After my first half-marathon, I tried very hard to not let the end of my fall semester of grad school and the culmination of training and anticipation for “doing this for the first time!” excitement push me into a lull. I ran a couple miles here and there every few days, but wasn’t working nearly as hard until I started to get nervous about Charleston and cobbled together a 6-week refresher training plan for myself.

This week, immediately following my second half-marathon at Charleston, not only does my spring semester of grad school start, but it marks just 5 weeks before I head down to Florida for the Glass Slipper Challenge with Team Noah as a charity runner, raising money and awareness for childhood brain cancer. I was not originally going to participate in Princess Half weekend, but when I found out I could participate by raising money for a cure for cancer, I was all in.

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My mother has had cancer twice. She’s survived it twice. Two of my grandparents have had cancer and survived it. We’re a family a little too familiar with cancer and we’re pretty hardcore haters of it. I’ve been incredibly lucky that no one in my immediate family has succumbed to it, but my parents have lost uncles and aunts. And let me tell you, even if the prognosis is “sunny,” sitting in a hospital room with your mom while she’s recovering from having a cancerous tumor surgically removed from her body before it took over, is no picnic.

Because it’s Disney, the charities to choose from were all children-focused. Which is completely fine with me. Knowing what it’s like to be the daughter of a cancer survivor, I can only begin to imagine in the tiniest way what it would be like to be the parent of a child battling cancer. I’ve seen my parents when they’ve been worried over my brothers’ or my health. Cancer? Forget it.

We kind of jokingly call my mom a badass, only jokingly because she thinks the word is silly. The fact is, she really is my hero.

If one has to be diagnosed with cancer, better to be an adult with a highly visible movement for a cure. My mom’s first bout with cancer was breast cancer. That pink ribbon is everywhere. The march, the walks, the pink “for the cure” movement is everywhere. All of that is a really great form of marketing that leads to a lot of money going in for research for good treatment, early diagnosis, and higher survival rates.

Childhood brain cancer doesn’t have that. The chances of surviving brain cancer as a child are only 20%. That’s a nightmare.

So, I teamed up with Noah’s Light and am diving right into getting ready to do Team Noah proud on the Enchanted 10K and Princess Half courses respectively. My goal is to raise $1,900 and to be visible around Orlando in my Team Noah green raising awareness for a type of cancer that is way often not talked about enough.

I don’t want the race days to be about whether or not I get swept or have enough time to take pictures with characters, so I’m training hard to make sure I have nothing to worry about come race day. Certainly I don’t want to fly all the way to Orlando and NOT have a good time – that’s not going to do kids any good – but where Glass Slipper Challenge for some may be an ultimate fitness goal or personal feat, for me, it’s about reminding myself of my blessings. I’m going to a place many children dream of going, a place many children fighting cancer make it their last wish to see. And I’m gonna run the hell out of those races, for them. 

My plan to kick GSC's ass
My plan to kick GSC’s ass

As I’ve been training and getting fitter and faster and stronger (and trust me, if you know anything about me, you know that I never take that for granted), I’ve been having to come to terms with detractors. People who don’t want me to do well, people who resent my progress, wish they were faster than me, resent my efforts or doubt my intentions. People who write me nasty emails to stop asking them for money. People who find my posts about my training annoying, who make it about themselves and turn it back against me as though I’m trying to make them feel bad.

As a very sensitive, vulnerable person emotionally, this is sometimes really difficult for me to deal with. Part of the reason I’ve come to love running and getting fit so much is because it takes my head out of where the hard part is – when I feel physically strong, it makes me feel emotionally stronger. It’s also hard to strike a balance in the way I try to understand it – I used to be a person who resented other people’s workout habits, because I felt bad about myself or because I just wasn’t interested and thought they were trying to make me feel bad about myself. I’ve come to realize – people really aren’t thinking about me as much as I think they’re thinking about me. Their gym selfies and workout posts, like mine, had nothing at all to do with me and everything to do with motivating themselves, myself, to keep themselves, myself, accountable.

But it took me a long time to understand that, and there’s no way I would try to force someone else to understand that. So all I can do when someone tries to bring me down is to defy that gravity and keep my head up, my feet moving.

Yes, someone saw me take a gym selfie. No, I don't give a crap what he thought. I liked my tank top.
Yes, someone saw me take a gym selfie. No, I don’t give a crap what he thought. I liked my tank top.

Yesterday on my training plan was an intense speed workout consisting of a 1.5 mile warm-up, 2×1600 sprint repeats, and a 1.5 mile cool down. I’ve never done a 1600 meter sprint, let alone two of them. But with the knowledge that my next big event is to fight for children fighting for their lives, I went to the gym (it was icy and snowy on the roads, so treadmill again it was) with a lot of energy and ambition.

After tearing up my workout, giving it all I had, digging deep, and even getting to a point where I felt like partying on the treadmill with my playlist, I refueled, showered, and settled in to get my semester in order.

I am a graduate student. I am an animal lover. I am a reader. I am drawn to the water. I love loud music, the louder the better. I am defiant, rebellious, adventurous, I cry at the drop of a hat and giggle for hours at potty humor. I am what you get when you cross Brooklyn Italians with Carolina roses. I am a runner. I am the daughter of a cancer survivor.

I already know who I am, and I like myself, and I don’t mind if someone else doesn’t. I’m not running 19.3 miles with Disney not for anyone’s approval, not to impress anyone, and not to make myself feel good.

I’m running 19.3 miles to put that survivor part in more people’s biographies.

If you are interested in donating to my fundraiser, every donation from now until Princess Half Weekend is being matched dollar for dollar. Donate here, and thank you in advance.

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