Friday, December 13, 2013

December 16th is fast approaching!

Next Monday (December 16) marks DAY 1 of my 2014 Dana Farber Boston Marathon Challenge (DFMC) training.  It feels like it was just yesterday that I crossed the START line in Hopkinton.  I prefer to think about the excitement and adrenaline that I felt at the start of the race, rather than what happened at the end.

This year’s race is monumental in so many ways.  The whole city/country/world will be tuned in to show love and support for Boston Strong!  I can’t even begin to imagine what race day will be like…  For me, there are several special milestones that take place on race day--April 21, 2014.  First and foremost, it will be the 20th anniversary of my mom, Patty Shields’ death.  I can hardly believe it has been that long.  My participation in the DFMC has been my way to celebrate my mom’s memory and do my part to battle the disease that took her from us too early.

Second, it will be my 5th running of Boston on the DFMC team.  As I sat at my very first DFMC pre-race pasta party, I was so swept up in the positive energy of the event that I declared that I would do this race 5 times.  Third, the 2014 race is the DFMC’s 25th anniversary.  It feels amazing to have such an incredible organization be part of my life.  Fourth, if all goes as planned and I reach my 2014 fundraising goals, through the generosity of my family and friends (and their family and friends), I will have raised over $60,000 for the DFMC.  100% of all donations go to the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research.

I am excited to share that I will again be running in memory of my buddy, Jonathan Smyth.  For those of you not familiar, Jonathan was my In Memory partner in 2013.  Jonathan was a very brave “little dude” who fought cancer like crazy, but lost his battle in January of 1998 at the age of 7.  What makes Jonathan extra special to me is that he is buried 2 headstones down from my mom in Wadsworth Cemetery in Sudbury, MA.  Whenever I visit mom, I can visit Jonathan.  I believe the two of them kept me safe during last year’s race.

You will certainly be hearing from me throughout the next 18 weeks as I run the cold, dark streets of Lower Merion, PA.  Your continuous love and support is what keeps me going!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sore and Sunburned with a Heavy Heart

I write this message today at 3:45 am because I am awake...for the second time tonight.  Playing and replaying my experience on Monday, April 15.  I wanted to get them down on paper so that they would stop swirling around in my head like a confusing bad dream.

Thursday, April 11, brought on a major case of the excited jitters.  Being at work was torture.  My knees were bouncing and I couldn’t stop staring at the clock.  Dad was flying in from Texas that afternoon.  That, to me, symbolized the start of “Marathon Weekend.”  

Friday morning, April 12, I popped awake to complete my “final lap”--a simple 3 mile run.  It was misting by mile 1, drizzling by mile 2 and full on raining by mile 3.  But I didn’t care.  It was “go time.”  Dad and I were taking off that morning, heading North to the Homeland.  To run the race I had trained for since December 10, 2012.  Whose end I had visualized during every long run.  

Saturday, April 13, was met with more jitters, precious family time and anxious anticipation.  Lots of dilemmas went through my head.  Do I run with my phone?  Should I wear my water belt?  Shorts or capris?  These questions feel so insignificant now.

Sunday, April 14.  This is it.  Marathon Eve.  The race expo to pick up my number #23399.  The Dana Farber Marathon Challenge team pasta party where my guest was Katie Smyth, my In Memory partner, Jonathan’s sister.  I nervously and excitedly awaited Katie’s arrival in the lobby of the Copley Marriott Hotel.  We had never met, but were texting one another.  I told her that I would be the woman wearing green pants.  Only to see another woman wearing green pants stroll by me.  Who knew?  Never the less, Katie and I found one another.  I felt like I was hugging an old friend.  

I was too nervous to eat at the party, but savored every moment of the program.  The video slide show of all those children who lost their lives to cancer, including Jonathan.  The celebration of those children fighting cancer who gathered on stage with their running “partners” (fellow DFMC teammates) and received a never ending round of applause.  Quips and final words of wisdom from our team coach, 1976 Boston Marathon winner Jack Fultz.  As he put it so perfectly, “The hay is in the barn.  Training was the journey.  Tomorrow is the celebration.”

Following the party, Regan and I walked Dad to the car and waved him off as he headed back to Rockport for the night.  Regan and I had some sister bonding time ahead of us.  We strolled to the incomparable and awe-inspiring Finish Line on Boylston Street to take some marathon eve photos.  “This is where I am heading tomorrow” photos.  “This is what I have run almost 500 training miles for” photos.  After that, I was finally hungry, so we grabbed a quick salad at one of the restaurants right next to the Finish Line.

We laughed a lot back at the hotel.  Regan was teasing me about how precisely I was laying out my race gear.  #23399 pinned perfectly on to my race singlet.  Shorts were the choice.  Comfy post-race change of clothes packed in my race bag.  Then we slept.

5 am. Monday, April 15.  Alarm goes off.  Up I popped.  Jumped in the shower.  Donned my uniform.  Hugged my sister and went to meet my team.  Immediate friendships developed as my teammates and I made the chilly walk from our team headquarters, the Copley Square Marriott to the Boston Common where yellow school buses were in queue to drive thousands of runners about 26.2 miles west to Hopkinton, the small Massachusetts town famous for one thing--being the start of one of the most revered marathons in the world.

10:20 am.  Regan and Dad greeted me for some final well wishes, last minute photos, long tight hugs and I was off.  As I walked toward Corral 6 for my 10:40 Wave 3 start, my mind and heart were racing.  As much as the excitement of the crowd was energizing, I put on my music so that I could focus and get into my zone.  I was about to take my “final exam.”  And it wasn’t going to be easy.

10:40 am.  Wave 3 starts.  Like a herd of cattle, my crew begins to walk toward the start.  Walking is taken over by slow jogging and there it is.  START.  I step over the line and the race had begun.

When I run, I look down.  It’s just what I do.  It was so tempting to crane you neck to look at the thousands of spectators and fellow runners.  Some in crazy uniforms.  Many wearing the names of loved ones on their backs.  I had to continue to refocus myself.  Any extraneous movement is energy I will need at mile 22, when the race really gets hard.

The early miles were just sliding by.  It was unbelievable.  It felt like every time I looked up, I was passing a mile marker. “I am doing this.  And I feel great!”

Mile 9.  Dad, Regan, Sean, my sis-in-law Emily and my two nephews, Henry and Calvin were scanning the crowd for #23399.  I spotted Regan’s fuchsia sweater quickly and easily near Speen Street in Natick.  Quick hugs and kisses all around and back on the route I went.   

Mile 10.  Hugs from my dear high school friend Jonathan Kaplan and his family.

Mile 13.1.  The half way point.  And a surprise sighting of good friends from “back in the day,” Ryan and Kim (Buckley) Beagin.

Miles 14 through 16, I was flying high and in disbelief.  I am really doing this and feeling little pain.

Mile 17.  Hugs from two of my best friends of over twenty years, Heidi (Burr) Thomas and Erica (Verville) Mawn and each of their kids, Ellie and Jimmy.

Mile 19-21.  Hear it comes.  Heart break Hill.  Dad and Regan on the side to greet me as I embark up the infamous grade then off they went to cheer me on at the Finish Line.  Head down, music loud, mind focused.  I see another old Gettysburg College friend, Jim Marsh at mile 20.  I almost missed him from being so far into my zone.  And then all of a sudden, I look up and I’m at the top.  Boston College students yelling and whooping it up, encouraging runners along, well into their kegs.

Notable point:  somewhere up the Hill, I pass the Team Hoyt--the iconic and awe inspiring Father/Son team.  Father pushing disabled Son in his specially crafted racing wheel chair because early on in his life, Son said that “when I run with my Dad, I no longer feel disabled.”  What a rush that was!

I am feeling strong.  I haven’t had the desire to walk.  My pace was steady.  I am doing this. 

Miles 22-24 weren’t easy.  My legs were feeling heavy.  But my heart and my breathing were strong.  Lots of oxygen-filled breaths in through the nose, out through the mouth.  I  touched my heart necklace, rubbed my Lego and carried on.

Mile 25.  The Citgo sign.  The Dana Farber Marathon Challenge cheering spot.  One mile to go.  

I made a decision to pick up my pace a bit, because hell, I can do anything for 10 minutes.  I have a specific time I want to break. I shuffle my iPod shuffle to a power song and hit it.  My legs pushing as hard as they can.  Head down.  Focus intense.  That Finish Line is mine within minutes.

Until it wasn’t.

As, “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons is screaming in my ears, I notice non-runners pouring on to the race course.  “Excuse me!   Out of my way,” I scream as I bob and weave.  “Where is the crowd control?  Why aren’t the police holding these people back,”  I think as I strive to grab that Finish Line by the horns and take it down to the ground.

“The race is over.  You can’t finish.”  I take my ear phones off.  “What?”  The race had come to a complete halt at mile 25.5.  Fellow racers just standing still, in shock.  People frantically on their phones.  What the hell is going on?  I was almost delusional as I thought, “Did I miss it?  Did I cross the Finish?”  Confusion ensues.

Eventually news is trickling in that there had been two explosions at the Finish Line.  My mind immediately jumps to Regan and Dad.  Waiting for me to turn the corner from Hereford to Boylston for the final straight away toward the Finish.  My decision to not run with a phone immediately becomes a problem.  

As we stand there, the 50 degree temperature begins to take hold.  Shivering.  Teeth chattering.  Kind residents of Beacon Street are handing out garbage bags--make shift coats to keep us warm.  Pitchers of water and cups are being poured and distributed.  Snacks are being handed out.  

I encounter a fellow Dana Farber teammate and her boyfriend and we naively wonder aloud, “I hope they at least let us walk over the finish line.”  We had no idea what was happening a short .5 miles away.  Due to the hard right and then hard left of that final .5 mile, we had no view of the nightmare that lay ahead.

A stranger allowed me to use his phone, but all cell service had been cut off.  I had no way to find my family.  Panic set in.  “I need my stuff,” is all I could say, on repeat.  Prior to the race, runners check their gear onto predesignated school buses, carefully organized by race number so that it is there waiting for you once you finish the race.  All I could think about was getting my phone so that I could contact my Dad and Regan.  Picturing them at the Finish Line.  Where two bombs just exploded.

Without any official information, no one knew where to go or what to do.  Eventually the crowd begins to move forward.  Word is that all runners are being diverted to the Boston Common to await further notice.  After running 25.5 miles, walking another mile sounds very unappealing.  

My new friends and I commit to sticking together as we make our way down Marlborough Street.  The impact of what had just happened at the Finish Line in no way sinking in or understood.  All I could wonder was how in the world was I going to find my family.  “I just need my stuff.”

Miraculously, Berkley street is accessible--the home of the baggage buses.  My friends and I bee line it for the white Dana Farber bus and some how dig through 500 gear bags.  My stuff.  My phone.  When I turn it on, it “dings” incessantly as texts are pouring in from concerned friends.  Disregarding these, I call Regan---straight to voice mail.  I call Dad---straight to voice mail.  Panic.  Disbelief.  

A decision was made to walk to the Copley Marriott, team headquarters.  As we trudge along, teeth chattering, I hear a beautiful sound.  My phone ringing and my sister’s face appears on my screen.  We realize that we are a block apart.  I turn around and there is that fuchsia sweater.  Dad, Regan and I hug tightly.  We are safe and we are together.  

With little idea or understanding of what is happening on Boylston Street, we decide the best thing to do is to get out of the city as quickly as possible.  Because T service (mass transit) was suspended, we embark on a 2 mile walk to our car.  Once safely in our car, we turn the news on the radio and listen in silence to what has just occurred.

Regan, Dad and I arrive safely at Sean and Emily’s house.  We are greeted by huge, relieved hugs.  I quickly shower and then settle on the couch to watch the horrific images of that iconic Finish Line where just the night before, we took photos and ate dinner.  Now a crime scene.  3 dead, over 150 people injured.

As I sit here this morning, sore and sunburned, my heart is heavy.  I am filled with emotions, none of which are well-formed or coming to the surface.  I am left with an overall feeling of numbness.  Most present is the anger that I couldn’t complete my race.      I hear a little voice in my head saying, “Where’s MY medal?”  My mind and heart is incapable of wrapping themselves around the reality of what is being looped on the news.  Death.  Amputations.  Shrapnel.  Pressure Cookers.  Terrorist Attack.

I hope I don’t sound ungrateful.  Two angels kept my pace closer to an 11 minute mile than a 10 minute mile.  I can’t even grasp what it would be like if I was crossing the line, with my family cheering me on, as those twin bombs exploded.  Surreal.  

My affect is flat.  My mood is somber.  My feelings are numb.  But I feel all of your love and support, as I have during this entire process.  I finally made it through the 60+ texts that dinged in when I turned on my phone and the 100s of Facebook message.  You are all amazing and I am so lucky to call you my friends.

Yesterday, Tuesday, April 16, Dad and I embarked on our long journey back to Philadelphia, first making at stop at Wadsworth cemetery in Sudbury, MA.  Mom and Jonathan deserved a visit and a thank you.  Just two gravestones apart, they will forever rest together.  High-fiving one another for keeping my family and I safe on race day.  That will be my “rainbow” this year.  

I am well on my way to raising my true goal of $15,000--$10K felt attainable, $15K felt like a pipe dream.  But we are doing it!  Donations are still welcome because after all, this whole endeavor is about raising money to BEAT CANCER.  No terrorist can take that away from us.

All my love and thanks.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

1 day...14 hours


1 day and 14 hours to go according to the race count down clock.  I'm ready.  I'm in Rockport, MA and just had dinner with my dad, brother, sister, bro and sis-in-law and my adorable nephews.  Spectator logistics are being figured out.  Post-race party plans are in place.  Life is good.

I was feeling reflective yesterday as I ran my final 3 mile run.  If I were a poet, I would write something like "I finished up training just like I started...with a three mile run and the same goal in mind."  I carefully packed up my race singlet, my shorts, socks, my lucky running hankie and my shoes.  Petrified of forgetting something important.

I also put my mom's heart necklace around my neck and a Lego in my shorts pocket.  Because no matter what happens, Monday's run is about Patty and Jonathan.  It pays respect to their struggle, their fight and their courage.  I am honored to be running with their names on my back.

Thank you thank you thank you for all of your love, support, encouragement and well wishes.  Thank you for making a donation to my efforts to help create a world without cancer.

Think of me on Monday around 10:40 am...I will be part of the final wave...#23399.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Buds, Mulch and Sunshine!

Today was my last long run before the “big one” on April 15th!  It was a fabulous 12 mile run complete with the sights and smells of Spring.  The sun was bright and warm. Many lawns were sprinkled with new, fresh smelling mulch.  Everywhere I looked, I saw the small beginnings of buds on trees.  SPRING IS FINALLY HERE!

During my run, nostalgic as I am, I kept thinking, “This is the last time...I will run up Bryn Mawr Avenue...I will pass “Camelot” running up Grays Lane...I will pray no one hits me on Morris Avenue...I will dart across Montgomery Avenue...I will cross the Church Lane bridge.”  As if I will never run these routes again...  HOWEVER, I will not be running them anymore this season and for that matter, anytime soon.

To date, I have clocked 467.5 miles since December 10, 2012.  A few more next week and then 26.2 on April 15.

Now the fundraising drum begins to beats louder.  Today, my fundraising total is $8,205 and I have my eyes on $10K by next week with an ultimate goal of $15K.  Please consider donating--no amount is too small.  If you have already supported me, words can not express my appreciation!

You will most likely hear from me again before Race Day....and then again on Race morning as I anxiously anticipate the massive feat that lays before me.  


Friday, March 29, 2013

10 Things about Jonathan Smyth

Hello again,

In addition to running in memory of my mom, I am also running In Memory of Jonathan Smyth.  Jonathan was a brave fighter who lost his battle with cancer at age 7 in 1998. 

Here are 10 important things to know about Jonathan (courtesy of his mom, Marie Smyth):

1. Jonathan loved Legos.

2. Jonathan was featured in an issue of Lego Mania Magazine.

3. Jonathan loved fried clam strips at Nancy's on the dock in Oak Bluffs, MA. on Martha's Vineyard.

4. Jonathan had a cute little beauty mark on the left side of his head that you could only see when he lost all of his hair during chemotherapy.

5. Jonathan loved golf and baseball and was a Red Sox fan.

6. Jonathan posed swinging a golf club on a brochure for the Jimmy Fund golf tournaments.

7. Jonathan loved watching Nickelodeon and especially the show "Rugrats".

8. Jonathan was born on May 4, 1990, weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces and was 21 inches.

9. Jonathan loved beanie babies, trucks, race cars, and drawing pictures of sharks and rockets.

10. Jonathan and his mom rescued a baby snapping turtle from a Dunkin Donuts parking lot. 
Jonathan named him "Little Dude".  Little Dude lived in a tank during the winter in Jonathan's first grade classroom as their class pet.  In the spring, Little Dude was released to the pond behind our house in Sudbury.  We think we saw him a few times over the years after his release.

Please consider supporting my fundraising efforts to honor the memory of Jonathan, Patty and all of our loved ones who are battling or who have battled cancer!


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hello!  Here are 10 things that you may not have known about my mom, Patty Shields.

10.       Patty always wanted to be an archeologist.
9.         Patty liked to eat vanilla ice cream out of a cantaloupe.
8.         Patty loved Laura Ashley.
7.         Patty did not like roller coasters, but liked rides that spun.
6.         Patty wanted a shamrock tattoo.
5.         Patty liked black licorice.
4.         Patty and I loved to watch Days of Our Lives.      
3.         Patty loved going to the movies.
2.         One of Patty’s favorite flowers was the daisy.
1.         Mom always encouraged me to “Just Do It.”

I am running the 2013 Boston Marathon in her honor.  Please consider supporting my fundraising efforts.  If you have already supported me, thank you thank you!!


Monday, March 25, 2013

Let the TAPER begin!


I put 21 miles on the books yesterday.  What a great feeling it was to come to a stop after 3.5 hours of straight running.  Trotting, really.  Like I said before, I am not fast.  Tortoise, not the hare.  That begin said, with 20 days to go, I am pretty much staring this race right in the face!


I will confess my fears here and now.  This will be my 4th time in the ring with the Boston Marathon and it is NOT easy.  Running 21 miles yesterday reminds me of what it feels like to “hit the wall.”  Around mile 18, my body just says, “That’s enough, thank you very much.”  I am not built like a true runner that just bounces and glides along, feet barely touching the ground.  But what I am is determined and committed.  I push through those last 8 miles.  It is torturous at times.  I want to stop again and again.  But finishing the race is the only option, so I put one foot in front of the other.  I can almost hear the cheers and can envision the fans urging us along.  That brings a smile to my face.


Yes, marathons are hard.  I choose to do this one again and again because it make me feel great.  The sense of accomplishment I feel when I turn the corner toward the finish line is up there in my top ten best feelings ever!  But even more than that, fundraising for Dana-Farber makes me feel amazing.  In the past 4 years, I have raised over $45,000 and counting!  Please help me cross the $50,000 mark!  100% of your donations go straight to innovative cancer research.  You can’t beat that with a stick.


You will be hearing a lot from my in the next 20 days…thank you to those of you who have already supported me. 



Thursday, March 21, 2013

Race day is approaching quickly!  Only 24 days away…  Although it is the second day of Spring, this morning’s run covered my eyelashes with snow.  I have my longest run of the training season this weekend and it looks to be a nice, warm 51 degrees.  That makes me happy.  I have a playlist FULL of new songs thanks to your suggestions…new songs keep the long runs interesting.


I am shamelessly soliciting for donations.  No amount is too small.  It all adds up to one big fat number at the end of the day.  Last year, the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge raised over 4 million dollars.   That is A LOT of money and it is all thanks to you and your support.


I plan to be the tortoise, not the hare this year.  Not that I was ever a speed demon…  My goal is simply to finish without dehydrating and to try not to do too much walking.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I had a time goal in mind…but I will keep that to myself for now J


As always, to all of you who have already donated, your support means so much to me.  Participating in this event is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and makes me feel so close to my mom, Patty and this year, Jonathan Smyth.  Someone I never knew, but now feel like I do.



Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Art of Fundraising

I am sitting on my couch, contemplating my 16 mile training run tomorrow.  My stomach is WAY too full of cake from my dear friend’s baby shower.  Not the best way to fuel a run, but I can never resist a dessert buffet.  

At this very moment, Marathon Monday is exactly 1 month: 12 days: 12 hours away.  I set out to raise $15,000 and am only 1/5 of the way there.  If my math is correct.  Which it often is not.  Needless to say, I need to get my fundraising pants on and get to work!

I chose $15K as my fundraising goal because last year I raised over $13K and know that it is possible.  Rounding up to the next “5” seemed like an obvious place to go for 2013.  Now, I need to figure out exactly how to get there.  What is the perfect art to fundraising?

In the past, I have peppered your inboxes with messages.  I have blogged.  I have written quippy status updates.  All with the intention of drawing people into my story.  My love for my mom.  My admiration for little Jonathan Smyth.  My rainbows sightings.

Listen, I realize that everyone has a cause that is close to their heart.  And I am imposing mine on to you.  My cause is Innovative Cancer Research.  Research by the brightest, most creative scientists out there working hard to treat and eventually eliminate cancer once and for all.

I know you have your cause.  But if you have ever known anyone to suffer the effects of cancer, please consider making a donation to my Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge.  Dollar amounts add up, so don’t fret about the number.  My daughter Charlotte has a paper bag with the words “Fight Cancer” on it, full of loose change.  That seems like a great place to start.


Friday, January 18, 2013

"Ahhhhhh....why did I sign up for this?????" This is what I was thinking at 6 am earlier this week when I overslept and missed a run. I had snoozed my alarm about 4 times and just couldn't bring myself to get up out of bed and out on the streets in the dark. So, I went back to sleep. Which I never do. I NEVER skip training runs! EVER! I am as rigid as it comes. Give me a schedule and I will follow it. Flexibility is rarely an option (just ask Theo). The decision to skip a run created a catastrophic thinking downward spiral. Why did I decide to sign up for the race this year? I have a full time job and less freedom to run. Runs MUST happen at the crack of dawn. How am I going to pull off 8-10 mile runs at 5 am? AHHHHHHHHH!

Then wouldn't you know, that night Declan (my six-year-old son) comes home with a worksheet talking about marathons, specifically the Boston Marathon. One of the questions on the worksheet was, "Why do you think someone would choose to run a marathon?" Lucky for Declan, he has a mom who could answer this question from experience. Declan posed the question during dinner time and I replied, "Because it makes me feel accomplished."  Quickly Charlotte (my eight-year-old daughter) chimed in, "People run marathons to help sick people."

There you have it. That is why I signed up for the 2013 Boston Marathon. I am running this race for the 4th time in memory of my mom, Patty. This year, I have another angel pulling me along--Jonathan Smyth, my "In Memory" partner. Both of these courageous heroes fought an unwinnable battle. I want to make the outcome different for those cancer warriors today and in the future.

Thank you to those that have supported me in the past. Thank you to those who have supported me already this year. Please consider helping me attain my fundraising goal of $15,000! More blog entries to come as I train through the early, dark, winter mornings....