Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Mile For You (And .2 For Me)

NOTE: Below is text of an email I sent out to friends and loved ones last week.

Dear Friends,

I can hardly believe the Manchester Marathon is just around the corner. It seems as if I started out this journey so long ago, although at times I feel as if I’ve just begun. Marathon training is definitely a journey. I’ve learned a lot about myself during this process, not the least of which is that I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of friends and loved ones like you.

When you take on a task like a 26.2, you get a lot of advice from people about how to break down the miles into manageable segments. After all, no matter how you look at it, 26.2 miles is a long way to run. It’s a long way, physically. And it’s a long way mentally. One of my favorite tips I got was to dedicate a mile to someone who’s helped you get this far.

So that’s exactly what I’ve done. You are receiving this because you’ve played a part in this marathon journey. (If you’re lucky, you didn’t even have to run any of the miles!) Truth be told, there are probably a dozen or so names I could include on this list. It’s perhaps the only time I’ve actually wanted the race to have a few more miles. (That thought passed quickly, don’t worry.)
It’s my hope that reading this will show you how helpful your support has been to me. You’ve given me the courage to start.

Bring on Marathon Day!

MILE 1 - Steve
It was not an easy decision to include this name on my list, but at the urging of someone close to me, I decided it would only be fitting to start out the race by recalling why I actually laced up those first pair of sneakers. The start of the race will be hectic and I’m sure I’ll be working to find my spot in the crowd, to find the pace that suits me best and to prepare for a long road ahead. It seems only appropriate that the first mile be run thinking of a time when I struggled to find my spot and pace the best suited me in life. I know that I would not be who I am today or doing the things I am if not for those years and the lessons learned.

MILE 2 - Sarah Avery-Leaf

Although only a handful of people even know that I know Sarah, she has helped me through more things than I could list. It was at her urging that I attended the first Team In Training informational session and the first practice – something that was far outside my comfort zone. She was the first person to encourage me to pick something seemingly unattainable and the first to believe that I could do it.

MILE 3 - Jamie Ruel

I remember Jamie and her daughter sitting in front of me at Info Night for Team In Training in August 2007. I don’t think either one of us knew what to expect. Both non-runners, I don’t think either one of us thought we would sign on the dotted line and run a half-marathon in just a few short months. I recall our first run – 2 miles. We weren’t even able to run the whole thing. Our team runs turned into mid-week coffees, Christmas shopping trips and other outings. Although I don’t see her nearly as often as I used to and not nearly enough as I should, I know I always have her support and friendship.

MILE 4 - Christine Rice
It might be a bit of surprise to Christine that she made this list. But I felt it was only fitting to include a person that, from the other side of the computer screen, has cheered me on and supported my marathon efforts. Christine and I met while I was a reporter and she was a copy editor at Foster’s Daily Democrat. I recently reconnected with her on Facebook and am always pleased to get her cheery comments and feedback. Her warm, positive attitude is contagious and I know it will carry me on Race Day.

MILE 5 - Heather & Derek Van Patter
Despite the fact that many miles and a border crossing separate us, Heather and Derek are my two closest cousins. We spent many hours together growing up, playing make-believe shopping, hair dresser and early computer games. They’ve followed my training and offered much-appreciated support along the way. At one time, they even talked about doing a 10K, a distance that I’ll pass around this point of the marathon.

MILE 6 - Kristi Hallowell Guillemette

We can go years without seeing each other, then pick up like we’ve never been apart. Kristi and I worked in the Rochester Bureau together during my years at Foster’s. We’ve shared many laughs – and more than our fair share of grilled cheese sandwiches. For my birthday this year, I was so pleased to get a surprise package from Kristi: a signed copy of Marathoning for Mortals, personally signed by John Bingham. I’ve been continually inspired by a quote from John: “The miracle isn’t that I finished. It’s that I had the courage to start.”

MILE 7 - Aunt Kathy
Although we call her “aunt,” Kathy isn’t really a blood relative. She and my mom were college roommates and stayed close during my younger years in Canada. I remember sleepovers and trips on the subways – and always feeling connected to Aunt Kathy. Several years ago, she was left paralyzed after a reaction to what was supposed to be routine surgery. I remember vividly going with my parents to the Toronto hospital, nervous about seeing her in that state. My fears quickly washed away when we opened the door and saw Kathy’s smiling face. Since then, she has worked hard at physical therapy to gain some mobility. She’s taught me, perhaps without even realizing it, to never take your health and abilities for granted.

MILE 8 - Julie Grena
There are a lot of memories that come up when I think of Julie, who lived in the Sigma Kappa sorority house with me at the University of Illinois. We later shared an apartment with some other friends. Julie is someone who can always make me laugh and, since learning of my marathon training, has offered many supportive words. I was happy to hear that she also took on the challenge of a half-marathon and has successfully completed two this year. Julie and I probably aren’t the ones from college that you’d pick out as runners. Just goes to show that you never know where life will bring someone.

MILE 9 - Dirk Ruemenapp, Lemont Haas, John Whalen, Ralph Ascoli
These guys are co-workers at the Union Leader. I always appreciated their support during the challenge of taking on my first half-marathon. That support continues today through ongoing interest in my running adventures and training.

MILE 10 - Dave Dulong, Nancy Peters
At my first Team In Training practice, I was greeted with a huge smile and a booming, friendly voice. That was Dave. And it is Dave. He’s the TnT cheerleader, the one always encouraging us, sharing his stories and tips. I’ve run a lot of miles with Dave, who was my mentor during my Disney training. Like many of my teammates, Dave isn’t just a running partner. He and his wife Nancy have opened their home many times to let those of us who travel to practice grab a shower, prepare for races or have post-run celebrations. We’ve spent many miles in his SUV driving the course, supporting the runners and helping people crossing the finish line.

MILE 11 - Elena Modini
I’ve never met Elena. In fact, I’ve only rarely had any sort of communication with her. My first introduction to Elena came through a message to my inbox. I didn’t recognize the name at all, but my interest was sparked when I read the first line of the message. “You do not know me but your stories have inspired me so much," she wrote. Elena went on to say that she stumbled on my blog last year while searching for Team In Training inf. Apparently she bookmarked the site and, while in the midst of a divorce, returned regularly to read about my progress – perhaps both emotionally and physically. "It gave me the strength I needed to start thinking of myself," she wrote. Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would inspire someone to take care of themselves. Knowing that there are people out there like Elena inspires me to keep going and to share my story.

MILE 12- Matt Allen
I’ve met a lot of people since I started running with Team In Training. Matt joined TnT with his friend Seth last year, both signed up to take on the challenge of the Lake Placid Half Marathon. And a challenge it was. Although Matt didn’t have an ideal race day, I was impressed that he quickly used it as a learning experience and a chance to focus himself on another goal. I’m so happy that he’s training for his first marathon and know that he’ll have a great experience. Matt’s always there with an encouraging comment, a witty remark and a good attitude. And, perhaps most importantly, I can’t forget to note Matt’s sense of humor, particularly in the video gems he posts on Facebook, which keep me smiling and usually laughing out loud.

MILE 13 - Granny Grace Robinson

It was during one of Granny’s annual summer visits that I announced to my family that I had signed up to run a half-marathon. To say they were surprised doesn’t begin to describe it. Robinsons aren’t runners. I had even waited a couple weeks after signing up to get a few training runs under my belt before sharing the news with them. Since then, Granny’s been a great supporter of my efforts and faithful reader of my blog. I can always count on her for words of encouragement. I can only hope to be as happy and healthy as she is when I reach my mid- 80s.

MILE 14 - Kevin Gray, Maureen Milliken, Scott McQuillen, Vin Sylvia, BJ Bergeron

Our paths in the hallway of the Union Leader don’t cross often, but I can’t ignore the support I get from my fellow Union Leader runners. I enjoyed following Kevin’s successful quest to run his first marathon last year, have learned from Maureen’s veteran tips along the way and compared running notes with BJ. I have been impressed by Scott’s consistency and dedication when I see him leave for his lunchtime run in all seasons and am encouraged by stories of Vin’s distance-running adventures. I might have even convinced Vin to join me in the Manchester 26.2.

MILE 15 - Katie McQuaid
Technically, Katie started out as my “boss” at the Union Leader. It didn’t take long for us to become friends. We’ve done more oddball things for our jobs than probably anyone can imagine. I’ve always been impressed with Katie’s ability to balance work, family and fun – and she seems to get a lot of each of those. I remember watching Katie cross the finish line for the Union Leader 8K Classic a few years ago and thinking I wished I could do something like that. Since then, Katie and I have gotten a few runs in together.

MILE 16 - Patty Jo Duguay, Pam Sirianni
These two office ladies have been with me for many of the ups and downs during the past few years. They’ve followed my running progress since day one and listened to my groans when I came in sore after a weekend long run. More personally, I thank them for listening to my stories, being patient with me when I felt pulled in a million directions and celebrating my current happiness.

MILE 17 - Friends from The Salvation Army (staff and advisory board)
As part of my duties as Community Relations Manager at the Union Leader, I sit on the The Salvation Army Advisory Board in Manchester. And although it’s part of the job, the people I’ve met there have become a part of my life. There are too many to mention by name, although I would be remiss if I didn’t try to list just a few: Diana Holland, Shannon Sullivan, Majors Greg and Joyce Hartshorn, Rene Ciccone, Jane Martin, Kate Ferreira, Steve White and all of the other wonderful, supportive people who dedicate their time to this worthwhile organization.

MILE 18 - Dan Tuohy, Jenn Stevens, Jim Kimble, Frank Tutalo
Sometimes life has a way of going in circles. I met these friends just weeks after I graduated from college when I started as a rookie reporter at Foster’s Daily Democrat. What I didn’t know is that I was being welcomed into a special family, one that is always bound by early-morning budget deadlines, late nights at the Pressroom and memories of “Glass House” meetings. Years later, we reconnected, and this group as been particularly supportive of my marathon endeavor. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t make special note of Dan, who took on the Boston Marathon this year through Team In Training. I followed his training with interest and was inspired shortly after he crossed the finish line to take on my own 26.2.

MILE 19 - Jeff Pelletier

I’ve done a lot of training runs on the Manchester Marathon course and, for most of it, I have an idea of what to expect. Frankly, I expect this mile to be one of the hardest. Mile 19 brings us up to the St. A’s campus, a high point before we make our way back down to the city and toward the finish line. It’s tough, coming after a long, gradual climb up Daniel Plummer and up more, smaller inclines hills on the college campus – not to mention it comes after 18 miles of running. It’s already my least favorite mile. So I think I should give it to my favorite person. It was Jeff who was standing there on the other side of the St. A’s footpath when I did our 20-miler. And it’s Jeff who can handle my cranky attitude at a point when I might not want to run any more. More thoughts on Jeff later, as he is the only one to get two miles dedicated to him during the race. Trust me, he’s earned them.

MILE 20 - Scott Hagwood

Although he wasn’t officially my “mentor” during my Team In Training event, Scott ran with me most Sundays. He gave me tips, kept my pace up and dragged me to the finish line of the Great Bay Half Marathon in 2008. He listened to more stories about my life than he probably wanted to and encouraged me to move forward with running and with life. Scott gets Mile 20 because I can’t think of him without remembering my run with him on his 20-miler during the Big Lake race last year. I handed him jelly beans, silently encouraged him (I knew he wasn’t in the mood to chat) and just tried to keep up. Hopefully he’ll be handing me mental jelly beans at this point.

MILE 21 - Geno Dube

While my main source of training, tips and inspiration remained my teammates, led by Coach Jack, I found myself seeking the advice of a sort-of second coach. I met Geno while taking his Spin Class at the YMCA. He's definitely a motivating person – high-energy, enthusiastic and positive. More than a few times, he made a note of when I missed a few classes – which made me sure to get back to the cross-training. Exactly the kind of nudge I need sometimes. An ultra-marathoner, he took particular interest in my training, asking me about upcoming races, my goals and my plans. Along the way, I've updated him about my progress and he's offered his advice. I can’t say how much his tips, support and encouragement have helped me going every step of the way.

MILE 22 - Jack Davis

Coach Jack has taught me most of what I’ve learned about running. Most of all, he’s taught me that I can do this. Jack has given much time and energy to helping non-runners achieve their goals. And time after time, they do achieve them. At the start of every TnT training season, I look around the group. I see doubt and worry on some faces, nervous excitement on others. At the finish line, we see smiles and celebration. Jack brings us there. I’m not sure that any of us take the time to thank him enough. Jack is not only is a coach to me, but he’s also a friend. He gets Mile 22 because he was the lucky one to receive my near-panicked phone call when I started having an issue with my calf just a couple of days before my scheduled 22-mile training run. He gave me the advice I needed to get back on track – including advice to drop the 22-miler if needed. When I reach that 22-mile mark on race day, I’ll be in unfamiliar territory. And I’ll be thinking of all Jack’s support and advice during the past couple of years.

MILE 23 - Rebel

It might seem strange to have my dog on my list, but it wouldn’t be right for me not to acknowledge what this furry little face helped me through. He’s gotten more hugs and snuggles, seen more tears and tagged along with me more than most other friends ever do. Rebel ran every training mile with me during my quest for the Disney Half. His excitement upon seeing my sneakers is almost comical. These days, Rebel stays home during my runs – too distracted to keep up with my more consistent pace, wanting to stop every 20 feet to mark his territory, and just not being able to handle the warmer temps. But he’s always there when I return – no matter what – excited and tail wagging when I walk through the door. Unconditional love, for sure.

MILE 24 - Shawnna Young
I’m not even sure where to start with this one. Shawnna’s been my frequent running partner during this marathon training. We ran double-digit runs in scorching heat and pouring rain. She’s helped me believe that I can get to the next milestone – and she’s helped me get there. She’s been by my side, literally, as I reached higher and higher training goals. It only seems fitting to run Mile 24 for her. I’m not sure what to expect at Mile 24, which brings across the footbridge by the Fisher Cats’ stadium and onto Granite Street. The finish will be so close. Shawnna has helped me through those nervous moments of dealing with the unexpected many times. Having her by my side during this journey has been invaluable. Although I’m referring to running with those comments, I should note that Shawnna has become a friend throughout the miles. I mean, do you know very many people that could run 18 or 20 miles without using the iPods? We’ve shared a lot of personal moments, aches and pains and plenty of laughs. I wouldn’t have wanted to train with anyone else.

MILE 25 - Mom, Dad, Angela & Marc, Andy & Allison
I moved around a lot during her younger years. It meant new schools, new friends and a lot of unknowns. But there was always one constant in my life – my family. Even though we don’t often express our love and support outwardly, there is an ever-present and unspoken understanding that we’re there for each other. This marathon journey and everything that led up to it during the past few years is no different. I’m happy to celebrate it with them and see them after I cross the finish line.

MILE 26 - Jeff Pelletier
My Trusty Companion. He’s been there with me through all of this – the long miles, the aches and pains, the smiles, the complaints. He’s pushed me to try new things, helped me focus on cross-training and been my constant supporter. Usually armed with a course map, some water and a clear set of instructions from me, he’d follow me along the course during my longer runs. I really appreciated his smiling face, willingness to help out and unwavering support – when I didn’t think I could do this or at the times when I was a little too hard on myself. He made sure I ate properly, drank enough water and got enough sleep when I didn’t focus on those things. He high-fived me and hugged me when I needed it. He let me run in quiet when I needed to. This last mile is for you, TC. Thank you for helping me get this far. I couldn’t have done it without you.

MILE .2 - ME
If there’s one thing I’ve learned during the past few years, it’s that it’s okay to be a little selfish sometimes – to care about yourself enough to put yourself first in life. I’ve come to believe that taking care of yourself is the only way to truly give yourself to others. Because of that, I’m being a little selfish and taking the last leg of this race for myself. After all, I deserve it.


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