of my warm clothes, checked my bag, and headed to my starting corral.

By now the sun was up, and the first wave of runners were off.  I was in starting group 9, and I think there were are 16 or 17  starting waves. It was so crowded, I couldn’t make it into the corral, with the crowd on the street, so I just crawled through an opening, and waited. I actually had no nerves- no butterflies.  I was concentrating on not starting too fast.  Much easier said than done.  I started getting some adrenaline as our group started walking towards the starting line.  I was here, really here.  It hit me. I was really, really, about to start off on my 13.1 mile dream.  This wasn’t a 5K, or a fast 3K.  13 miles- it was going to be long- it would probably be painful at some point, but I got tears in my eyes.  I was here for ME.  This was 100% me- no one else. If I could do this- I could do anything.

“5-4-3-2-1!”  I hit the start on my Garmin and ran over the starting line.  My only thought was not to go too fast.  Meanwhile, hundreds of people were blowing by me.  I felt a little wimpy when the 50 and 60-year old runners were passing me, but it quickly passed. I knew what I was doing. I wasn’t running for anyone else- just for me.  I was going to run my race- all 13.1 miles, exactly as I had planned.

I settled into a nice pace for the first mile, despite hundreds of people passing me.  I smiled and was thankful this wasn’t my first rodeo. I knew some of the people were running way too fast. It made me keep looking at my Garmin though, and I was nervous. I was running a consistent 11:30 pace.  That was too fast. I had to slow down.  In training I was running 12 and 13 minute miles.  I wanted to run at least 12 minute miles for several of the first miles.

Miles 1 and 2: The first two miles were easy for me.  I was trying to get on a 12 minute pace but couldn’t.  It felt too slow, and not how I wanted to run this day.  I was feeling very strong, not tired at all.  All the running I have done- whether it was a half mile run, or a 10 mile one, trained me for this.  I knew I could run consistently 11 something miles, and while I wanted to run smart, I certainly didn’t want to feel like I held back.  This was my race- my time- to run exactly how I wanted to.  I made the mental switch at about 2.5 miles. I was going to run by how I felt. I could always slow way down to 12 or 13 minute miles if I needed to.  I stopped looking at my Garmin, and just tuned into my breathing, and pacing.

Mile 3: I hit the 5K mark, 3.10 miles, at 35 minutes. It felt perfect.  I had 10 miles to go, and I wasn’t tired at all.  I noticed I started passing people that had blown by me in the first few miles.

Miles 4 and 5: I just ran. There were some hills, no big deal.  My treadmill hills had been longer than these. The crowds cheering on the streets were awesome. I saw lots of signs, smiling and waving people. One man had a little baby strapped to his chest, holding a sign that said, “Becky, you are my hero.” It was so sweet- it just made me smile.

I slowed down a lot going through the water stations- I didn’t want to spill water on me, and I figured slowing down that extra little bit during the stations, might help me in the end. I actually had to use the restroom quick, but every time I passed one, there were such long lines. I didn’t want to stop, get out of sync, so I just pushed it out of my mind, and kept running.

Mile 6: I hit the 10K mark, 6.2 miles, at 1:10, and I had seen I just had a 10:58 mile, and I was feeling fine. I actually teared up at the 10K mark, because this was the longest distance in a race I had ever ran.  Lots of 5K’s,a 5 mile race, a 9K, but I have actually never ran a 10K race distance before.  I was starting to feel a little tired half way into this mile. I had planned to refuel with a GU energy, and did so at the half way mark. I started to feel a little pain in my shin, but I told myself to push past it- it was temporary, and I didn’t notice it anymore for the entire race.

Mile 7: I was starting to get tired, but I think at the end of it some of the energy pack kicked in. I had taken some of the sport jelly beans, as well. I had been taking water and Gatorade at the stations, so I figured I was doing all I could to make sure my body had enough energy and was hydrated. But, I was really having to pee- the lines were just still too long, and I was running so well, I didn’t want to stop- even for 5 minutes, and risk not being able to get back in sync.

Mile 8: I felt good. This was what I had run just 6 days earlier and still felt like I had a lot more I could do.  It was only 5 more miles. I was loving this run- I didn’t want to think too much ahead, but I was starting to think this was shaping up to be one of the most enjoyable runs I have ever had.

Mile 9: My “slow” start started to pay off.  I was passing a lot of people. I was still running to how I was feeling, but felt like I was slowing down.  Plus it was about a half mile stretch of consistently uphill. I looked at my Garmin and it didn’t look like it was running correctly.  I pushed stop and start on it, quickly, and then realized it was running.  But I had gotten the lap time off. But I was running 11/12 mile pace.  At the end of mile 9, I just felt my body take over.  I felt like I had just started running, and ran faster. There was no pain- my elbow didn’t even hurt. I was starting to run more assertively.  Everything was in sync.

Mile 10: I arrived at mile 10 at 1:56.  It hit me I only had a 5K left to do- 3.10 miles, and I knew I could run that!  I started to tear up, but made myself stop. I was running the strongest I had yet, and I didn’t want tears to mess it up.  I realized no matter what- I was going to finish, and I was on pace to finish far faster than I had ever let myself think I could.  I was running in the high 10 low 11 minute miles, and it was getting towards the end.  I reminded myself not to push it too much.  I wanted to finish strong.

Mile 11: Someone threw a very long (or so it seemed) hill in there. It was tough.  It slowed me down.  But, I noticed I was the person doing the passing.  Not one person passed me uphill.  I wasn’t competing against anyone else, but it made me feel strong, and I realized I AM strong.  I finished the hill a little tired, but not beaten or worn out, and felt 100% in control- this was my race, I was having the perfect run, and it wasn’t over yet.

Mile 12: I started running faster, and I was smiling.  This is what I had worked 4 years for.  I heard people cheering. I heard people say, “look at her running so fast, how is she doing that?” I think they were talking about me, because everyone I was running by was pretty much walking, or running very slowly. I was picking up the pace! I was confident I had run smart.  I may not have had months to train, but I know how I run, and in this mile, I was running with my heart and my spirit.  I had this, and I wasn’t going to be walking to the finish line.  Hell no! I was going to dig deep and bring everything I had to the last mile.

Mile 13: I told myself to just go, and enjoy- this was it! The last mile, was the single most, empowering, exciting and great thing I have ever done just for myself!  All my obstacles, all my health issues, all my difficulties in life, all my fears, all my doubts- for this small sliver of time, had disappeared.  I was this close to doing the impossible for me. From lying in a hospital bed with my neck sliced open with an organ gone from, having cancer in my cells, to taking radioactive drugs to kill cancer, to having parts of my body burned off to prevent cancer, from losing my mom, to being cancer free to having been in a cast on my arm just weeks before, from losing one of the most important relationships to me weeks before, to knowing I’m not perfect, but I don’t give up. When most people would quit- I don’t. I am strong when I am meant to be weak.

For this last mile, I had extra to give, and I knew it would be the fastest I ran, in the final mile of a half marathon. It all came together- as much as my mind, body, and spirit, had been distraught in the months before, they were strong all working together, as one. All the interval training I have ever done, all the sprints, all the running came to the surface, and I had no more thoughts. I just ran. I was free.  I held nothing back.  I ran that last mile (it helped it was downhill!) like I was running for the gold in the Olympics, because for me it was- it was my gold medal to my dream.

Mile 13.1: I saw the finish line. I saw myself passing person after person, I heard the crowd just cheering, and I knew I had done it.  I crossed the finish line, and in that moment my dream for “someday” wasn’t a dream anymore. It was reality.  It was today, in that moment.  Nothing held back, no regrets. I had just run the race of my life. I had ran 100% from my heart, and I could never ask for anything more. I got my dream- I got my moment of something wonderful!

I remembered to hit stop on my Garmin, and saw I had just run the last third of the mile at an 8:51 pace.  My final time was 2:29.  I had been hoping for 2:45, and the time was just the icing on the cake.  My final mile had been my fastest: 10:21. My Garmin said I ran 13.31 miles, but official race says 13.10, but our times were the same.

I got wrapped in a heat blanket, drank some chocolate milk, given a smoothie, and just let it soak in.  More thoughts and feelings hit me- I cried a little.  This- the race- this is what it is all about. Falling down and getting back up, over, and over, and over, no matter how many times.  If you want to finish, you have to start.  Giving your best, after life hands you its worst.  I have failed at many things in life, I have gotten very sick in life, I have made huge mistakes in life, I have regrets, I wish I could have done many things differently, but all these things- just like all the miles added up to get me to the finish line, these mistakes, imperfections, these less than ideal situations in life, make me who I am.  Without these, I doubt I ever would have run one mile, let alone 13.1.

Life takes its toll, but running teaches me, despite my imperfections, my mind, body, and spirit do work together.  It teaches me my failures and fears will NEVER be stronger than my determination and spirit. And in that last mile it taught me, if you are lucky, follow your dreams, sometimes your fears and failures will intersect with your dreams and successes and make it all worthwhile- more than you can possibly imagine!

Thank you to all my friends, family, and everyone who has supported, and believed in me and my running over the years. I can’t possibly thank everyone individually, but I need to mention some specific people, who if not for them, I would never have been able to achieve my health and my running dreams.

To my sons, Ryan and Cole: Thank You!!  You guys are my biggest fans, and my biggest helpers.  I love you both with all my heart.  If you were not so awesome and flexible to work Mom’s running in with your play schedules, I would have never had enough time to devote to running. You guys helped Mom run her half marathon!!

To Mara, Jeff, Vanessa, Kat, and my dad:  My family, I know you are always there when I need you, and thank you for always believing in me.

To Amy: I could tell you I was running to the moon, and you’d support me.  From cancer help, to running encouragement- thank you for being a true friend, in every sense of the word.  To Aaron: Thank you for talking me into it.  To Sarah: Thank you for pushing me into it, and To Debra: Thank you for helping me when I had cancer, and for your always positive attitude!

To all the cancer patients who write me every day:  I know how lonely, discouraging, and frightening cancer is.  Don’t give up, and continue to fight. When you are able, pursue your dreams. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it.  Envision your dreams on your hard days.  Take it one day at a time, and you will get there.  Focus on what you do have- not what this disease takes- and draw your strength from your loved ones and friends who are fighting along with you.

To John:  Thank you for providing your support to me, and to my dream. You’ve been there from the beginning, starting with the first run I ever took. Your advice over the years has helped me become the best runner I can, and your encouragement has assisted me in following my dream- more than you know.

Mile Splits

1-11:24  2-11:10  3-11:38  4-11:03  5-11:31  6-10:58  7-11:30  8-11:41  9-12:18  10-11:19  11-10:56  12-11:07  13- 10:21  .31-2:45

Finishing Time: 2:29

Average Pace: 11:15


13.1 Miles! I’m an official half marathoner, with my medal! 10/20/13

First Half Marathon: 4 Years in the Making- Part 1

On Sunday October 20, 2013 in Denver, I attempted a dream I have had for four years- to run a half marathon.  No one ever (well hardly ever anyone),  just gets up one day, shows up at the start, and decides to run a half marathon without a story.  This is mine.

I started running 4 years ago, in September 2009- just weeks after I finished my thyroid cancer treatments. The surgery I had to have, the recovery, the radioactive iodine, and the fact I had no thyroid hormone for 3 months, left me feeling like an invalid, and there were many days I could not get out of bed.  I remember one morning, after having moved in with my dad and step-mom, temporarily because I was unable to care for myself and my young boys round the clock, my dad and step-mom were at work.  I was sitting on the porch swing, watching the boys play in the yard.  I saw it was 10AM, and knew I had better start making them lunch.  I had to stop midway, walking up their 6 stairs to the kitchen, and it took me 2.5 HOURS to walk about 10 steps from the porch, up the stairs, to the kitchen, and make 2 sandwiches.

When all my treatment and recovery were finished, and I finally started to get the Synthroid (synthetic thyroid hormone) that my body had been deprived of for 3 months, despite the doctors telling me I may never feel “normal” again, I started to feel instantly better.  I was grateful I didn’t feel like I was 120-years old anymore, I was starting to get energy back.  I had always wanted to run in a race, and the 5K Race for the Cure was in a few weeks.  I decided to try running in this, and even if I couldn’t run the entire way, I knew I could walk it, but it would be a victory, just to be able to be there, and move.  Something I had taken for granted until I had cancer.

Most my readers know the story- I was able to finish the 5K race, running, and I was hooked.  I have kept running since then- at times more intensely and seriously.  In July 2010 I entered my first competitive race, for a 3K, and came in second for my age group.  The next year at the same Race for the Cure, I took 12 minutes off  my 5K time from just a year ago- from 36 min. to 24 minutes- those were definitely highlights and goals of my running, but it was not my dream.

Ever since those first steps I took running, I thought of those who couldn’t run, & appreciated how lucky I was.  I dreamed- “someday” if I trained hard enough, worked hard enough, ran fast enough, was healthy enough- “someday” I would try to run a half marathon. In my mind, that would be the ultimate achievement from where I had started to where I would end up.  My physical condition when I started running- to be able to even sign up for a half marathon- might as well have been climbing Mount Everest.  It was really a dream I never thought I would be able to accomplish, but could hope for, if all the other conditions in my life were ideal.

In those 4 years, I’ve signed up for a few half marathons, but always had circumstances arise, where I was not able to train properly for them.  One half marathon was weeks after my mom passed away, and I was just not in an emotional place to be able to do it.  I’ve gotten busy- kids, work, school, relationship, family, friends, my health and in 2011 I had yet another cancer scare.  Over the years, I have never stopped running, but somewhere along the way, I let my dream slip to the background.  Perhaps because deep down, I never really believed I could do it.  Why do something and fail?  The half marathon hasn’t been my focus in a long time, but it was always in the back of my mind- a little part of me never let it completely slip away.

In May, a friend said he was going to try to run his first marathon in October, and encouraged me to give it a shot as well. I decided it was time to make this my goal again, and get serious about it. I signed up, with new found enthusiasm.  Weeks later, I developed a nasty side shin splint that left me unable to run.  By the beginning of August, despite having rested and not having ran for weeks, it was still there.  It was time to decide- I had to train if I was going to run this, but I decided to shelf my dream yet again- rather than risk developing a more serious injury by stressing my shins.

Just days after this, in the beginning of August, I had a bad bicycle crash, and broke and dislocated my elbow. I had to have surgery, and was unable to bend my elbow, or use my arm for weeks.  It was devastating to me. It left me very immobile and in a lot of ways it left me unable to perform very basic functions- from personal grooming to taking basic care of my kids, like I want to.  It was a very painful injury. I’ve never had chronic pain, but I did for weeks with this injury.   I felt helpless, alone, and very much like I did when I was sick with cancer.  When you live by yourself, you don’t realize all the things- until you can’t- you must do for yourself and your children. When suddenly, I could not do these things, it left me feeling very vulnerable, and weak.  When I saw my children step up and help me with things I should have been doing for them as their parent, it made me feel like I could not even be their mother properly. It was everything I could do, to just go to work for the day.  I had nothing left when I got home. Combined with the chronic pain, unable to live my life like I wanted, and unable to exercise or move without constant pain, – this was very demoralizing and depressing. It really was my worse fears realized.  My independence, my ability to care for my children, and my mobility were gone and I was scared.  I felt like I was living in a blanket of heavy fog, only seeing the fog- in front of me.  I could not have known how much this was affecting me at the time, but all of these things contributed to very difficult months, on every level- physically, emotionally, and mentally.

As I started physical therapy, I started to work really hard on the exercises the physical therapists were giving me. They assured me if I did these every day, my elbow would start to get better.  They were right, and within a week, finally some of the pain subsided, and I started to feel more optimistic I would be able to use my arm again. I felt like I was finally coming out of the fog a bit.  I started going to my gym and just riding the stationary bike for 3-5 miles. I could protect my elbow, and not have a lot of pain while doing this.  When the physical therapist told me to start working on holding my arm down, I figured running would be good.  I started running a half a mile, three quarters of a mile, a mile, etc. My arm felt good when I ran, and I felt my spirits rising as well when I ran.  Soon I was up to running 5 miles a week.

A lot of these runs were at night on a treadmill, but I was happy I could at least run again.  As I ran those mindless miles on the treadmill, the half marathon I had signed up for, which was weeks away now, kept creeping back in my mind. Could I do it? The doubts crept in.  Did I dare try? What happened if I tried and failed? No way was I even near the level of being able to run a half marathon, and I still had a broken elbow I was recovering from…was I crazy?

But my legs felt strong from the stationary bike riding, the running I had been able to do, and in the 2 months my elbow had been broken, my shin splint was gone, (there always is a silver lining). One night as these doubts were running through my mind, I decided to turn them off.  I turned the incline up higher on the treadmill, to simulate hills instead.  If I was considering this, I had better train 10 times harder than the race course, in the days I had left.

Ten days before the marathon, I told a client of mine from work, who is also very exercise oriented, I was thinking about actually running the half marathon.  She didn’t hesitate- she didn’t tell me all the reasons why I couldn’t or shouldn’t do this- she just told me I could do it.  And hearing that she thought I could- gave me the push I needed.  When I started telling friends and family I was going to run- no one told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t- and I realized all the resistance and fears were mine, and mine alone.  I saw and experienced people believing in me, and that in turn helped me believe in myself.

I worked out on the treadmill at night when the boys were with their dad, my half marathon 10-day training plan.  I ran the treadmill at a 3 to 4% incline at 12-13 minute miles.  I knew this was harder than the course, but I had to train hard.  I knew I had to pace myself during the race, or I would never be able to go 13 miles.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time left before the race to even try to run 13 miles, without risking the strength and endurance I had built up. But one thing I have learned from running is you are always stronger than you think you are. You can always do more, if you let your mind believe it.

Six days before the race, I put my training to the test and ran 8 miles.  I ran the first half very slowly and conservatively, and finished the second half, running up hills, at a faster pace.  I felt like I could have kept running, and felt very optimistic, I had another 5 miles in me for race day.  It didn’t matter how fast I went- only that I finished.  I felt ready.  I remembered how far I had come from those days as a cancer patient- unable to get out of bed.  I remembered everyone who couldn’t run, and was grateful that I could. I wasn’t afraid anymore. Even though I wasn’t the healthiest I could be. Even though I didn’t have the ideal training. Even though I wouldn’t be able to run as fast as I had wanted.  Even though the previous month had been devastating emotionally.  But I wasn’t going to use these excuses to put my dream on hold again.

Life life, running is seldom perfect. If you never take that first step forward, nothing will ever happen.  Finish or not- I was going to give this everything I had, and if I didn’t finish, at least I tried. Even I couldn’t run the entire 13 miles, or cross the finish line, I would have at the very least, given my dream a chance.

(I want to write this in detail, so will be breaking the post up.  Part 2 coming next!)

Boston Marathon 2013

I’ve not written about running for a while. I still run- several miles a week, but I’ve not been running races or training for a specific race or distance.

The past few years I’ve loved keeping up with the Boston Marathon- I loved watching the winners and following the people I know locally or my running friends I’ve made on Daily Mile, and I’ve always had tabs on a few people who were running it. Last night I saw a few friends give out their bib numbers, so I texted in, to receive their updates by text, and it was fun to be able to see their progress today via text messages.

I was really happy for my friends, to see they finished in the 3 hour ranges- that isn’t an easy feat to do at all, and I was sure they would be happy with their performances!  My son is home sick today, and we have a snowstorm in Colorado. I was working at home, and checked the weather to see how much snow we were supposed to get. I saw the red banner on the top of the news site: 2 Bomb Explosions at the Finish Line at the Boston Marathon. It almost seemed like a prank- another unimaginable act of violence, that was now real.

I knew my friends had finished, when this happened, and I heard later they were safe.  But after seeing the pictures, the videos, and hearing the accounts, there are many people who weren’t safe.  There are those who died- actually died- by either just going out and running, or supporting someone who was.  Hundreds of others injured, including loss of limbs.

Anyone who runs, knows what kind of devotion, training, and dedication it takes, to run a marathon.  To know some of these runners who lost their lives, or who may never be able to run again- it is just heartbreaking.

Running really helped me get my life back on track after cancer.  It kept the focus of my being “sick” and helped me focus on what I could do- not what I couldn’t. It played a key part in my recovery- physically and emotionally.  I vowed one day, I wanted to run a marathon, and one day I would run the Boston Marathon.  Even though I’ve not been able to do that- yet- it is still a goal- often in the back of my mind, when I run.

After today, it seems like we have lost another piece of innocence- another thing that will never be quite the same. We run, we train, we try our best, to be the best we can be, and now- we are not safe when we want to have that day, that race- to give it our all, and see what we we can really do, under the highest stress and when we push our hardest.

But the biggest surprise I think we saw today, is what we are made of, shone through in the chaos, smoke, and blood.  When bystanders, police, fire fighters, medics, doctors, race officials, parents, friends, family members, runners, and strangers ran not away from the smoke, and chaos, but into it- to help.  It showed, we don’t need a race to be the best we can be. After all these awful acts of violence- no one knows for sure what is coming next- people still didn’t hesitate, and put their lives on the line to help.  How many lives or limbs saved, from these unselfish acts from others today? We may never know, but we know among the horrific events, we saw the best of the human spirit rise up today.

I came across this quote years ago- when I was in the midst of my cancer recovery.  It inspired me then, and now when I run. I hope by sharing it- it helps, all of us- runners and non- runners.  As we saw today, all we really have- when it counts- is each other.

“I run because I can. When I get tired, I remember those who can’t run, what they’d give to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me.” – Anonymous

Wanted For Christmas-Socks With No Holes: Five Years Later

Five years ago, my sister, Mara, sent me an email about her second grade students, in an impoverished school. She sent some of their letters they had written to Santa. The letters were heartbreaking- kids were asking not for phones, X-Boxes, or video games. They wanted coats, food, jobs for their parents, and the one request that went straight to my heart from the little boy, who only asked for “socks with no holes in them.”

She asked me if I could post her request for donations on my blog, so she could help give these kids some sort of a Christmas. It was the least I could do.

A few weeks later, Mara, told me excitedly that one of the officers, Seargent Alex, at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, CO had read my blog post regarding her school, responded to the call, and the officers and their families in his unit, were “adopting” her classroom, to bring these students gifts. Mara didn’t originally get the first message he left for her at the school. It was a bad connection and she couldn’t make out the number he had left. I wrote another post, asking if Seargent Alex was still reading my blog, to please call Mara again- she needed the help. He ended up seeing the post, and contacted her again. He put in effort to make this happen.

I remember feeling amazed, happy, and proud, that the few minutes I took to post her request on my blog- someone who wanted to help, reached out and helped children who otherwise would not have a Christmas- have a day they would never forget.

It was a particularly bright moment for me, because at the time, my marriage was crumbling, for a variety of reasons. I remember telling my now ex-husband about Mara’s room, the gifts, about Seargent Alex finding my blog, and all the help his unit was giving Mara’s classroom. He looked at me and said, “Who would ever want to read your blog? Don’t they have anything better to do in the Air Force?” Anyone who writes, knows you put a lot of yourself into your writing, and it hurt to hear that.  But, I was determined to stay focused on the positive-someone had read the post, and wanted to help.  I knew Seargent Alex had read my blog-of course he had better things to do, but this was important to him, as it was to me.

Over the years, I’ve helped Mara shop for the kids, posted the blog story again and again, help her with the drive, answer emails- anything she asked me, I tried to help out with the best I could. I have helped her do everything but actually show up on the day. I was always working. I wanted to take Ryan and Cole with me, but they were always in school.

This year, Ryan and Cole’s school was out a few days before Mara’s gift drive for her kids. I decided to just make it happen. I asked Mara what else her class needed and she said pencil sharpeners. Her kids only have 1 or 2 pencils, and if the lead breaks at home, they don’t do their homework. When she has given them mechanical pencils, their older siblings take them, because they don’t have pencils. So Ryan, Cole, and I got on Amazon, and picked out a bulk package of pencil sharpeners. It came to a whole $6. Ryan and Cole split the cost, and paid for them out of their allowance.

Yesterday, we finally got to Mara’s room for the gift drive. Ryan and Cole started handing out the sharpeners. We had enough to give each student 3. The kids were squealing and saying, “These are so cool,” like they were receiving something much more than a small pencil sharpener. They started changing the lids around to make a “Bronco” sharpener- blue and orange. Ryan came over to whisper to me, “they are so happy, Mom, over a pencil sharpener.” I told him yes, and he helped make them happy.

Ryan playing Santa

Ryan playing Santa

The four officers from Buckley Air Force, who came that first year, with Seargent Alex, with gifts for my sister’s class, has grown since that first year in 2008.  Yesterday there were more than 30 Air Force Officers, at the school for gifts for the ENTIRE second grade. They had coats, mittens, toys, food, smiles, hugs, and love for these kids. I never would have imagined that afternoon; a simple blog post could have grown into something that it has.

I found out from Mara too, that Seargent Alex is no longer in active duty. I was sad to hear that, and sad I was never able to meet him. But then she said, “But he’s here today. He comes every year, and still helps out. He’s here with his wife and toddler son.”

For the first time yesterday, I met Seargent Alex. He said he had been looking for a way to help, people who really needed it, and it was actually difficult to do so! He said he had checked with various organizations, and they all asked him to just drop off a check. But he wanted to actually do something. He said he came across my blog then, and knew he had to call Mara. I thanked him, for all of this over the years, and he thanked me for writing the post.

Sargent Alex and I, 12.20.12

Sargent Alex and I, 12.20.12

For me, it has come full circle.  I set out to help Mara five years ago- never expecting anything to come from it like this, it has ended up helping me. Just always knowing one person like the “Seargent Alex’s” of the world are out there, willing, able, and lovingly ready to help. When people tell you what you do, will never make a difference, Mara’s gift drive for her second grade students, the people like Seargent Alex, and all the people from family, to friends, to strangers, who help, proves that wrong, every year. It keeps growing, and the generosity keeps growing every year too.

Tears were brought to my eyes yesterday, as I was standing by the cutest little girl, Joselyn.  She opened her box with a coat, gloves, and a hat. She hugged her box. She smiled. Then she asked if we could wrap it back up for her, so she could have something to open on Christmas Day. Ryan and Cole heard this, and their eyes grew wide. I told her “of course, sweetie.” Ryan took the box from her, Mara got the wrapping paper, and Cole got the tape. Ryan, Cole, and I, rewrapped that present with probably more love, than I have ever wrapped a present before. The boys found a candy cane for her, and helped me tape it to the box. Ryan told me, “Now she will have a candy cane on Christmas morning too.” Ryan and Cole both walked the gift back to her, and she was smiling from ear to ear. Just doing that simple thing- made a difference for her.

All Smiles from Joselyn!

All Smiles from Joselyn!

We all have struggles, problems, things we wish were different in our life circumstances, but a lot of us have a coat, and our kids have coats. We don’t worry where our next meal is coming from. We can put gifts under the tree for our kids. It might not be the iMac Pro Laptop Ryan wanted, but he doesn’t have one present he has to rewrap to open again.

It did all of our hearts good, and definitely opened Ryan and Cole’s eyes to different circumstances people live with. What they saw and witnessed yesterday- is the real meaning of Christmas. Not what you get, but what you can do for others, and how you make them feel.

Thank you Mara, for letting us be a part of this, and thank you to everyone who helps out every year.

And, thank you Seargent Alex- your kindness and actions have helped more than just second graders. The world definitely is a lot brighter for us this Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all my readers and their families!