Monday, May 12, 2014

Team CJ at River Towns Marathon & Half Marathon

A post like this can be a challenge to write.  There is so much I want to say and so many who deserve thanks and acknowledgement.  Its hard to know where to start and I'm afraid I'll forget something.  Team CJ was an idea I started thinking about as CJ's Resolution Challenge was wrapping up.  I already planned to run River Towns Marathon as my third marathon and thought that it might be the perfect race to recruit a team to help me raise awareness and money for autism.  An email to race director, Bob Stoudt, got the whole thing started.  I was hoping to gather 10-15 runners to run the race with me.  It quickly grew to a team of thirty!  It was thrilling to me to have that level of support.  What you have to realize is, I didn't personally know all the people on this team prior to the race.  People I recruited talked to their friends, and it just rippled out.  In the beginning, I figured that this event was going to be more about raising awareness than money.  I thought the team would probably cover operating costs with a little bit left over to donate.  And I was okay with that.  But boy, was I wrong!  I watched our team hit $2000, then $3000, then $5000, and more!!!  I could hardly believe it!  This group of strangers, coming together, raising that kind of money.... it was just amazing.  The money we raised was shared between two awesome organizations- Operation Jack Autism Foundation and Geisinger's Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute.
Full Marathoners- Crystal, Janell, & Sam

Half Marathoners- Mirhia, Don, Jen, Julie, Brian, Kevin, Kelli, Steph, Aaron, Joe, Erin, Penny, Misha, Kelly, Brandi, Andi, Sara (not pictured-Kristen, Justin, Quaid, Des, Krista, Ashley, Megan, Lindsey, Glen, Kaija)

There is just no way we were not noticed at the race.  Orange Team CJ shirts were everywhere!  After the race I heard multiple reports of random acts of encouragement from teammates that prior to that morning had never laid eyes on one another.  That's one of my favorite things about the whole day.  

So just a small recap of my race experience- 
I was just a little excited.
The marathon started at 7am, two hours before the half marathon.  My mom and grandma were there to cheer us on.  Crystal, Sam, and I gathered together for some pre-race photos, toed the line, and off we went.  I was hoping for a PR, so I'd have to better a time of 3:55.  My training was really tough this time around.  The weather required a lot of shuffling of workouts, and many runs ended up being moved indoors.  I hope to never again run sixteen miles on a treadmill, 'nuff said.  So, all in all, I'd say my training wasn't quite where I had hoped it would be, but I had my best friend Crystal on one side and Sam, marathoner extraordinaire, on my other side, I thought I could do it.  The first half went well, I felt really, really good.  But something just went amiss at the turn around point.  I started having pain in my toe.  I remembered thinking to myself probably only 14-15 miles in, "Well hello there, Wall.  I can't say that I'm happy to meet you."  Around mile 18 I started falling behind.  Mike noticed and slowed down so I could run next to him.  I said, "Thanks, Mike."  To which he replied, "I gotcha."  We ran together a while, Mike being a quiet, supportive presence.  Then Mike and Jamie swapped.  She asked how I was doing, and I confessed, I was really struggling.  The pain in my foot was getting worse, and it was really getting to me.  She said they were with me and wouldn't leave me.  At this point Crystal and Sam were really starting to pull away.  I started seeing the half marathoners and I thought it would be just the boost I needed to get through it.  Seeing those orange Team CJ shirts gave me just enough encouragement to keep on going.  Aaron caught up with me and must have sensed how discouraged I was because he stayed with me when he could have passed me.  Eventually Sam noticed my absence and waited for me.  Sam, me, Mike, and Aaron were running together so Mike decided to run ahead to catch Crystal and Jamie.  I had started walking at aid stations, and then in between aid stations, and I thought about quitting.  This was not how this race was supposed to go.  But quitting would be ridiculous, and besides, I don't quit.  So broken down, busted, and disappointed, I crossed the finish line at 4:02:30.  It took several days, but I eventually realized that I don't have to be disappointed.  I ran a marathon.  Marathons are hard.  They don't always go as planned.  And I can't let myself forget about the amazing team running with my son's name on their chests.

Team CJ Finishing Strong!!!
So now for the thank you's.  I am so grateful to the people who teamed up with me to form Team CJ.  Thank you to Sam of Operation Jack for inspiring me to try.  Thank you to Crystal who always has too much faith in me.  Thank you to Aaron for being patient and supportive even when the taper crazies are full-blown.  Thank you to my mom and grandma for their unwavering support and hard work.  Thank you to Brandi and Kevin for taking on their first half marathon, and to all you other teammates who did the same (I'm looking at you, Joe!)  Thank you to my sorority sisters Krista, Megan, and Mirhia for the fun reunion on the race course.  Thank you to Misha for being my early morning training buddy.  Thank you to Mike and Jamie for bolstering spirits during the second half of the marathon.  Thank you to Bob Stoudt and the River Towns Race Series for being so generous.  Thank you to all of Team CJ for raising such funds, especially Brian, Aaron, Crystal, and Kristen.  And thank you God for bringing us all together and blessing our efforts.  To you all, I am forever grateful for your acts of kindness, selflessness, and bravery.  Thank you.
~"As Heaven touches earth.....  We bring the Kingdom come with every act of love."