This past weekend I ran in support of a cause - one that is very close to my heart for many reasons. On Sunday, the Angus Barn in North Raleigh hosted the 24th annual Walk for Hope to raise awareness and funds for better treatment options for mental illness. (Fun fact: Chris proposed to me during dinner at Angus Barn!)
So now that you’re wondering why I feel so passionate about this cause, let me drag it on a little more by telling you about the race day experience. I beat the sun and woke up that morning at 5:30 so I could leave the house with enough time to get to the shuttle. Unlike most race days, I was hardly prepared. I searched on my phone the night before, while out at a concert I might add, to find out what time the race started, how to get there and what I even needed to bring. Riding to the shuttle pickup that morning I realized that no matter how many races I’ve done - big or small - I still get a stomach full of swarming butterflies. I’m also pretty practiced at fearing the emotion of disappointment in myself.
As soon as I took my seat on the shuttle someone was already asking me how I was doing that morning. It happened to be that I sat down next to Michael, a very nice man with a mental illness. I could guess what it was but it would just be an assumption. I found out that he worked at Angus Barn once a week doing “whatever they needed help with”. He was not running or walking in the race but was going that morning to volunteer. We had a great conversation, and I walked away with a smile and an ache in my heart. Why must bad things happen to good people? When we exited the shuttle bus up the hill to Angus Barn he greeted several other people with hugs and a warming, contagious smile, and I parted ways to find the registration table.
BEFORE THE START
I had an hour before the 10K runners started so I took the time to walk around and look at the various booths being set up. They read “Suicide Survivors” and “UNC Psychiatry”, among others. There were large yellow banners from several of the 24 years the race has been established with headers that read “I Walked for Hope in [Year] For …” with hundreds of reasons why people supported the event. I stood there and read posts like, For my sister who was full of life - RIP, For all those fighting this terrible disease including myself, and Because I want to win this race (and in parenthesis) I won this race!. It was fairly obvious that a sufferer recorded the last post. More testimonials here. Few people had made it to the Angus Barn at this point so I took the time to enjoy the quiet morning and a little “me time”. Since I participated as a part of my company’s team I saw a few colleagues before taking position on the start line, and at 9am we were off and running. Pun intended.
We took off on a significant incline; a hill in true Raleigh form, and about a mile into the race we turned into Umstead State Park. Umstead is gorgeous. We ran mostly on gravel so it wasn’t hard on our feet but there were perfectly timed spots of trail running as well. Autumn-colored trees surrounded us, curving inward above the running path, with a glint of morning sunlight peeking through the leaves. About halfway we circled a sparkling lake that could have been drawn, framed and hung. I remember at one point I was listening to Dax Johnson’s Canon on my iPhone looking up beyond the leaves and into the sunlight, and feeling like I wasn’t running alone. If you see those Nike commercials or ads of determined, fit runners training at the break of dawn in the most breathtaking surroundings, it would have been this day and on this route. Although, I’m sure I was a little more heavy-footed and a little less graceful than the runners I’m referring to. The weather was chilly - barely touching 50 degrees at the start and warming up a little by the end. I was comfortable in my black capri running pants and my black Boston Marathon running jacket. I pushed myself this race - hard. I didn’t have my GPS watch on me this time - just a iPhone app that doesn’t advertise your pace throughout the run - so I knew I had to feel uncomfortable in my speed if I wanted a good time, which is exactly what I did. Toward the end I was breathing so hard that I was self-conscious when I was around other runners, but I kept saying to myself, “No more than 20 minutes to go.” (Or whatever the time was.) Anyone can push themselves for 20 minutes, right? Right. I pushed up and over the last couple of hills and finished strong with a volunteer shouting my time as I crossed the line.
I crossed the finish line around 52 minutes tired and out of breath, but with a better time than I had imagined getting that day. While it’s not near my best pace I’m happy with it considering the hills we faced and the lack of training I was prepared with. Walking back to the booths and festivities I snuck a smile feeling proud of what I’ve accomplished after being so hard on myself before we even began. Race results here!
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT
As I mentioned before, this race was important to me. So often you hear of treatment options and charities for cancers and heart diseases, etc., and not frequent enough is there a significant push for mental illnesses. While I also love and support the other charities, I was more than satisfied to see this cause getting attention. Many people who suffer from mental illnesses do just that - suffer. Treatments are rare and criticism is plenty. Not a favorable combination. As my grandmother was passing away she had dementia. We’d visit her in the nursing home and hold her hand, but she wouldn’t know who was holding her hand. I know many people who suffer from this kind of illness and I know each of them face a battle every day. It illuminates my heart that there are events and programs out there working for a better tomorrow.
About to start the Run for Hope! (Taken with Instagram)
My typical blog-posting pace is an entry every few months if I’m lucky, but today you get two posts in the same 24 hours!
With the MLB post-season underway and the Championship Series upon us I am stuck like glue to the TV when the Yankees take the field. For those who aren’t aware my dad was born in the Bronx and experienced a childhood in Jersey, so it’s not too out of the park that I’m a fan of the Bronx Bombers.
Usually around this time of year if the Yankees are playing well and progressing toward the World Series I hear and read a lot about the team’s payroll, which is an argument that I’ve always hated. Why? Because I’m an athlete and have played competitively all my life - and I know better. I’ve never played for money or for fame because of my sport. I grew up playing softball and field hockey, moved onto the collegiate level in field hockey and then turned into a competitive runner. Still, I know that money does not enhance your skill, and it certainly does not give you the push over a slump to get a game-changing hit. For any athlete, you can stand at the plate with $20, $100 or $1 million in front of you and you’d still be going through your mechanics, evaluating your surroundings and blocking out the obstructive noises. Money does not give you a rare power to ignore a pressure-intense at bat or the ability to dive a few inches further to catch a firing line drive. It’s not like they get up to bat or stand in the field saying to themselves - this will be an easy play because of my income. Any athlete knows that. Sure - New York has an incredible payroll and has the ability to pay their players an ungodly salary, but it doesn’t mean that they are a bad team for having that opportunity. They happen to be based in a revenue-thriving city with a baseball tradition that has lived and will live for unseeable lifetimes.
It’s frustrating for any Yankees fan that one of the best is in a slump. But A Rod will always be just that - one of the very best baseball has seen - and just because he is getting paid more than most doesn’t mean he will be able to automatically hit one in the Yankee centerfield benches every time. He is in a slump and he will get out of it. Sports is about way more than money and I’m confident that any professional baseball player would agree; these athletes wouldn’t be where they are and on whatever team they are if they didn’t have the passion, talent and persistance that they do. They are great athletes - really some of the best - and the same is true for every post-season challenger. Sports should be a reason to celebrate and support the team closest to your heart, not tear the other ones down.
On that note - GO YANKEES!
Recently I had an insightful conversation with a person I admire immensely - both professionally and personally. There comes a point in your young life where it’s critical to make decisions on what is important to you in life, what path do you want to take and how are you going to get there. These specific questions didn’t come up in our conversation per say but it led me to really contemplate each one with a keen focus. I’m fortunate to have had a fairly diverse resume in my relatively short time as a working professional. It’s given me the chance to pick and choose what I am passionate about, where I can contribute with my strongest qualities and how I can make a difference.
Growing up, namely as a college student, I was told when choosing a career it’s not an acceptable answer to say I just want to work with people. I understand that because most every job you’re working with people. However, I’m learning now that it just was not a descriptive enough answer. I do want to work with people - certain types of people. I want to surround myself with people who inspire me and who push me to to always do better. I want to collaborate with people who can help me produce an incredible end result, and possibly something that might even change the way people think. It has always been and will always be exceptionally important that I work with people who value the most important relationships in life - family. Those are the softer qualities of where I’d like my life to lead, but the more exciting realization is where and how I plan to do that.
Of course this is just one piece of the large puzzle, but it’s a big one. It’s an exciting feeling to be able to pull my various passions together and have an idea of how my life will shape up. As long as I have my priorities and passions in life in line I will be able to roll with the punches, duck from the curve balls and become a stronger person with every experience.
I’m not sure I could have written a blog post that is more vague than this one - but at least I can end it with a smile on my face and more confidence in my heart. Life is too short not to challenge yourself by finding out why you were put on this earth. What gift were you given and how are you going to use it for the better?
I always said I would never run the Raleigh half marathon, and here I am creating my half marathon training schedule for the City of Oaks half marathon this Nov. 4. One of the reasons why I love to run is because of the opportunities it brings to travel and race in different parts of the country. While I haven’t been to the West coast and back, or anywhere particularly crazy, I do like racing in different places than I train. First of all, you don’t know what to expect meaning you don’t know about the giant mountain you have to climb just around the bend at mile 10. That mountain is a little tough to get through when you anticipate it for the first nine miles. (And the hill reference IS a direct comment about Raleigh.)
Regardless, I’m signed up and I am actually really looking forward to it. I had a pretty strong start to my running career, coming in with strong finishes at the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in D.C. (1:16:59) and at the Baltimore Half Marathon (1:41:41). Then I competed in my very first full marathon in the Outer Banks, and had an incredible experience finishing fourth (3:34:14) in my division and qualifying for the Boston Marathon. And if luck wasn’t stretched out enough, I qualified for the next Boston Marathon at my first go at it. But, running three full marathons over the course of 16 months, and constant training for a full for about 20 months, will make one what you’d call - burned out.
I ran a few more half marathons here and there to keep up my shape but didn’t really train to be the best I could come race day. This time though I’m ready to bring it again. If you quote me on that make sure you make a asterisk with a note saying I made that comment before I started my training regime. :-)
So here goes nothing! My 10-week training program starts the week of August 27 combining strength, endurance and some cross-training. Mixed in with my other posts, I’ll keep you posted on my progress, and maybe it’ll keep me tied to my word.
You can be a conservative or you can be a liberal, and whatever you are you will naturally be inclined to feel one way or the other about the main issues that are constantly being addressed on the political battle field. As No Doubt put it, Don’t Speak unless you’re going to act. Vote, or at least be educated enough to talk about what you stand up for.
My generation, a very opinionated group of younger people, have a lot to say and express. It’s my hope that they can back up what they spit out. Are they conservative because their parents are or they simply think abortion is bad? Are they liberal because they have a homosexual friend or they hate the concept of war? It’s important as the up and coming generation that we focus on the picture as a whole, and not just a corner to the thousand-piece puzzle.
The presidential candidates are running to be our country’s leader to help the United States get back to a strong economic front, provide jobs to unemployed Americans, making a decision about Iran and attempting to create a unified country on countless social issues. I will stay silent until I feel confident that I can contribute to at least most of the major issues that we face as a country. I want a reason for the way I choose to vote this year. So while so many people out there keep talking I hope to gain an understanding of the issues and the information behind the candidates’ decisions so I can confidently hand in my ballot when the time comes.
Since Chris is from Louisville and we can’t make it back to his “Old Kentucky Home” for the greatest two minutes in sports this year, we are bringing the Kentucky Derby to Raleigh, N.C.! We are hosting a Derby party and my mind is already spinning on all the fun ways to spice up the day with all things Kentucky.
Without giving away too much (wouldn’t want to spoil any surprises) … here are a handful of things you can’t have a Derby party without …
HAPPY DERBY TO YOU!