A few weeks ago it occurred to me that I’ve never really discussed HOW I have been able to run seven Boston marathons and yet haven’t been able to qualify on my own for it. In a conversation with two of my besties last weekend, I mentioned this and one said”Why would you need to tell people, that?”
Me: because I’m sure readers are curious”
She: well I wouldn’t wonder. But wait- maybe that’s just because I know?
Below is a little bit about my journey as a member of a charity team that I wrote recently. It is the MOST important thing I have ever done/been a part of:
We all know the Boston Marathon has some of the tightest qualifying standards. For the past seven (SEVEN!!!) years I have been a part of the Kids At Heart Marathon Team. We are a subset of a larger team-The Children’s Hospital Marathon team. I am sponsored by my amazing job. Each year, we pledge to raise money for the hospital. This team is like another family to me. They have been in my life for so long now, and I can’t imagine them NOT being a part of it.
For someone like me, who has struggled to make the grade of the tight times for Boston, running for Kids At Heart/ Children’s Hospital has been a blessing: I am able to run the marathon every year without needing a qualifying time. I started running for the Kids at Heart team, a subset of the Children’s Hospital ‘Miles for Miracles’ team, during the 2007- 2008 marathon season. I was paired with my first patient partner, Maggie King, and her family. Maggie has been a patient at Children’s Hospital since she was 4 hours old. The Children’s transport team came to the local hospital and transported her to Children’s where she was admitted to the NICU. Without Children’s, Maggie would not have survived nor would she be able to do all that she can do today-She is a cognitively age appropriate young woman. With Children’s help, Maggie learned to drive a power wheel chair at the age of 3. She uses a computer, Maggie’s Merk, named by her little brother DJ, to communicate by activating a switch with her head. This amazing computer actually speaks for Maggie as she clicks and selects communication folders on the screen attached to her wheelchair. Maggie’s family members are huge advocates for her and therefore, Maggie’s quality of life has always been on the upswing.
I remember how nervous I was to meet them. What if they didn’t like me? What was Maggie like? All of my nervousness was put immediately at ease. The King family accepted me into their lives as if I was a part of their extended family. For the next two years, I learned so many things about my patient partner and her family. Maggie is so much more than just a 20 year old girl in a wheelchair. She is so smart. I loved going to see the King family. Dana, Maggie’s mom once told me that she was so happy I was Maggie’s last runner because “ Nicole gets it”.
To fully understand what the sentence “Nicole gets it” means, you have to understand that running a marathon for Children’s means so much more than to run without a cause. It means that your strong legs are running because weak legs can’t. It means you train whenever you can-even if it is cold, windy, or even when it’s snowing. It doesn’t matter if you had a bad day and don’t feel like running today, or if you have a little cold. Even if it blizzards outside on the day you are supposed to do your long run (HELLO, Winter 2013?!?) and instead you wind up doing that 18 miler on a treadmill-you do it. You know why you do it? It’s because You KNOW that you’re doing it for a cause that is bigger than you. Up before the sun, tired and half asleep, we drag ourselves out to the road because we KNOW the cause we run for: Children. It involves tons of your time and energy. I am so lucky: My loved ones are always so understanding about why I can’t go places with them during the marathon training season weekends: They know my long runs are crucial to my overall goals.
(Nicole & Maggie-crossing the 2009 finish line)
The 2008-2009 Marathon season was the final one for the King family. After many years, they were ready for new challenges that life was giving them: Two teenage girls, and a son entering junior high! During the 2009-2010 marathon training season, I got a new patient partner: Everett Chase.
When I first met Everett, he was just a 5 year old little peanut who I could easily pick up! Now he is a handsome 9 year old who is ALWAYS smiling. You can’t look at him and not immediately burst into a big ear to ear Grin! He also has Cerebral Palsy. The exact cause for Everett’s condition cannot be diagnosed by doctors, as it is a particular set of issues that has never been seen. He doesn’t quite fit any known syndrome or disease. Trips to Children’s Hospital in Boston are commonplace for Everett’s care. Everett attends school at The Professional Center in Andover, MA. He is doing very well, and loves going to school. The staff thinks the world of him, and Everett’s family, in turn thinks the world of them.
(Nicole & Everett through the years)
If you think this limits Everett-think again. Everett is constantly busy…he ice skates, goes for bike rides, plays outside, goofs around with his sisters, and loves to go camping. Anyone who knows him can tell you that his parents, sisters, and family truly feel blessed to have him. I have loved getting to know the Chase family: Everett’s parents, Michele and Peter, and his two sisters Heather and Meredith always make me feel welcome in their home. I really couldn’t ask for a better family! We love getting together and always have a bunch of laughs. The girls always have funny stories to tell me and Cookie Mom Michele always forces (yeah right!!) me to take Girl Scout Cookies home with me!
My two patient partners, Everett and Maggie, have taught me so many lessons. They taught me that “Handicap” is just an expression-it does not mean you are limited to what you can do. You are the one who controls the way you perceive the world-Everett and Maggie both see the world as a wonderful, limitless place. To have this vision is a true gift. You know that the people who surround you are there because they cherish and respect you. They both have taught me that you can literally do anything you put your mind to-no matter how big of an obstacle it is; you can do anything you want if you have the mindset to do it. Most of all, I have learned that even though I may be the “legs” of this crazy journey-they are the motivation. There is no more powerful gift than that: two beautiful souls that have encouraged me at different times towards my journey of the runner I am today. Neither of them would ever conceive the idea of giving up on their journey, and neither will I.
Thanks to Children’s Hospital, Everett and Maggie are just two of the kids who have benefited from all their wonderful help. The next marathon year, 2014, will mark my 7th year as a runner for the Kids at Heart/Miles for Miracles Team. I have chosen to run for KAH/Children’s because I know I can do more, help more, provide more. My patient partners and my fellow teammates work together every year to create a better life for kids everywhere. Every year, one of my friends or family members tells me that I’m their hero for running the marathon. But I don’t see it that way. I see a hero as being the little kids who are fighting cancer. Heroes are the kids who are born with heart conditions and balance their lives between hospital stays, and nights out with their friends. Heroes are the kids who find other ways to communicate than with their own speech. I am not a hero: I’m just a runner. My heroes are Everett Chase and Maggie King. The “stride” beneath my run.
Much Love and thanks for reading!