Charlotte [1/2] Marathon Recap

I finished the Charlotte [1/2] Marathon on November 14!

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It was my 6th half-marathon, but it may have been the most challenging run for me. The first 6 miles came pretty easily to me, but the last 7 miles were difficult. I was incredibly thankful for our cheerleaders on the course at mile 6.5 with cowbells, signs and cheers, they kept my spirits up. Running uphill towards Levine Children’s Hospital was hard at mile 8, I seemed to hit the mental wall. I couldn’t get out of my head space, but I texted with a friend briefly and she encouraged me to kick butt. I started to trot again. I used an app where friends could record 30 second cheers for me, and by mile 9 I was doubting if the app worked, feeling sorry for myself. Then, at mile 10, I heard 6 cheers, back-to-back. I teared up as I heard fellow teammates and friends encouragement. Erin Santos, Isabella’s mommy, had recorded Ibby singing a song for me to hear. It gave me a push and mental shift that I needed.

As I was approaching the finish line, I saw so many of my teammates, yelling my name, and even the race director cheered me on (helps that I know him…) and as I crossed the finish, I was so excited and proud to do it for Isabella.

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Afterward, I celebrated with a big brunch with friends.

Thank you! Thank you for every encouraging card, text, prayer and conversation. Thank you for every financial donation to The Isabella Santos Foundation. Thank you for the celebratory meals and cheerleaders along the course. I could not have finished the Charlotte Half Marathon without it. #isabellasdreamteam

While I don’t have another race on my calendar, I make no promises. We’ll see what 2017 has in store for me!

 

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?

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.

 

Fill up

This fall has been the typical craziness for me. Between work, training for Thunder Road Half Marathon and volunteering, it has seemed non-stop.

First of all, Thunder Road with the Isabella Santos Foundation Dream Team was amazing. We ran miles together in preparation and by race day, we raised $33,000 for ISF. It was powerful running by Levine Children’s Hospital at mile 8 of the race and remembering our mission to #crushcancer. I am so blessed to have made friends and made an impact this way. Who knows what the next race will be for me (open to suggestions).

Operation Christmas Child is in full swing. It’s National Collection Week, so you still have time to pack a shoe box gift to impact a child’s life forever and show them the love of Christ. Make sure you go to a drop-off location near you by the 24th!

This week at church we had a women’s night featuring our pastor’s wife, Marilynn Chadwick spoke about breaking free from idols and one thing that really spoke to me was “Fill up on God, so you don’t have room for the junk.” What a gut check. Was I filling up on God first or was I filling up on other things?

The other point I loved from Women Under Construction, the speaker said her life’s mission is to help people wipe the mud from their eyes so they can see Jesus. What is your life mission? What are you working toward daily?