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.

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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.

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I run.

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

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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.

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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.

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

 

My First Half Marathon

 

after the race with our medals

 

This weekend my friends Riley and Chelsey and I went to Disney World for the Disney Princess Half Marathon. It was my first half marathon and I was pumped! We signed up for this race in September, but had been planning on it for over a year. I can’t believe it is now over!

After my Avon Walk in October I completed a six week walk to run program from Women’s Health Magazine then I started training for the race!  I ran 3x/week and the longest run I completed before this weekend was 10 miles.

The running itself during the race was difficult for me. It was very hot and humid in Florida, even at 6am. In addition, the race was on concrete or roadways the entire time, and there were some hills (not expected for FL).

But the race was amazing! 17,000 women (and a few men) ran/walked in princess costumes. There were characters and music every mile and we ran through Magic Kingdom and Cinderella’s castle.  The best part was seeing all the supporters out cheering us on! Although I did not run as quickly as I hoped, it was still a great experience.

I never considered myself a runner until today. I am proud of this accomplishment and can’t wait to see where I’ll go next!