By: Libby Reilly
3 bouts of illness.
1 finish line.
On February 28, I completed a goal that, unlike many people, had been short lived. Prior to a few months ago, when discussing long distance running (aka: anything more than three miles) I unabashedly concluded that I would never be capable of such a feat and would get too bored anyway. Not for me; no thank you.
Then one day, like any woman reserves the right to do, I changed my mind. I decided I could be capable of running a half marathon but I wouldn’t just be doing it for myself. The reason I was able to commit to such a lofty goal was because in doing so, I would be raising money to find a cure for cancer.
On November 9, 2013 I laced up my sneakers for my first early morning run of my half-marathon training program through Team in Training, the flagship fundraising program for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and the only endurance sports training program for charity that raises money for blood cancer research.
In other words, I wasn’t just running; I was running for a world without blood cancers. That was certainly something I could get passionate about!
For 17 weeks, I hit the pavement, increased my miles and raised funds. It was exhilarating! Even through the holidays, disagreeable weather, and unenjoyable rounds of bronchitis, a cold, and the flu, I was able to press on and keep my eye on the goal. I was so encouraged and uplifted with every donation that came in for LLS and was so touched by the support that surrounded me. For some, a half marathon may not seem like such a big deal, but for me, and for the cause I was now fighting for, it was a huge deal. I was grateful to have so many people cheer me on.
17 weeks came and went quickly and the next thing I knew, I was pacing a New Orleans hotel room, stretching, using the restroom one more time, and giving myself pep talk after pep talk. Nerves were running rampant, then they switched to exciting jitters. This was the moment I had prepared for; it was finally here and I had to trust my training.
I met with my fellow Team in Training runners, found my way to the 20th corral, stepped in a large pile of feces (someone later told me it was good luck), and eagerly waited to hear the horn blow so I could get out of my head and onto my running feet.
I couldn’t help but smile as I ran through the historical streets of the Big Easy. “This is what you’ve been waiting for! It’s finally here! You are a part of something so much bigger than just running,” I told myself.
With every matching purple shirt that passed me, a smile and “go team!” was shared. Not surprisingly, with this was a reminder of why I was there and a surge of energy pulsing through my legs, pushing me through the next mile.
I heard cheering, received high fives from onlookers, listened to great New Orleans bands, and counted down each of the 13 miles. Some were easy and fast, others dragged on. Still, I put one foot in front of the other until finally I could see the finish line.
I have a video that shows me crossing the finish line among the crowd. In it, you can hear the bystanders cheering, the MC announcing, and lots and lots of upbeat music. When I was experiencing it firsthand, however, I heard silence, save for a small voice in my head saying, “just a few more steps. You’re almost there. You’ve almost accomplished your goal.”
Then, it was over. I was handed a medal and a banana, given hugs, and had my picture taken. Seventeen weeks of training completed in 2 hours and 31 minutes. 13.1 miles. $1,885 raised for LLS.
Overwhelming pride and humility overcame me. Pride for accomplishing my goal and humility for being a part of something that was truly making a difference in the lives of those affected by blood cancers.
13.1 miles could never feel as sweet. Go team!