I have been debating on whether or not I should be putting my link for donations on my blog. After all, this is a personal blog that I use to talk about my running and amuse you all. I have given it a lot of thought, and decided that there is no reason I shouldn’t post it: every penny helps towards our goal.
You may have read some of this before since I have shared with you previously that I run for Boston Children’s Hospital, and also you may have read my story about how close I was to the marathon finish line. Please do NOT feel obligated to donate! Thank for reading!
My Journey as a Charity Runner:
For those of you who don’t already know, I have run the Boston Marathon for the past 7 years as a part of the Credit Unions Kids at Heart team. This smaller group is a subset of the Children’s Hospital team. 7 years ago, a friend and colleague of mine at my job asked me to become a part of this organization and I have been loving the journey ever since.
A little background on the Credit Union Kids at Heart: The cornerstone fundraising event of the Credit Union Kids at Heart program is the Boston Marathon. Each runner is paired with a patient partner child who is receiving care at Boston Children’s Hospital. Participating credit unions raise funds on behalf of their runners to support life-saving care and world-class research at Boston Children’s Hospital. To date, the Credit Unions Kids at Heart program has donated more than $4 million to the Hospital. This year, the Kids at Heart team and their runners have pledged to raise $150,000.00 to go to the hospital.
Why do you run the marathon? Every year, I am asked by my friends and family exactly WHY I run the marathon. There are so many reasons I run. This year, 2014, marks my 8th Official entry into the Marathon-and my 9th overall. I would like to tell you a little bit about “the marathon girl” as I am known by many people, and what led me on my journey of becoming a marathon runner for Kids At Heart/ Children’s Hospital Boston.
I have been a runner for all of my adult life. I started out as a very slow runner and completed my first marathon at about 6 ½ hours. Terrible . I have come a very long way since then and worked diligently to get to where I am today. (A 3:45PR)
The Boston Marathon has some of the tightest qualifying times. For someone like me, who has struggled to make the strict cutoff times for Boston, running for Children’s Hospital has been a blessing: I am able to run the marathon every year without needing to pre-qualify.
I started running for the Kids at Heart 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 21 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 understand this sentence-“Nicole gets it” You have to understand that running a marathon for Children’s means so much more than to run it 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 (nearly ALL of Winter 2014?!?) and instead you wind up doing that 20 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 to be able to do this.
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 2009-2012 Marathon training season, I was paired up with my current 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.
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.
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 only two of the kids who have benefited from all their wonderful help. This year marks my 7th year as a runner in the Kids at Heart/Miles for Miracles Team. I have chosen to run for 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.
I have written before about how close my family, patient partner’s family, friends and I were to the finish line. We have been through hell and back yet have stuck together like crazy glue. I have never been more grateful for my life than I am now. I find myself constantly reflecting back on what happened and trying to wrap my head around it all. I have so many different feelings and reactions about 4/15/13. When I stop to think about just HOW close I was, it makes me cry. PTSD is real, and I hope you never have to go through it. I would not wish what happened on a single solitary person I know. It has been a long, hard year of trying to get over it. Mentally, I don’t think I will ever quite let it go. An experience like that is so traumatizing that there are times when I can hardly breathe. Talking and writing about it helps, and that was one of the reasons I started this blog.
On The morning of April 15, 2013, it was a miraculous twist of fate that left Everett feeling ill and staying home. Everett’s Mom, Michele, and little sister Heather still traveled into the city to watch me finish. When I rounded the corner onto Boylston Street, the pair rushed out to greet me and jumped in to finish the race with me. Although they were close to the 2nd bomb, Michele and Heather were ALSO left unharmed. I was a little further ahead of them and would up being about 10 feet from the 2nd bomb and, by some amazing miracle, I was also left unscathed.
I will cross the finish line this year knowing that I am a survivor, and that I have strength to move on. It has never occurred to me to hang up my sneakers and “give up.” Even after the bombs went off, I knew that I would go back to the starting line on 4/21/14. I remember being 14 years old and stating that I would one day be the youngest person ever to run the Boston Marathon. Although I didn’t begin my marathon journey until I was 21, I never forgot about that teenager and her dream of wanting to run the marathon. I have turned a childhood dream into a reality-Not a lot of people get to do that in their lives. The Boston Marathon lives within my soul, and it always will. It is a part of my own history.. I will never let something/someone threaten me into hibernation. It is a beautiful thing to be going back this year and I will celebrate every single second of my run along this journey. The City of Boston has shown courage in their quest to provide safety to this year’s runners. The people have risen and united as a beacon of hope. My run this year will bring me closure. Having the moment of crossing the finish line so abruptly stolen from me has left me with an empty space..it is a space that should’ve been filled with loving and happy memories of me crossing a finish line, but instead, it is marred by bombs on Boylston. I need to cross that finish line for those who cant be there because they lost their lives that day. For those who are injured from the bombs. For my friends who will not be returning to the city because the memories are too powerful and too real. I will cross it for me, for a peace I seek within myself that will hopefully quiet the memories.
The running of the 118th Boston marathon will be the most special marathon for me ever:
– I will run to achieve closure from not being able to cross that finish line last year.
-I will run as a part of a team for Kids At Heart/Children’s Hospital so that kids everywhere can get the miracles they deserve. We give back HOPE to families, and that is pretty dam special.
-I will run for Everett as a celebration of our own miracles: We are not quitters-We are Boston Marathon champions. We are survivors.
*The 118th Boston Marathon will be a run full of celebration for all the miracles that we believe in.*
Please help us support our miracles!
Thank you so much!