You started gung-ho strong, diligently waking before sunrise, logging your runs, and keeping your FitBit and Garmin busy ticking off the miles. And then one morning you sleep in. And then the next, and the next. Before you know it, February is here, and all that pumped up new year running motivation has started to gasp for air. Even seasoned runners often feel a dip in their motivation and seek out a catalyst beyond their own personal or selfish reasons for running. Enter the charity race, because when your running become less about you and more about humanity, you can't help but get out the door in the morning.
Three reasons to run a race as somebody's hero this year
Right now, the only person keeping tabs on your miles is you. And for some, that is enough. For others, they may need a little more, let's say, public input. When you choose to sign up for a race as a fundraising runner for a non-profit, you may need to canvass friends and family around the country for donations. And this means one thing: Since everybody knows you are training for a race, there is no backing out. Hence, that fear of shame that may accompany quitting turns into one heck of a motivator. Plus, when people generously open up their wallets for your chosen charity, they are also eager to read updates on your training, and share your enthusiasm for race day. They may even toss a few "You can do this!" messages your way. It often takes a village to get and stay in shape.
2. An entry into the big popular races
As half and full marathon running continues to gain popularity at Kenyan type paces, the so called "big" marathons have been forced to go to a lottery-based entry system. Translation: It may be years before you get to cross running the New York City or Chicago Marathon off your bucket list. Running for a charity? Then you are guaranteed an entry. The lists of non-profits with guaranteed race entry can usually be found on the race's website, or you contact your personal favorite charitable organization and see if they have a team joining the race. In addition, non-profits such as St. Jude Children's Research Hospital offer the opportunity to run as a St. Jude Hero for many well-known regional races across the country, both big and small. Can't get to one of those? No problem. If you have your own event or smaller local race, you can still run as a St. Jude hero by joining Team St. Jude. Non-profits endurance programs, like the St. Jude Hero program, offer simple to make and use personal fundraising websites, so collecting money and keeping track of donations are not a headache. All you have to do is train!
3. It's not about YOU
Sure, in the beginning, especially at New Year's resolution time, running is totally all about you. Maybe you have a few pounds to lose, blood pressure and cholesterol to get under control, or depression and anxiety you want to manage with exercise. After months of running and finally seeing favorable results, a time may come when your running may need to be about something, or someone, other than yourself. There are hundreds of worthwhile causes, hundreds of cures to be found, and an abundance of awareness programs and platforms that all need your support. And when you are struggling to get a through a tough workout, fighting to just get the miles done, it helps tremendously to remember those miles have the ability to truly make a real difference in someone's life. Someone you may never meet, but for whom the pavement and your effort will touch beyond comprehension. So on race day, when your legs feel limp, your breathing gets heavy, and you think you cannot go another step, know this -- there will be a spectator there, who because of your running is both a fighter and a survivor. And as a charity runner, so are you.
New York based health, wellness, and fitness expert Jay Cardiello, a St. Jude Hero, pushes St. Jude patient Hillary during December's Memphis Marathon.
For more information on St. Jude Children's Research Hosptial Hero program, and how you can run and be a hero, click here.
Ladies, do you need a basic training plan to run your first 5K, half, or full marathon? The women at Another Mother Runner can help get you moving.
Moms of toddlers hear me out- I’ve been there. I know you are drowning in diapers. I know you are sleep deprived. Right about now your freedom cravings mimic that of a prisoner serving a life sentence. Your day is dictated by nap times, snack times, poop times, tantrum times, playgroup times, bath times, and bed times. You are the sole choreographer of all of your little one’s entire waking moments. You want a break. You NEEEED a break. And then, at rock bottom, you see me in Target. I am shopping alone. My hair is washed. I am spending an indulgent amount of time looking at nail polish and throw pillows. I am sipping a hot latte. You, however, are chasing your two and three year olds down the candy aisle. One smells like poop, is wearing Batman pajamas covered in maple syrup, and is shoving jelly bellies in his mouth by the handful. The other just stole a Ring Pop. I pass you and say, “You think you are stressed out now, just wait until they are teenagers.”
You see, years ago that was me chasing the screaming kids down the candy aisle. And inevitably, some ‘older’ mom spewed that kind of batshit crazy type hate speech to ME. Hate speech because it would make me cringe. I wanted to yell back, “Are you kidding me lady? Look at me and these three kids under age 6. I would take three self sufficient teenagers any single day over this.”
And then I had my own teenagers. Holy hormones please bring back the Batman pajamas.
5 reasons I will trade my teens for your toddlers.
1. Toddlers actually wake up bright eyed and ready to go in the morning. Teens? Hell. No. I need a bullhorn and a forklift to get my boys out of bed in the morning. They have become the walking dead. Someone should have told me teen sleep routines could be confused for those of a ravishing nocturnal animal, and to not expect any movement before noon on weekends. Sometimes I just go in to check and see if they are still breathing, like I did when they were newborns.
2. My food bill. You are probably spending hours begging your picky little ones to eat. I just want mine to STOP eating. Food is being inhaled by the second here now. Today I bought a five pound bag of cheese. FIVE POUNDS. I bet it lasts two days. I hear them up at night like raccoons in the kitchen inhaling whatever is not nailed down. I have swapped morning playgroups to morning food warehouse club visits.
3. Five showers a day. Say the word bath or shower and your three year old is nowhere to be found. You can’t get your toddler IN the shower, and I can’t get my teenage boys OUT. And trust me, I know it only takes five minutes to get clean so the other 15 minutes are for…..?????? Yep. That’s what I thought too. Bring back bath toys that are not body parts.
4. Educational concepts. What I wouldn’t give to go back and only have to teach and explain shapes, letters, and colors. AP American History, Latin, and Java Script? Does Sesame Street do any Calculus segments? Bless you Khan Academy, for saving mothers of high schoolers everywhere. Moms of toddlers, just go ahead and just start adding the letters X,Y, and Q to numbers NOW. Believe it or not, you will be using algebra again.
5. Three year old ‘problems.' Oh for a chance to go back to the days when I thought real problems were when my two year old didn’t share nicely enough at playgroup. Back when pretty much any daily drama could be solved by a nap and a red lollipop. Adolescent issues trump any toddler tantrum you can throw at me. Academic, athletic, and social pressure and stressors thrown at my sons make having cranky over tired tot ‘problems’ a walk through the park. Lollipops don’t make the SATs any easier.
Someone once told me that grandchildren are payback for getting through the teenage years. I sure hope so, because I will have had to teach four boys how to drive, how to date, how to open doors for young women and close doors of disappointments. How to grow from awkward teenagers to poised young men. And for this, I anticipate like 20 grandchildren. All girls please.
The best thing about lining up with 15,000+ strangers to run a race, is that everybody is there running for a different reason, but the same goal- the finish line. It's a well choreographed symphony of insanity and determination, of demons and angels, of paralyzing fear commingling with forward propelling will. I am here at Disney World for marathon weekend with those strangers. I am also here with women I have known for over 20 years. We live in different states and cities, but our conversations easily pick up right where they left off in 1993. Marriages, children, careers, triumphs, and tragedies have become a part of all of our lives. And now, so has running. Some have never run before in their life, and are just starting this journey on the pavement. Others are well-seasoned runners. I have run this race alone for many years, then with one friend, then two, three, and now with over 10. All of these women are here today because I have simply said four words to them- You. Can. Do. This.
I don't ask my running friends why they have chosen to run. I don't need to know. Anyway, reasons change with the years, as they have for me; baby weight, freedom, consistency, completion, sadness, joy, decompression, depression, liberation, solitude, diversion, elation, selfishness. The reasons at start lines are infinite. But the goal is the same. To finish.
Today and tomorrow there are women here who will finish their first half marathon or full marathon. They will have listened to friends tell them they are crazy, ask them why on earth they would want to run, and joke that they would only run if someone was chasing them (my favorite). Ironically enough, maybe something really is chasing them. Maybe it is DOUBT. Doubt not just about the miles, but doubt about their lives. Are they good enough? Do they make a difference? Can their average body do this? Their bodies have served them well until now, but an endurance event? They have forgotten their bodies are amazing machines. Those minds and bodies have made and nourished babies, they've cultivated and nurtured distinguished careers, marriages, and life long friendships. But 13.1 or 26.2 miles? How? I will tell you how. They have slapped doubt in the face at dawn, when they tumbled out of bed to go run. They sucker punched it when injury, time constraints, or exhaustion was luring them to the couch and not the treadmill. They escaped it when it was telling them they weren't fast enough, strong enough, or agile enough to run a real race. They hid from it when it told them maybe this running stuff wasn't a good idea after all, when it said they don't 'look' like a runner, when they could literally feel on the backs of their neck the skeptic stares of people in cars whizzing by them as they struggled along. They have tucked it away, running cloaked in steadfastness and conviction. And they have made it here this weekend, to finally kick the doubt to the proverbial curb. You see, there are many, many feelings and emotions present at finish lines. But there is one that is most certainly not there- doubt.
I have run seven marathons. This weekend will be number eight. I still feel all of those doubts, all of them, all the time. I will line up at the start line, surrounded by friends, and I will wonder yet again if I can do this. I will flex my fortitude muscle, swim in a sea of incomprehensible emotions (and runners) and finish something I never thought I would even start. I will meet new people along the route, some struggling, and I will give them a quick "You are doing it! GO YOU!" I will metaphorically meet others, the charity runners, who literally carry the weight of a lost loved parent, spouse, or child on their backs. We will not share words, only a look, and their spirit and gumption will pierce my heart and tired legs, and will carry me through that tough mile or two. I will laugh at the first timer, giddy with excitement and cart-wheeling by me. I will nod in awe at the grandma, who told retirement to take a hike and started running at age 60. I will give a wink of approval and a wide smile to the overweight woman who feels she doesn't belong, telling her with my eyes, "You ARE one of US. A runner. Now it's time to believe it." And I will cast a spell on my own inner voices, silencing their ugly dialogue, and opening myself up to the immeasurable grace that the race will give me.
Running. It is a wicked, fulfilling, rebellious, formidable, wondrous, love/hate relationship we have. It is a privilege to know you. But it is more of a privilege to share you. To the amazing women who will see their first finish line this weekend, I say another four words, I. Told. You. So. To those who think they can't, again I will remind them, You. Can. Do. This. And to those who want to give it a shot? See. You. Next. Year.