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!

 

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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.

 

Try. Fail. Adjust.

This weekend I went shopping (surprise, surprise) and bought some new work out gear to inspire me for my Disney Princess Half-Marathon in February! Several friends and I signed up to complete the magical race once again and I am super excited, especially since I have done the race previously (as seen in the 2011 blog post).

Last week, I learned about some food allergies I have and it has been a big life adjustment for me. And now, I am starting to think about how to eat properly and train for this race. Obviously, I have some time before the pressure is on, but I am attempting to get my body prepared by eating healthfully and right for my body and not over-doing it my work outs.

Now that I have completed 2 half-marathons, I have an idea of what to expect and how my body handles the training. So now it’s time to start adjusting. I am not saying I “failed” in my previous races, but every race is a learning opportunity of things to do better, do less of, or know for next time.

I have also learned about the power of visualizing and speaking positive affirmations to reach your goals, and I want to encorporate that into my workouts. I need to visualize myself completing the race how I want to and speak those goals over myself in order for them to come true. For example, if I had a time goal I would need to visualize myself crossing the finish line, lifting my arms in victory and looking at the time clock with my time goal. Then I would need to speak it over myself that I will complete the Disney Princess Half Marathon in under 2 hours and 30 minutes and will feel great.

Have you visualized your goals? Do you speak your goals to yourself daily? I challenge you to try it and see how it positively affects your outlook and your results!

I Run.

“So I run straight towards the goal with purpose in every step.” – 1 Cor. 9:26

At this point last year, I was not running a single minute of my life. But my friends had this crazy idea of running the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February and we did it. (More about that here). Since then, I have continued to run three times a week since that day, but never more than a 5k.

On Saturday Sept 10 I ran in the Big Red Shoe 5k for the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte and I really enjoyed the course, atmosphere and crowd. I struggled with the actual running part of the race experience though. After being disappointed with how I performed, I started thinking about why I have kept up running and what running means to me.

Well besides the physical benefits of exercise, I enjoy pushing myself a little further and a little faster each time to see how I can do. I love being alone and my stress just melts away when I run because I focus solely one what I am doing in that moment – running.

When I started working for Operation Christmas Child, I met a lady named Carol. She is one of our administrative assistants and she was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. She still comes to work most days of the week and tries to maintain a full life outside of chemo. I can’t imagine the endurance required to work a job and battle cancer. Hearing her story just reminds me that health is a gift and I need to thankful for it every day.

Like most women, I have gone through phases of not liking my body- thinking my thighs are too big or whatever the case may be, but running makes me proud of my body and thankful that it can do all the things. I am blessed to have good health and am proud to say I run – no matter how slow or short my runs are.

“Set daily, monthly, and long term goals and dreams. Don’t ever be afraid to dream too big. Nothing is impossible. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve it.” –Nastia Liukin, USA, 2008 Olympic all-around champion