Some can’t. Others won’t. Will you?

Another early Saturday morning run. This time my alarm went off at 5:30am and I rolled over. Convinced that I could skip the group run and run on my own after I sleep….just a little longer.

About 1 minute later, I sat up. I needed this team, more than they may need me. I got out of bed and headed to Freedom Park. We gather around the parking lot donning our purple dream team shirts, water bottles and sleepy-eyed smiles. Someone asks for a marker, which may seem random, but we know what it is for. We’ve been putting our mark for the number of days since Isabella passed away — today is number 1508.

IMG_2649

We take off on Little Sugar Creek Greenway and I was grinding out 5 miles. Looking into a see of purple overwhelming the path, I notice Levine Children’s Hospital, where Isabella spent many days and night for treatment. My heart breaks thinking of the children and families inside those walls right now going through chemotherapy, radiation, experimental procedures, fighting for their lives.

IMG_2237

I run.

Some can’t. Others won’t. I will fight to end cancer. Will you?

Don’t Wear Black When Running and 6 More Tips

This morning as I set out to run, I realize it was laundry day because all I had left was a black shirt to run in. Ugh. It is already sweltering hot and this black shirt will not help my case. Oh well. I put it on and head outside.

As I continue to train for the Novant Health Charlotte [1/2] Marathon, I wanted to share some of my running advice. Please note: I am not a trained professional, so follow at your own risk. 

  1. Don’t wear black when running outside. Especially in the summer because it’s hot and especially at night since then no one can see you (be safe people).
  2. Schedule your runs. Write in your calendar, commit a time to do it the night before or else you may not get it done or make excuses.
  3. With that said, give yourself grace. Life happens and sometimes the run doesn’t make it. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Do get back on schedule as soon as possible though. Don’t let 1 day mess-up become 3 days of not doing what you need to.
  4. Strength Train/cross train. It is so important to work out your muscles differently than simply running over and over again.
  5. Stretch/do yoga. As a former dancer and gymnast, flexibility comes easily to me, but I have noticed how my hips are really tight as I run, so I try to do yoga once a week and always stretch after any work out.
  6. Rest. Give your body a break. You are working hard and you need to allow your body to recover.
  7. Watch what you eat. If you are new to training for a race, or new to running, I highly recommend keeping a food journal to help you figure out what bests fuels your body. I figured out that me and tomato pasta sauce don’t mix when running is part of the equation.

 

Your Pace Doesn’t Matter

This week is the first week of official training for my half-marathon in November. In seasons past, I’ve been good about starting my base training a few months early, getting into the routine of running a couple times a week and building my strength. This year, however, was not the case. I ran once a week, sometimes twice in a week, but have generally been slacking. I have been struggling with loving my body. I am sure it hasn’t helped that I’ve been watching gymnastics Olympic Trials and seeing these incredible athletes with incredible muscles and dedication….I admire these athletes for their passion and dedication and drive to be the very best. I can only hope to have an ounce of that in my training.

I watched Shawn Johnson’s I Am Second testimony and it’s incredible.She shares about fear and failure with hope and honesty.

This morning as our team in purple started our first long run from Isabella’s memorial site – I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. We are a team of all races, genders, ages, body types, athletic backgrounds and none of that matters. How fast or slow you run doesn’t matter. Our purpose for running is so much more than just to get in shape, or an excuse to eat a lot.

It’s about the 43 children that will be diagnosed with cancer TODAY.

As we took off and our sea of purple streamed down the road, it was a powerful reminder to me that we are running for something bigger than myself. I am running as part of a community that is working to end childhood cancer.

Step up. Take part. Crush cancer with me at  https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/juliaesmith15/2016-isabellas-dream-team

 

#isabellasdreamteam Year 3. Ready. Go.

This will be my third year running and fundraising with #isabellasdream for the Isabella Santos Foundation to fight pediatric cancer. So if you are sick of hearing about it, #sorrynotsorry for all the hype, social media posts and talking about it from now until November. If you want to support me, visit: https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/juliaesmith15/2016-isabellas-dream-team

I’ll be honest, I debated whether or not I would be part of the team again. The first year, it was amazing to be part of this new grass roots organization, full of heart and hope. The second year, I was excited about the growth of the team and being seen as an “original” team member. This year, the team has exploded to over 100 people. It’s gotten so much bigger than me. Hard to remember all the names of the people part of the team, and hard to believe our goal is to raise more than $150,000. It seemed like my small part of that could go unnoticed, that someone else could easily raise more money than me.

Plus the running aspect is no longer a new challenge for me, this will be my 6th half-marathon. I’ve proven to myself that I can conquer 13.1 miles — flat miles in Disney, hilly miles in Charlotte, and in DC. So what was the point of committing to run another 13.1 mile race and raise $500 for ISF this time?

Isabella and other kids fighting cancer. 

That’s what it says on our shirts. But, it is so much more now. I never met Isabella, but through the stories, videos and pictures, I can see an amazing, spirit-filled girl. While I don’t pretend to understand why God would allow her life to be cut so short, I know that she made an impact on this world. Look at what has happened in her memory? Clinical trials have been funded, we are making strides to finding a cure and I want to be part of this team, this family, this small group of people that change the world and end childhood cancer for good.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Earlier this summer, Erin (Isabella’s mom) asked us, more like invited into a sacred space, to come on a Saturday morning to Isabella’s memorial site at Calvary Church. I had never been to their memorial gardens, and it was an emotional experience. We took photos in our purple shirts as a way to honor Ibby. I don’t know how Erin kept it together, because on the inside I was shaking, so I can’t imagine the flood of thoughts going through her head as we were all there. In those moments, it became more real to me of who Isabella was, and that this group of people were all together to fight in her memory so that no more families have to go through the pain of losing a child like Erin and Stuart.

13433369_10209237198717587_2860789281119889083_o

13475082_10209237199197599_1474633438646783543_o

This second photo came almost by accident when Erin was sitting looking at Isabella’s name and the photographer asked some of us to move so we weren’t in the reflection. Then we decided we wanted to be in the reflection on purpose. Erin is not alone in this fight. She has a team behind her. 

Then, I had the opportunity to take a couple of photos individually with Isabella. This was the first time that I had ever ‘met’ her, but not the first time I’ve ever talked with her. I feel her presence when I run, especially  when Taylor Swift comes up on my playlist. So I decided I wanted a photo of not just remembering Isabella, but of me taking action, me doing something about it.

13443132_10209237203877716_8026765233632318702_o

Tying my laces, going for a run, on a purpose. To end childhood cancer.

 

Summertime in Charleston

This weekend my brothers and I took our first “siblings vacation.” I was so excited to go to Charleston, I consulted several friends and blogs about where to go, what to see and where to eat and I compiled a rather large list. I felt like there was way too much to accomplish in one weekend without running ourselves ragged or eating 17 meals a day, but we set out and checked many of the item off my list.

I arrived early on Thursday to take in some sights on my own — mainly shopping along King Street. After a quick lunch at Jestine’s Kitchen, I found an amazing shop on the second floor called Be the Change Boutique where every piece has a story. I even recognized some items from my Sevenly Causebox. I spoke with the owner Ashley, who moved from Hawaii to start the store. I loved everything inside from bags to candles to jewelry and clothes.

IMG_2429

Thursday started at the Rooftop at Vendue for drinks – I had the strawberry basil lemonade, and it was quite tasty. Then we walked to dinner at Poogan’s Porch. Even though it was early, there was already quite a wait, so we chose to sit at the bar to eat. I had the special which was a snapper featuring bbq and pimento cheese and it was delicious.

Then we decided to walk around, so we walked to the Pink House — one of the oldest buildings in the city and it was on a quaint cobblestone street. The only thing that ruined the old city charm was the cars parked along the road. The house is actually for sale for  a pretty penny — nearly $1Million! We continued our stroll to Waterfront Park and Rainbow Row.

Friday was our walking downtown day. I chalked up over 22,000 steps! We started off at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit for a yummy breakfast including peach jam on my biscuits. We set out and walked all the way down King Street to the Battery and relaxed at White Point Gardens. Then we walked up Meeting Street to the City Market. I saw some great art including sand dollar ornaments, historic bricks painted with iconic Charleston scenes, lots of sweet grass baskets that were gorgeous and paintings/photography.

We continued our tour, walking through College of Charleston’s campus and down to the aquarium. That was pricey, but well worth it. For an additional fee, you can see the sea turtle hospital, but sadly we missed the last tour of the day. But, I did see a couple sea turtles in the big tanks.

Next, was our Sunset Tour of Fort Sumter. The ferry ride over included some history of Fort, then we walked along the Fort — which is where the Civil War started. Since we were the last tour of the day, the park rangers asked us to help take down the flags and told us about the history of the 4 flags that were showcased there — the 33 star flag, the stars and bars, another confederate flag, and the 50 star United States flag. It was a unique experience to have people from our boat, from all across the US to help and share as we are “United.”

 

Our ferry ride back included some great photo ops of the Ravenel Bridge.

For dinner we stopped at Queology, a bbq place we had seen during our walk at the City Market. For drinks and dessert we walked to the Gin Joint. I ordered from the bar tender’s choice and picked 2 words “sweet unusual.” I have no idea what was in it, but it was good — tasted some cinnamon…. but the dessert was the best. We ordered 2 chocolate peanut butter bars and carrot cake for the three of us and contemplated ordering it again.

IMG_2476

Saturday we crossed the Ravenel Bridge and started at Charleston Cafe with a  delicious deep fried cinnamon roll. We continued our journey to Boone Hall Plantation. We took in a carriage tour, home tour of the 1935 plantation home and explored the slave cabins. The Notebook and North and South were both filmed there. It was stunning.

 

The we traveled across the city to see the ancient Angel Oak Tree.

IMG_1502.JPG

We came back home to relax for  bit before meeting up with friends Brad and Kendall at Hominy Grill, where I ate a “Wreckfish” with mashed sweet potatoes, yum! Then we went to a local dive bar, Tattooed Moose for the chocolate and bacon pie. Really it was rich chocolate pie with bacon crumbles on top, and it was awesome.

Sunday morning we woke up early for breakfast at Eli’s Table and then the boys headed home. I went back downtown and met up with my friend Kelly at Kudu Coffee Bar and then headed back to reality. It was a wonderful vacation! Can’t wait to come back with some girlfriends to include more shopping and eating….