Team Happy Heels

Running for RMHC

“I run because I can. When I get tired, I remember those who can’t run, what they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted; and I run harder for them.” Unknown

Before I started running, I believed that marathons were reserved for Olympic-level athletes (or the completely insane). Running had never been attractive to me; I cringe now thinking of the many ways I used to try to get out of running the mile in PE as a child. I dabbled in sports here and there growing up, but with ongoing health issues during childhood and early adulthood, I don’t think there was ever a time in my life that I would have considered myself an “athlete.”

In January 2014, a couple of friends from the college program I was attending signed up for a strength and conditioning class at school. I was at the point where doing a push-up or two required too much effort, and I thought that the class would be a good way to have fun with some friends while getting into some semblance of shape. At the beginning of every class period, we did 15-20 minutes of cardio. For awhile, I stuck only to the elliptical – everyone knows that treadmills are awful, right? However, one of my friends consistently used the treadmill, and one day I gave it a shot.

And yes, it was awful. So awful, in fact, that I wondered how much better it could be if I ran outside instead. It must be nice to have a change of scenery, right? Take in the views? So I went home one day with the goal to run a mile outside.

That mile was the longest mile of my life. I remember going a couple blocks and thinking I must have gone at LEAST half a mile by now. Had to be!! Maybe a mile was just one more block ahead! Looking down, I took my first glance at my now ever-present, ever-mocking GPS app – 0.2 miles.

By the time I finished my mile, I decided that running was terrible, that no one should ever do it, and that that was going to be the end of that. Yet, somewhere deep inside, I thought to myself, “Well, maybe next time I would be a liiiiittle bit faster. Maybe I could walk just a little bit less.”

So I ran again. And again. One afternoon, while not thinking completely straight due to the hypoxic state I was in after my grueling one mile workout, I signed up for a 5k. I trained the best I could in those few months, struggling with feeling faint and gasping for breath and mostly hating life with every step I took. Then I ran the 5k, and I ran it the whole way. It seemed unbelievably far, and I felt that I would never reach the end. But then, I was crossing the finish line. And in that instant, I was hooked.

A year and a half after this adventure started, I learned about the IR4 (I Run For) programs. There are two of these: one program matches runners with individuals who have chronic disabilities or conditions that prevent them from running themselves. The other program matches runners with the siblings of these individuals, as these children are so incredibly deserving of praise and attention for the care and consideration they give to their loved one.

Because I struggled with health issues on and off for over a decade and knowing how much that impacted my siblings, I signed up for the sibling group. I was matched with Caitlin, who is on the other side of the country and who is one of the coolest kids I’ve ever “met.” Being able to run for her has been an absolute blessing. Being her runner has helped me get through several half marathons, countless obstacle course races, and a 200+ mile hike from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney. We also share a special connection; her sister, Sarah, is seen at a hospital far away from where they live, so they often visit the Ronald McDonald House there to stay while she is seen. My family stayed at a Ronald McDonald House when I was a child, and now I work at Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern California as the Guest Services Manager. I love knowing that I am working for the same organization that helps her family, in addition to many others.

During this time, I slowly began to consider the idea of a marathon. Running a half marathon twice in one go was (and still is) a daunting prospect to me. However, I used to think a 5k was impossible; then a 10k; then a half marathon. With my buddy pulling for me, I began to think that maybe, just maybe, I could do it. That seed of self doubt always stuck with me though.

Then, I found out about Team RMHC for the Chicago Marathon. I discovered it too late in time for 2016, but coming off of the long hike meant that I needed to regain my running stamina anyway. After talking to my buddy’s mom and a bit of soul searching on my part, I signed up.

I am running 26.2 miles for Team RMHC for my buddy, Caitlin. For her sister, Sarah. For their entire family. I am running 26.2 miles for every single family I have met here at RMHC who has touched my heart. For the micro preemies, weighing in at just a pound; for the children who are fighting cancer, facing an organ transplant, or who have survived a burn or a trauma. These children overcome the most incredible odds, and working with them is beyond humbling. When you make a donation to Team RMHC, you are giving families the opportunity to be there to support their loved one. You are helping a mom and dad to be near their baby, giving them a place to stay so that they aren’t sleeping in a car in the hospital parking lot. You are helping brothers and sisters to be near their sibling, to help provide a sense of normalcy. You are allowing families to focus on the health of their daughter, son, sister, brother, so that they don’t have to worry about paying for a hotel on top of a mortgage or a car payment. You are helping our families during what is often the worst time of their lives. Because of generous people like you, we are able to continue to support our families, through times of joy and times of incredible heartbreak. By making a donation, you are keeping families close.

I will never be the fastest or the strongest when it comes to running. However, I’ve learned that that isn’t what is important. What’s important is that you run, you are giving it your best, and you are committed to getting better, whatever that might be. Walking a little less, getting a little faster, going a little farther. When I run the Chicago marathon, I will be thinking of every child I’ve met here, and for Caitlin, Sarah, and all the other families like them. When I get tired, I will think about how they show no fear and give it their all, every single day. I will remember and cherish the fact that I am able to run for them and for their families. And I will run harder.

Click here to donate to Ashleigh’s run for RMHC

 

 

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