Friday, February 27, 2015

Waiting for Inspiration

Over the course of my six seasons on the DFMC team, I have made an effort to communicate frequently with my contact list of donors. This list is filled with family, friends--new and old, work colleagues--past and present, friends’ of family, friends’ of friends, and even kind and generous strangers. I am in awe of the number of people that support me throughout my training and fundraising endeavors. Many, year after year. Thanks to all of you, I have raised, to date, $66,733.60 toward innovative cancer research for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

My communication is most often in the form of an email letter--one that takes me quite a bit of time to write, edit, read, re-edit, re-read and then finally send. I want my messages to be thoughtful, organized, and engaging and I aim for concise...I really do try. All told, I am usually good for about 5-10 email letters each season.

I spend many miles thinking up things to write about and will often laugh out loud during these mobile brainstorming sessions. This past week, I was thinking that I could write a message about my newly acquired talent of blowing my nose while running without falling. Or how I discern between which ice patches to run around and which to attempt to skate over (I made a bad choice last week...). Last weekend, it was car shopping (I am leaning toward the new Toyota Highlander) and attempting difficult math equations in my head related to work productivity (don’t ask).

Despite being over half way through my training season, I have only written and sent one letter so far. It isn’t because I forgot or can’t think of things to write about. And it certainly isn’t because fundraising means less to me this year than in previous years. I have simply been waiting for inspiration.

Today I was having lunch with a good friend who was telling me about a charity walk she does every year. She simply stated, “This is my thing.” And there it was.

Running for DFMC is MY thing. Every aspect of this experience has meaning for me. I must release a lot of endorphins because running makes me feel great all day. My long runs are meditative--I spent quality time alone thinking, dreaming, planning and reflecting. Every dollar I raise is a tangible representation of my efforts that I can then give back to Dana-Farber. My Dad and I spend precious time together driving from Philadelphia to Boston and back, listening to hours and hours of Willie Nelson. Joining DFMC’s In Memory program 3 years ago has connected me to the Smyths--I run in memory of their son, Jonathan. Jonathan and my mom, Patty are buried two gravestones away from one another in Wadsworth Cemetery in Sudbury, MA.

Most meaningfully, everyday that I am running for DFMC, I am connecting with my Mom who died almost 21 years ago.

I believe that there are no coincidences. The Boston Marathon always occurs within days (and sometimes on the same day) of the anniversary of my mom’s death--April 21st. That night in 1994, after our mom died, my sister, Regan, brother, Sean, and I went for a walk around our neighborhood. With our arms linked, we were in disbelief that Mom was gone, but felt confident that she would keep us close forever. Mom immediately gave us a wink by sending not one, but two shooting stars over our heads. Fast forward two decades, we have all been together in April celebrating Mom at the Finish Line year after year.

I like goals. My first year on the DFMC team, I thought reaching my fundraising goal of $10,000 was a bit lofty, yet I have exceeded that total year after year. While I was sitting at my 2nd pre-race pasta party in 2010, I impulsively announced to my family that my goal was to run for DFMC 5 times. Now that I am gearing up for race #6, my new goal is to continue running for DFMC until my fundraising total has exceeded $100,000.

Thank you for cheering me on along the way!! XO AMY

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Because I Can

Running the Boston Marathon on the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team for the past 5 years in memory of my mom, Patty Shields and my buddy, Jonathan Smyth has added so much depth and meaning to my life.  Year after year, I lace up my sneaks right before Christmas to begin my 18 week training schedule.  Through the winter, often icy, snowy and cold, I hammer away the mileage suggested to train for the 26.2 miles trek to from Hopkinton to Boylston Street. Each time I cross that Finish Line, I am filled with gratitude, excitement, love and pride.  

And the incredible urge to take the next year off.

When the team registration email came my way this September, I passed it over in my inbox.  “This will be such a relaxing winter,” I thought to myself.  Through the early fall, the DFMC team began posting team updates on my Facebook timeline.  I often caught myself looking at the posts with a heavy heart.  “2016,” I reassured myself.  I let Marie, Jonathan’s mom, know of my intentions so that the family could be matched up with another runner this time around.

I really need this year off.  I think.

In November, Katie Smyth--Jonathan’s big sister, my 2014 DFMC teammate but most importantly, my friend--came to Philadelphia to run the Philly Marathon.  We met up for lunch and I listened to her talk excitedly about her place on the 2015 DFMC team.  “So, you are definitely not doing Boston this year,”  Katie asked.  As I said the words, “Yes.  I really need to take a year off,” I was overcome with regret.  

And panic.  What am I doing??  Year off, my foot!  Within 24 hours, with the blessing of my husband, I was in touch with Jan Ross, the team coordinator, and I was back on the team just as the final spots were being filled.

We all spent the summer taking the Ice Bucket Challenge inspired by Pete Frates, a former college athlete now paralyzed by ALS.  In November, I watched an ESPN E:60 special called “Catching Kayla” about Kayla Montgomery, a young female track star suffering from MS who breaks records and then collapses in her coaches arms because running makes her legs numb.  Jonathan Smyth spent 1/2 of his life fighting neuroblastoma rather than playing baseball and golf and watching the Red Sox.

When my mom was 42 years old, she was diagnosed with cancer.  Five years later, she  was gone.  I am 42 years old and I am healthy, strong and CAPABLE.  I have decided that I will run on the DFMC team each and every year because I can.  

Life is too precious and too short to take a year off.

Please consider supporting my run to help me reach my fundraising goal of $15,000!