Definition of Bravery

The 2015 Boston Marathon is only five days away. And all I can think about is what carbs I should be eating when, and how it’s ok to run only three miles today, I’m tapering. But in the middle of all of this performance-focused thinking it was good to be reminded why I am running 26.2 miles…for children who have been abused here in Boston.

Last week I attended the Children’s Advocacy Center’s “Bravery Ceremony.” It was a moving reminder of what all this training and fundraising is going towards. During this ceremony victims of abuse were presented with awards from CAC and their “teams,” the District Attorneys and Victim Advocates who helped them get through the legal portion of their journey to recovery.

There was also a exhibit of photographs of victim’s eyes and their advice to other kids on how to get through terrible times. The exhibit was called “Now You See Me, A Celebration of Courageous Kids.” And courageous they are. Coming forward is incredibly difficult. There’s the social stigma attached to sexual abuse, and in many cases these children were threatened to ensure their silence, and/or were abused by members of their family, and coming forward means tearing a family apart.

NYS-Harvard-April2015-Invite join us-1

The firsthand accounts were at times hard to read, but important to read. Josh was abused by a family member starting when he was 13. He wrote:

“Being in front of a jury was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. But I just kept thinking ‘Tell the truth, you know what happened to you. Now it’s your chance to tell everyone else.’”

DSC_0015

Bessie was abused by her uncle started at age five. She wrote:

“Knowing that I endured something so painful allows me to be a stronger person. As a child you don’t have control over ugly things that might happen to you, but as you get older, you will always have the last say. You have survived the battle and you have the opportunity to live and take the good from life.”

DSC_0016

The emotional connection between the victims, their teams, CAC staff, and the detectives who investigated their cases was evident and touching.

I became aware of CAC and all the good work they do through two friends (Laura Montgomery an Assistant DA and Kate Lagana, a Victim Advocate), and now I was able to see them celebrating the bravery of the victim’s they helped get justice. It’s clear that through the judicial process, the victims and their teams get very close; lawyers become cheerleaders, friends…vital support through the most difficult of times. There was such emotion in Laura’s voice as she commended one of her victims, Jennifer, that I had goosebumps on my arms, and tears welling in my eyes. Some of the victims whose bravery was being celebrated  had waited as long as six years to finally get justice.

My dear friend Laura, in green, with one of her victims, Jennifer

My dear friend Laura, in green, with one of her victims, Jennifer

During the ceremony, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley spoke, calling these victims who suffered abuse during childhood, “The bravest people in Boston.” He thanked them and said that by coming forward other victims will know that they too can come forward. He commended the DAs, Victim Advocates, detectives and staff of CAC, as doing “some of the most important work in law enforcement in the Commonwealth.”

This is my last plea for donations before the marathon, I swear. Every dollar I help to raise will help CAC fund a full time position for a mental health professional for the child victims of sexual abuse. If you are feeling generous, even if it is only a few dollars, please donate today.

exhalelogo

To sweeten the deal, the good people at Exhale Spa were kind enough to donate a five pack of Mind Body classes for me to use in my fundraising efforts. You can enter for a chance to win this class pack (retail value: $125), if you 1) like Children’s Advocacy Center on Facebook, and 2) leave a comment below about why you think it’s important to shine a light on the bravery of these young victims.

Thank you for all the support!

Advertisements

22 Miles Down, Two Weeks to Go

The count down is on. There are less than two weeks until the 2015 Boston Marathon and the infamous “tapering” phase is now in full swing for me. But to reach this carb-loading, easying up phase I had to do one last long run a week ago. And it was my first time running the actual course.

After months of training in challenging winter conditions, I was feeling pretty nervous about whether I would be ready for the big day and the notorious “Heartbreak Hill.” I had felt good on all my long runs, but many of the week-day runs had to be cut short or never happened because of brutal cold, ice and snowy roads. So when I heard that New Balance and Marathon Sports were sponsoring a 21 mile run on the course, I jumped at the chance…then got really nervous.

Because so many runners work hard to qualify for the chance to run Boston, it seems the training surrounding this marathon is more intense than others. I did not qualify, rather I earned my bib number by raising money for a very worthy cause (there’s still time to donate, please click here), and I’ve been training in a relative vacuum of isolation; running all by myself, on basically the same course (along the Charles River). I started reading “26 Miles to Boston,” which was recommended to me by just about everyone, but it really messed with my head. Every page had a reference to hill repeats, track work or speed workouts. I had done none of the above. I have just run around the Charles (and a few other bodies of water: the Seine and Wissahickon) a lot.

Suddenly, despite intellectually knowing that I am not a Kenyan, I started getting nervous that I was not ready…to win the marathon. Instead of focusing on the good I was doing by raising money for The Children’s Advocacy Center, or revel in the experience that is running Boston, I felt my competitive juices starting to flow and my mind getting focused on hitting a certain time (my previous marathon time of 3:56:05).

Our sweet ride out to Framingham...courtesy of New Balance

Our sweet ride out to Framingham…courtesy of New Balance

So the night before this last long training run I was nervous the way I would be before a job interview. Yes, I am indeed insane. We gathered at Marathon Sport at 7:15 a.m. and dozens of us filed onto trollies for the 21 mile ride out to mile 5 of the marathon in Framingham.

Our trolly full of runners

Our trolly full of runners

During the long trolly ride it started to sink in how far away we were headed and how far I was about to run…in the snow. Oh, did I forget to mention that it was snowing? Huge fluffy flakes.

It was at that moment when I realized I should have reviewed the actual course before embarking on this run. I asked the person sitting next to me if there was any way I could get lost (because if there was a way I would likely find it). She assured me that there wasn’t. “It’s all straight and then a right at the fire station.” I mused that this fire station better be really obvious. At that point I was really getting nervous, I decided to run with my phone in case I needed to be rescued by Uber, and I missed the group picture because I was peeing behind a tree.

We started out on the road (I guess it was RT 135) and I immediately realized that everyone had been right; there is just something about Boston. My first sign was right there in front of me: hundreds of runner on the shoulder of the road. And there were folks out cheering for us. Some had signs, some had cow bells, some had water, cookies, bananas. This wasn’t even race day and we had a cheering section for 15 miles. Police officers in Newton set up orange cones and stopped traffic so we could run unencumbered by cars.

After about four miles my running watch decided that the only display it liked was the direction in which I was running. Why any runner, unless they were involved in The Amazing Race, would need to know that they are running northeast is beyond me. I could no longer log how long I had been running, how far I had gone or my pace. So I had to rely on more primitive means; I shut everything else out and concentrated on my breathing. I should not be huffing and puffing at mile 6, so if I was, I needed to slow down. I listened for church bells to mark the hours, and when I saw a lot of running related litter (gels, goos, etc.), I had a goo too to keep my energy up.

A long line of runners (I think this was in Natick)

A long line of runners (I think this was in Natick)

It was great to get a sense of the course, because despite how sad this sounds, my first time in some of these towns was running through them that day. And yes, the infamous Newton Fire Station is obvious (thank goodness!). There I took a right turn, signalling the end was if not in sight, at least less than 9 miles away. When I got to BC I asked a fellow runner where Heartbreak Hill was. She said I had already passed it. I was elated, it wasn’t even that bad. Just three hills followed by downhills where you can recover. I told her that was the best thing she could have possibly said to me at that moment. And it was the truth.

the infamous Newton Fire Station, complete with water station

the infamous Newton Fire Station, complete with water station

The runners really thinned out after mile 21 (it seems many planned a run from the start to mile 21, as opposed to mile 5 to the finish), and I did manage to get lost. How did that happen, you may ask? Well, my terrible sense of direction is not solely to blame. A friendly runner thought I was on her Dana Farber team and took me to their meet-up location and I didn’t know enough to realize that the marathon course does not in fact go though the parking lots at BC. I tried to find my way back but ended up on Comm Ave. instead of Beacon Street. I actually had to ask for directions from someone on the street. But I got back on track after only running one extra mile.

When I finally saw the Citgo sign I felt a surge of energy. The end was near. By the time I turned onto Boylston I was dodging pedestrians in nearly and all-out sprint (or as sprinty as I get after 22 miles). When I crossed the finish line (or, more accurately, the sidewalk next to it) I was so relieved, and excited. Relieved because I knew that if I could run 22 I could run 4 miles more on Marathon Monday. And excited because if I had this much fun on a training run, imagine how great the actual marathon will be!

I also felt really proud. I had been training (in one way or another) everyday since December 17th and I was ready. The snow did not stop me, the freezing temperatures did not stop me. I had put everything I could into training, and now it was time to taper, rest up and get ready.

I have just two weeks to go, and I really could not be more excited for this experience. Will I push myself to beat a certain time? Probably (did I mention 3:56:05?). But I also know I want to savor each mile, and all my friends and the crowds along the way. Just like when my watch broke, I am going to try to tune everything out and just be in the moment, absorb everything around me, and enjoy the run.

Yes, there are only two weeks to go before the marathon, and only two weeks left to donate to my fundraising efforts to benefit the Children’s Advocacy Center. If you have not done so already, please consider donating today. You can do so here.

Runnin’ Down A Dream

Is it sad that 38 degrees feels balmy? I, for one, am over winter. The past 6 weeks have been really hard for Boston and for many other parts of the country as well. Blizzard after blizzard, ice sidewalks, unplowed streets. Now imagine you are insane enough to train for the Boston Marathon in this. Yeah, that is really not fun.

IMG_0186

Yep, running through this sucked as much as you think it did.

I have been getting in all my long runs (albeit in freezing temperatures and through snow), but I certainly have not been running as often as I like. That has me nervous about April 20th. So I decided turn to an expert for training advice and to learn how to turn a life’s passion into a career.

The one and only...Bart Yasso

The one and only…Bart Yasso. Photo courtesy of Runner’s World

Bart Yasso is the Director of Running for Runner’s World magazine. He has run more marathons that you can count and is a great ambassador for the sport, attending races and talking to runners and would-be runners across the country. He’s also coached runners of all levels, so who better to get advice on training in these challenge circumstances.

Scenes from a sunrise run along the frozen Charles River

Scenes from a sunrise run along the frozen Charles River

“It’s hard, no way around it,” Bart admitted about winter training, especially training this winter. I can’t tell you how comforting this validation was, especially coming from such a legend.

Bart, who rightfully pegged me as a Type A person—he actually used the phrase “Type A+”—and warned me that getting to the starting line healthy is the most important thing. Although we have the best of intentions, we A+ers often over-train and suffer overuse injuries before we even reach race day. Bart stressed that I should listen to my body. If it needs rest, oblige. He also said that if I was forced on to a “dreadmill” I could do shorter distances, but at a faster pace to make the most of the run. I really appreciated this advice because I really can’t take the boredom of 30 minutes worth of staring at my sweaty face in the mirror on a treadmill.

While Bart’s training advice was incredibly helpful, the best part of our conversation was talking about his life on the run (don’t give me too much writing props for that one, it’s the title of his fantastic memoir). I always love hearing from folks who have managed to follow their passion and make it a career, and Bart may have the best story I’ve heard yet.

Courtesy of Bart Yasso

Courtesy of Bart Yasso

Bart admits, with no air of hyperbole, running saved his life. “Had I not changed my life in 1977 I would not be here,” he told me. While Bart is a natural runner, he did not start running until after an adolescence filled with alcohol and weed. He became hooked on running instead after his first race. “Once I committed to running and changed my life I was going to do it all-out,” he said. And boy did he.

Another scene from a run

Another scene from a run

At 60 years old, he claims his marathon training days are behind him, but he still attends races constantly as an ambassador for the sport, and his employers, looking for great stories while helping runners along the way. “My goal is now connecting with runners,” Bart explains. “Everyone wants my job,” he told me. “I’m very fortunate that I can work in what I love to do, but also change people’s lives.” But Bart is humble as well. “I feel lucky and I never take my job for granted.”

Bart inspires people all over the country, and a dose of that ispiration helped me gain a new sense of excitement ahead of race day. Bart and I talked about the “beauty” of the sport and it’s acceptance of all ability levels. It struck me that in addition to beauty, there’s also a kind of perfection in its simplicity and purity. Each of us, regardless of speed or ability, get out of running what we put in. Unlike other sports there is no team, no judge, arguably no competitor. As Bart put it, it’s you against the clock…and yourself. “It’s the effort you put in and the commitment that you make,” Bart said. “You can’t fake anything.”

In Boston, in particular, you have the most elite runners in the world accomplishing “this amazing feat” (26.2 is a challenge even for them) on the same streets as us mere mortals. “To have all that happen in the same place is unheard of.” As that sunk in, I realized that this is one of the things that makes Boston so special.

I am just like one of the thousands of runners that Bart meets each year. Like I’m sure, I ended our time together inspired. And as the snow in Boston starts to melt (knock on wood), and there are small signs of spring, I am reinvigorated to continue my training…while taking Bart’s advice to listen to my body and “have fun.” That is what its about after all.

While my running of the 2015 Boston Marathon is about the personal accomplishment, it’s also about raising money for a very good cause, The Children’s Advocacy Center. Please donate to my effort if you can.

A Different Sort of Resolution: The Boston Marathon

Happy New Year friends!

How many of you made a resolution when the clock struck midnight? According to the US Government (I must have missed this questions on the last census) the top New Years resolutions are to lose weight, volunteer more and to quit smoking. While all of these are very worthy goals…and 40% of us do indeed make these sorts of resolutions (only 8% of us keep them)…I’m making a different sort of resolution for 2015, or at least first four and a half months of it: I’m running the 2015 Boston Marathon.

This will not be my first marathon, but it will still be a serious challenge (duh!). I love to run, so motivation will not be my big obstacle. While I was training for my previous marathon (or as my mother describes it “practicing” for the marathon…although a dress rehearsal is not a bad idea) I was working in TV and I didn’t have to be at work until 2:00 in the afternoon. I had all morning to diligently train (arguably I over-trained judging by the IT band injury I sustained) in the best season (August through November). This time around I work normal people hours, so training will have to be squeezed into those dark hours before the sun comes up over frosty New England. Plus I absolutely hate treadmills, so if you follow me on Instagram (and I hope you do) I’m warning you now you’re in for dozens of frozen Charles River sunrise shots between now and April 20th.

run selfie 2

Another challenge, although I really do see it as an honor, is the fact that as I train I will also be raising money for a worthy cause. The Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County may just be one of the most important Boston organizations you have never heard of.

I’ll start at the beginning: a very good friend of mine is an assistant District Attorney in Boston. She prosecutes individuals who have been accused of sexually abusing children. I frequently think about her when I’m having a bad day at work. I get stressed about the logistics of an event, or the phrasing of a press release. She is putting sickos behind bars. She is keeping children safe. That’ll certainly give you some perspective on your “work emergency.”

cac-logo-lg

I learned about The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) through her. When a child is abused and comes forward, although heartbreakingly, many do not come forward, there are multiple parties and moving pieces involved in prosecuting such a case (police, prosecutors, doctors, etc.).  A coordinated response from experts in their respective fields is required to reduce stress on the victim throughout the investigation and intervention process. CAC believes that helping abused children and their families requires an approach that addresses the physical, emotional and legal dimensions of abuse. It is terrible that so many children are the victims of this god-awful kind of abuse, and they deserve to be protected, to get justice, to be safe and to heal. This is a cause I can get behind that…and I am…for 26.2 miles. Will you join me?

2015bostonmarathon

I’m going to be bringing you all along for both facets of my marathon challenge. I will be updating you on how my training is going, with words and images. I will also be telling the story of The Children’s Advocacy Center through the dedicated folks who help these victims, from DAs, to Victims Advocates, maybe even a police officer if I’m lucky. It won’t be my typical adventure, but I hope by spending time with these dedicated professionals and shining a light on all the hard work they do every day, it will help us all gain a some much-needed perspective and will inspire us all to help those in need, whomever they may be.

If you are feeling generous and would like to contribute something (doesn’t have to be a lot) to my marathon effort to help CAC you can do so by clicking here. Thank you in advance!

Let the training begin!