Hey Guys! Happy May! How’s everyone’s Tuesday going? This week is off to a good start and I’m thrilled. I needed a nice and easy week…lets hope it stays this way! Last night I got out for a nice and easy 3 mile run and have to say I really enjoyed it. I’m starting to feel like my running self again. It was nice to just take in the views of Boston, relax and just run because I love it! I hope to do the same on Thursday night!
Today I wanted to talk about my experience with Team in Training. I ran the Boston Marathon with them and raised over $6000 for the cause. The entire experience from start to finish was all that I hoped for and more. Training and qualifying for Boston may be hard but so is training for a marathon and raising thousands of dollars at the same time. It was quite the challenge from the moment I was accepted and signed up for the team.
My plan had been that if I qualified at the 2011 Chicago Marathon I would run in 2013 but if I didn’t I was going to apply for a charity team and run in 2012. Right after Chicago when I realized I had not qualified and knew I’d run for charity I started thinking about charities and who I’d like to run for. I was first introduced to Team in Training when I ran my very first half-marathon in 2008. I met some wonderful people who could not say enough about the charity. The more races I did the more people I met along the way who loved Team in Training. I also wanted to try to run for a charity that had some personal importance to me. There is some history of blood cancer in my family but more so I saw the effects of it with Michael’s family. His Aunt suffered from blood cancer and so did one of his Dad’s life long friends. It was heart breaking to see his family go through so much pain and I knew then that this was the charity I’d run for.
I found out in early November that I was accepted to be on the team. I was very excited and extremely nervous about the fundraising all at the same time. Once I signed on I was set up with my fundraising page and emailed tons of tips and paperwork regarding the fundraising. Michael and I spent a ton of time talking about a fundraising plan and brainstorming a million ways to help raise money. That first weekend I received my first donation from a fellow blogger I’d never met in real life. She had run with Team in Training and as she said, was paying it forward. On top of her generous donation she emailed me with a ton of great ideas and some tips and tricks that helped to make her successful. I was incredibly grateful. Team in Training organized a meeting for anyone on the team to come and learn more about the fundraising and get started before the official kick-off. A couple of weeks later the season kicked off. The Boston Team has mentors which are people who fund raised and ran in years past. Some of the mentors just volunteer their time while others are also training, fundraising and mentoring. My mentoring group was amazing and filled with other young women who lived in Boston. I was so happy to meet them on that first day and never guessed that some of them would become such good friends.
The season started with short runs and I fell into a routine of running with my friend Lauren. Each week we’d tackle the runs and chat the entire time while getting to know each other. When I wasn’t running I was sending out emails to family and friends, hosting 50/50 raffles in my office and seeking out in-kind donations for a raffle here on my blog and for an event. Myself and 3 other women all joined together to plan a fundraiser in Boston. We raised over $4000 in one night had so much fun in the process. We were lucky enough to have a beautiful venue and tons of food donated, they allowed us to charge a cover and donated money from a specialty cocktail. We had over 50 raffle items for our silent auction and raffle and everything from gift cards, to photo sessions, to one night stays at hotels to cameras and Botox treatments. Over 150 people came out that night to support us! It was quite possibly one of my favorite moments of the entire experience.
With fundraising in full swing and friends and family helping me any way they could it became less of a stress and more fun. I was even able to reunite with some old friends over coffee thanks to my fundraising and I never expected that. Ever. I really came to enjoy every part of the fundraising and was blown away at how generous people were. It brought tears to my eyes more than once.
At this point I was able to start really focusing on the running part of this challenge and each week the runs got longer but more fun. Team in Training made sure to always keep it fun and interesting. There was a Holiday themed run at Christmas, a St. Patrick’s Day run and barbecue and an amazing 20 miler.
Each week volunteers came out to man water stops every couple of miles for us and they weren’t just any water stops. They were complete with candy, pretzels, Shot Bloks, GU and Gatorade. Those volunteers stood in the cold and rain and cheered us on and put a smile on our face when we needed it most.
Our teammates shared their mission moments each week giving us all a reason to keep running and tying this all back to the cause. So many people were touched in a variety of ways and it was incredible to learn everyone’s story. And each week Lauren and I kept running together, sharing stories of our week and learning more about each other. We’d sit with our other friends and chat about life. It was a really nice routine and more than once we all reflected on how much we enjoyed the time together.
In the weeks leading up to the marathon it was exciting to share our excitement for the big day, having a 150 other people with you for the journey is just awesome. My friend Lauren hosted a Puff Paint Party and we all decorated our singlets and started to carb load. I loved every minute of it.
The girls and I even went to the expo together and got our numbers. I really wouldn’t have wanted to go with anyone else.
Marathon weekend came with an Inspiration Lunch put on by Team in Training and it was amazing to celebrate our accomplishments. At that point our team had raised $950,000 to fight blood cancer. Some individual’s were honored for their extraordinary fundraising efforts, our coaches were honored for keeping us all healthy and happy and ready for marathon day and we all thought about those that we would be running for.
Marathon day itself was in one word amazing. A family volunteers to let the Team in Training Team crash in their house or on their front lawn while waiting for our starts. We had bathrooms to use and dry ground to relax on. Our coaches were there to answer our questions and send us off with our adrenaline pumping. Along the course the volunteers who had cheered us on each week were there in their purple with water, ice, sponges, salt and anything we needed to fight those hot temperatures. At mile 15 we passed our home base and I was never so happy to see our coordinator Jillian and our coach Kelly. They hugged us, gave us salt, water, sponges and sent us on our way. It was amazing. The support from Team in Training never stopped. Mile 17 there was a mentor, mile 19, mile 21, the whole way to the finish they were there to see that all 150 of us crossed that finish line. One woman finished the marathon at 7pm and there were still mentors and volunteers along the way to support her. At the finish the volunteers and coaches were there to congratulate us, hug us and send us into the shower before we all went to celebrate. I could never thank those people enough. And I could never thank my running partner Lauren enough, for being my side for every one of those training runs and what would prove to be a very challenging race day. Lo, your truly a good friend!
And finally Team in Training hosted a Victory Party for us the day after. It was a chance for everyone to come with their medals and gear, share their story and congratulate everyone and remember why we all ran 26.2 miles. It was the perfect way to end the season; to thank the mentors, coaches and staff and to end what was an incredible experience.
Team in Training touched me in a way I didn’t realize it would. I never thought that I would make friends with women that I’ll undoubtedly stay in touch with for years to come. I never thought that I’d actually consider raising thousands of dollars again but I am. It felt so good to be a part of something that is bigger than myself and I’m proud to be a part of what has proved to be an amazing group of people. Collectively as a team we have raised $992,000 and with matching gifts and donations still outstanding we will hit $1 million dollars. I’ve always been in awe of Boston Marathon qualifiers but today I can honestly say I’m in awe of everyone on that team. To qualify may be hard but to raise over a million dollars and run a marathon is just as hard. Everyone of those Team in Training members was utterly committed to that marathon in ways I didn’t know possible. To say they impressed me is an understatement. So, yes, yes someday and hopefully sooner rather than later you’ll find me running again with Team in Training because how could I not want to do this all over again?! I’d recommend Team in Training to anyone looking to run with a charity. And to my team, friends, running partners, coaches, volunteers and staff thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this an experience of a lifetime!