Monday, October 31, 2016

#MCMKPF16 - Marine Corp Marathon Kyle Pease Foundation 2016

Triathlon and running is an inherently selfish sport. We, triathletes and runners, know this. We take time away from other endeavors, family, and muggle (non runner/triathlete) friends to train and recover.

I have been training for and competing in races purely for my enjoyment and satisfaction for five-six years now. That's really not that long of a time considering some of my friends have been involved in endurance sports for 20-some years. Anyway, I wanted to find a way to get more out of my hobby. How could I make it less selfish and more rewarding?

As 2015 progressed I learned more and more about the Kyle Pease Foundation. It's a great non-profit organization based out of the Atlanta, GA area that was founded by my coach, Brent, and his brother Kyle. Directly from their website:
The purpose of the Kyle Pease Foundation (KPF) is to create awareness and raise funds to promote success for persons with disabilities by providing assistance to meet their individual needs through sports.

Programs may include scholarship opportunities, purchasing of medical equipment or adaptive sports equipment for others or contributing to other organizations that provide similar assistance to disabled persons as well as participating in educational campaigns to create awareness about Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities.
I told Brent I wanted to get involved with the KPF and he said, "Come run the Marine Corp Marathon (MCM) with us." Then he forgot. I didn't.

About 7 months ago, Helen posted on Facebook they were looking for a couple more runners for the 2016 MCM. I reached out to her and said I would like to. I also confirmed you didn't have to be fast, you just had to be able to finish. Fast I'm not; finish I do.

I received the official invite to join in on the fun and I began my fundraising. I was blown away by the generosity of my friends in swiftly helping me and Aidan (my running partner for MCM) reach our goals. With my minimum fundraising commitment met, I could focus on my training.

Augusta 70.3 was my goal triathlon for the 2016 season and after finishing that, I could focus running and prepping for MCM which would be about 4 weeks later. However, Augusta didn't go as planned as I ended up racing it with Bronchitis. Oops. I lost 7-10 days post race trying to recover from the event and the lung crud.

I am not the person that can just go do an event without training. I mean maybe my body would cooperate, but my mind doesn't. I was a bit worried about the marathon because I had only run one 16 mile run (which was split 8 before work, 8 after) and one 20 mile run in which I pretty much had a melt down at about mile 17-18.

How was I going to get through a marathon not for me but PUSHING another HUMAN!!! Aidan wasn't in DC to hear my excuses. He was there to run with the Marines!

All the teams that were staying at the hotel met in the lobby at 5am and we piled into cars, vans, trucks, and an Uber to get over to the staging area for the run. Chairs were adjusted and the push athletes were set up. Aidan's mom choose the racing stroller type chair instead of the traditional race chair. We wanted him comfortable and well supported for the day.

The KPF and Ability Experience Athletes photo cred: J. Blackburn
After a great group photo we made our way to the start line. There wasn't a lot of time to be in my head and besides, every time I walked past Helen I was given a pat on the back or an encouraging word. Brent had told me the night before to just go have fun.
We started the race with good company, Team Naomi! photo cred: T. Hagman-Hicks 
And we were off. I had one objective: Get Aidan across the finish line. The first part of the course has some hills and running hills pushing is different than running hills. Fully understanding this and I made the decision to walk up all the hills and then hold on the best I could on the down. The support on the course from runners and spectators was absolutely amazing. Aidan and I were offered cheers and high-5s throughout the course.
I'm not going to lie, I'm not really sure where/when this is. Photo cred: J. Jackson
More than one runner cleared space for us. Running ahead calling, "Wheels back. Wheels on the right. Wheels on the left." and if they didn't get a response (normally a runner with headphones too loud - a rant for another day.) they would tap them on the shoulder.

About half way through we saw Brent and crew. Jennifer (Aidan's mom) checked on him. Brent checked on me. I wasn't in a bad place, but I was calculating that still had 13 miles to go. I used this time to grab another gel, Brent used this time for a selfie.
I don't know if I have ever felt more supported or loved than I did by this crowd.

With Aidan checked on and in a good place, we took off knowing we'd see them at the finish.

We made it to mile 20 and things were okay. I was having some leg pain (knees and calves) and I knew that showering was going to hurt later but that didn't matter (OMG am I chafed!). I saw Aidan look up at me and I just dug a little deeper. I reminded myself why we were out there. When we were on the Blue Mile, I reminded myself and told Aidan, "We are running today because these men and women will never run again."

At some point in the second half, Megan caught up to me with her friend and she pushed for a few minutes giving me a chance to run upright and stretch a little. I then sent them on their way. Other people that I'd never met and may never interact with again offered to help push up a hill or clear room so I could keep running. The camaraderie among the runners was just as overwhelming as the support from the KPeasey families and support crew.

I have a horrible habit of underestimating myself. I thought Aidan and I would be out there for 6-7 hours. I really didn't know how it would go. It went so well that Helen said, "Don't take this the wrong way, but we didn't think we'd see you this soon." I think I laughed and replied, "I didn't think I'd see you this soon either!"
Aidan's official splits.

I think the best support sighting of the day was Brent, Helen, and Renee at about mile 26. Aidan and I were on the right side of the road, where we were most of the day and they were on the left. FAR left. I heard them yell for us and I some how got us across the entire road of runners to stop and say hi.

On to the finish, where yes, at MCM there is a hill at the finish. Thank you to the young Marine who verbally encouraged me to get up that hill.

And then we finished and Aidan WALKED across the finish line! Really! Watch here. We come into view about 5:33:57 on the race clock, 3:30 on the time line of the video. And if any of you who read this have video editing skills....

Aidan was awarded his first marathon medal!

The smiles are real. The discomfort of running and pushing 26.2 is nothing compared to Aidan smiling for his mom and enjoying his medal. Are my legs sore today like I ran a marathon, yup. Does it matter, nope. Aidan is a marathoner and no one can take that away from him.

Here is what I'd like you to take away from this: You don't have to be fast or a super athlete to give back and help out. You just have to want to. I was surrounded this weekend by amazing runners and triathletes who embraced me with open arms because I wanted to be part of this. Not one person asked me what my expected finish time would be and when we finished, no one asked what our time was.

If you'd like to support the Kyle Pease Foundation and learn more about everything they accomplished this year, join us at the 7th Annual Bowling with KPeasey Event, a VERY family friendly affair.

If you kept meaning to donate to Aidan and my fundraising page and/or you are moved by our accomplishments on Sunday, please consider another small donation. CLICK HERE! All funds donated are 100% tax deductible. My fundraising page will be open until next Monday, 11/7/16.

A huge thanks to Brent for being my coach, for getting me ready for this task, and believing in me to get Aidan across the finish line. There isn't enough pumpkin spice to thank Helen for her organization, endless supply of information, and support all weekend. Put me down for next year please!

P.S. If marathoning is on your list of things to do, The Marine Corp Marathon should be at the top. Just like when I ran it in 2013, it was simply amazing.

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