Why Isn’t It Enough?

I had one of those amazing runs today where you get lost in your thoughts and lose track of how many miles you’ve run and how many miles you have to go. One of the things that I spent a lot of time thinking about was my fundraising for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. I was thinking about how it is kind of selfish that I’m not satisfied with having already met my original goal of raising $14,000, but instead feel like I won’t be happy unless I reach the $20,000 mark. And I kept asking myself why that was. Why isn’t $19,462 enough? That’s A LOT of money! And, I think I found an answer. But, in order to really explain it, I feel like I have to go alllllll the way back to the beginning and tell my whole story. So here goes…(Sorry, it’s a long one).

I ran my first marathon in Alaska in 2002. My goal for that marathon was to finish in under 5 hours. I did accomplish that goal, but it was unbelievably hard and defeating.

My sister, Rondi, me, and my best friend, Sara, after finishing Humpy’s Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska. August, 2002.

After that experience, I was too scared to run another marathon until 8 years later. 8 YEARS! Marathons are stinkin’ hard!

Once I got back into distance running, I realized that one thing I love about marathons is how much they make you stronger, mentally. For a while, my only goal for each of my races was to not feel like I wanted to quit, to enjoy the run, and to know that I would finish (all things that I did not experience in my first marathon). Speed was never my goal, and it was not something that I thought was realistic for me. I always envied the fast runners, but didn’t associate myself with that crowd. The Boston Marathon was a bucket list goal of mine that I hoped to reach when I was much older. I figured if I kept running marathons and maintained my pace, I’d eventually qualify for Boston when I was around 60 years old. (I’m serious.)

Finally, I had successfully finished enough marathons that I decided to aim a bit higher and try to break 4 hours. I didn’t really do any speed work for my training, but somehow, I managed to accomplish that goal on my first try at the Lansing Marathon in 2014 with a time of 3 hours 58 minutes. This was a new personal record (PR) for me by about 20 minutes.

Crossing the finish line at the Lansing Marathon in 2014.

I was feeling confident, and devoted my next year of training to trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I would need to finish a marathon in under 3 hours 40 minutes (an average pace of 8:20/mile). Again, that would mean shaving 20 minutes off of my previous PR. I registered for the Bayshore Marathon and worked my butt off preparing for that race. Going into it, I didn’t feel like I absolutely knew I could do it. I felt like I didn’t have anything to lose. If I did it…AWESOME! If not, I was “young” and there was plenty of time to try again.

Well, after a tough race and a small mental breakdown around mile 21, I DID qualify for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3 hours 38 minutes.

Me after finishing the Bayshore Marathon in 2015 with an official Boston Qualifying time of 3 hours 38 mins.

Unfortunately, I learned in September that my qualifying time wasn’t fast enough that year. It’s a rolling entry, with spots filling up first with the fastest qualifiers and working through as many runners as possible until all spots are filled. I had missed a spot by 90 seconds. 90 SECONDS. I felt defeated, but not hopeless. I was bound and determined to train again and try for another BQ in 2016.

This time, my sister got the BQ bug and decided she wanted to train with me and shoot for Boston so that we could go together! Of course, I loved that idea, and we spent the next year following the same training plan and texting almost daily about our workouts (we live a couple hours apart, so we were virtual training buddies). It kept me motivated and I don’t think I have ever trained so hard to reach a goal.

So, when I kind of fell apart at that race and didn’t even come close to reaching my goal time, I was heartbroken. I had worked so hard, but my body did not cooperate. Rondi, on the other hand, earned her BQ and was heading to Boston in 2017.

My sister, Rondi, giving me some love after the Bayshore Marathon, May 2016.

Bound and determined to get to Boston with my sister, I started training for a September marathon to try and qualify one last time.

Unfortunately, I developed some health issues during my training and was struggling with hitting my times on my speed work and on my long runs. I would get severe stomach pains, followed by decreased energy, and an immediate need to use the bathroom, which always resulted in lots of blood in my stool (TMI…I’M SORRY!). This had been going on for quite some time, following/during all of my long runs and strenuous workouts. I finally went to a doctor about the issue, who referred me for a colonoscopy.

The results of the colonoscopy came back and I was given a diagnosis of ischemia, which happens when there is decreased blood flow to the digestive system, and as a result, the body sheds the outer lining of the colon. The doctor could not explain why this was happening so frequently though, and he said that it could possibly be treated by increasing the size of the opening of some blood vessel, but that more testing would need to be done to be sure. I wasn’t interested in that at all, and was happy to learn that my symptoms weren’t caused by a serious problem. However, the colonoscopy also showed that I had a precancerous polyp and I would need to come back every 3 years for routine colonoscopies. (NOTE: I’m only 36 years old!) That freaked me out more than my other issue! But I was assured there was nothing I could do to prevent it, and there was nothing I had done to cause it. So…I just kept training as planned, and kept having the same issues.

Needless to say, I didn’t qualify for the Boston Marathon on my next attempt either. Rondi and I ended up running/waddling/walking a lot of the race together and it was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. But we finished and crossed another state off of our list (we are working on running a marathon in all 50 states)!

Rondi and I finishing the Erie Marathon in September 2016.

During that race, we came up with a plan to get us both to Boston in 2017. Rondi was going because of her qualifying time, and I decided I was going to apply for a charity spot. At the time, I had no idea that those were actually really hard to get. I kind of thought that if I applied for a bunch of them, I was sure to get one. I should have known better. There is nothing easy about running the Boston Marathon.

I ended up filling out a bunch of applications, only to hear back from one charity, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. I had applied to LLS in honor of a co-worker, Angela, who is battling Leukemia. On the application, you have to put down a fundraising goal and a plan of how you are going to reach that dollar amount. I had never really done much fundraising, but I was pretty confident that if I didn’t put a goal of at least $10,000, I wasn’t going to be chosen. Long story short, after a phone interview, being wait listed, another phone interview, raising my goal to $14,000 (which I honestly didn’t think I could raise…) and lots of overly ambitious fundraising before even being chosen…I was finally chosen! Out of hundreds of applicants, and only 60 spots available for LLS, I was chosen.

And yet, I still didn’t feel that I had earned my right to run in the Boston Marathon. You see, for me, the Boston Marathon is a race for the fastest runners. That’s how you’re supposed to gain entry into the race. Be fast. That’s what I had dreamed about ever since I ran my first marathon in 2002, and that’s what I dedicated 2 years of my life training for and attempting, without success.

So, as I started my fundraising efforts, in the back of my mind I kept the thought that this wasn’t my “real” Boston Marathon. This was just my Boston Marathon when I would get to cross the finish line with my sister. It wouldn’t really count as me running the Boston Marathon because I hadn’t gotten into the race the way you’re supposed to.

But, as my fundraising efforts have soared, I can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, I HAVE earned my way into the Boston Marathon. And, selfishly, I feel that if I hit the $20,000 mark for my fundraising, I will know that I’ve accomplished something even bigger and better than running a qualifying time for the race. After all, of the 30,000 runners that earned their spot that way, I’m thinking that they all couldn’t have raised $20,000 for charity.

So, even though I do want to earn a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon some day, today I feel comfortable with how I earned my spot in the race. Today I know that I’ve made a bigger difference in the world by running with a charity spot than I ever would have made by running a marathon 90 seconds faster.

Here’s to dreaming big, working hard, and making a difference!

-Kendra

 

 

I Was Born in a Small Town

Not many people are familiar with the small town where I grew up. Often, when I describe it to people, I say that it’s in the middle of a corn field. Which, although not completely accurate, does paint a pretty good picture of the surrounding areas.

Growing up in St.Johns, Michigan, I experienced all of the annoyances of small town life. Everyone knows everyone. Which means that everyone is constantly in everyone else’s business. Secrets are hard to keep in small towns. And, like many people who grew up there, once I graduated high school, I was ready to get out of there and go away to college.

Well, unlike my siblings, I went away for college and never moved back to St. Johns.

It wasn’t until I graduated college, found a job, got married, and settled into a new town, that my heart began to long for all of the things that I thought I hated about my little hometown. Every time I went to the grocery store or out to eat, I would look around for a familiar face. I was lonely, and missed my community where everyone knew who I was.

Fast forward 19 years (Eeeeeek!)….

I have finally settled into my new small town, but I am so incredibly thankful for the hometown where I was raised.

Last weekend, my mom, sister, and I held a St. Johns High School alumni basketball game fundraiser for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, for my Boston Marathon Team in Training page. We advertised for the event on Facebook, recruited as many people as we could to play, my mom asked the middle school dance team to perform, and she wrote an article about the event for our local newspaper. But still, I felt really anxious about what kind of a turnout we would have for the event.

The morning of the game I posted one last update on Facebook asking who would be there….not many people responded. I honestly felt a little sick with worry that the stands would be empty and all of the players that committed to playing wouldn’t show up.

I should have known better. Small towns are loyal to their own. And, even though I haven’t lived in that small town for 19 years, most of my family does still live there, and it will always be my hometown.

The turnout was absolutely overwhelming. Everything came together perfectly, from my brother singing the National Anthem, to plenty of players showing up and each team having a coach, to the refs, the score table, the dance team….ALL OF IT! It was such a fun night.

My amazing mom, the SJHS Athletic Director Chris Ervin, (who was a HUGE part of making this happen), and his son Austin, working the score table.
The women’s alumni game participants and coaches.
The men’s alumni game participants and coaches.
My sisters, Tanna on the left, and Rondi on the right.
The bench during halftime entertainment.
The SJMS dance team performing at half time of the women’s game.

Honestly, I couldn’t have imagined this fundraiser going any better. With the support of my hometown, we raised over $2300 for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society! My heart is bursting with pride from bring from the small town of St. Johns, MI. The love I felt during that fundraiser is hard to match.

Thank you to everyone that was a part of such a special event. I am truly humbled and overwhelmed by the support.

Proud of my small town.

-Kendra

It Feels Good

This morning, as I was about to walk out the door for work, I got a text message saying that the school where I teach didn’t have power. No power. No school.

It honestly felt like a Christmas miracle, in March.

I quickly began to make a mental list of all of the tasks I could accomplish after the boys left for school. Instantly, the list in my head grew longer than the hours in the day, so I prioritized what was most important to me, sent out a couple text messages, and made a plan that looked something like this:

  1. Grocery shop for lasagna ingredients to take make and deliver dinner to a friend who “just” had a baby (4 weeks ago…) and get ingredients for an appetizer for an LLS fundraiser that a friend is hosting for me on Friday.
  2. Run 8 miles and do the strength workout I skipped yesterday.
  3. Make the lasagna and maybe some cookies.
  4. Visit my friend and her sweet new baby girl.
  5. Pick boys up from school.

At 7:45, just as my husband was heading out the door to take my boys to school, he said, “I have some errands I need you to run for me today.”

Siiiiiiiigh.

I was instantly annoyed. I didn’t have time to get all of MY stuff done, let alone his stuff too! But I listened to the list of things he needed me to do, and grumbled an “okay”, while inwardly growing more frustrated.

By 8:15, I was out the door and on my way to the grocery store. And of course, as soon as I started to drive away, my “CHANGE ENGINE OIL” alert reminded me that I’ve been overdo for an oil change for about 2 weeks. DANG IT! I absolutely loathe getting my oil changed. It always takes SO long and just seems like a huge waste of time. But, I knew it had to be done, so I headed there first.

Upon arriving, I was told it would be about 45 minutes before my car was done. I headed to the waiting area to stew over the amount of time that was going to be wasted and wondered if there was any way I was going to get everything done today…when all of a sudden it hit me that I was right next to a great running trail! And, per usual when setting out to run errands,  I was wearing all of the necessities to go running! I quickly went and notified the worker that I’d be back in 45 minutes, and I headed out the door for a run.

It. Was. Awesome.

The weather was perfect. The trail was empty, except for me and my thoughts. And I had time to really think about how I was spending my miracle “me” day. Often, when I have a “me” day, that’s all that I focus on. Myself. And yes, those are important sometimes.  But I was so happy to have a day planned that didn’t just focus on me. I couldn’t wait to finally meet my friend’s precious baby girl, and I was so glad to have the time to make her dinner too.

And then I started thinking about the few things that my husband had asked me to do for him, and I realized that I was being completely selfish with my internal temper tantrum. I thought about how incredible it would be if I was feeling overwhelmed and someone else was able to take some things off of MY “to do” list for me. And at that moment, I felt happy to be able to help out. My “me” day was about me making other peoples’ days better. And that felt pretty great.

I finished my run, completely refreshed and ready to tackle my day…again…and in a much better mood. (It really is amazing what a good run does for you!)

Somehow, I managed to get everything done, besides making cookies and doing my strength workout. And, just as I was rushing out the door to get to my friend’s house, the UPS man pulled in the driveway with a delivery.

And my heart was so happy.

I received this Leukemia Lymphoma Society hoodie for raising over $15,000 for cancer research. 

It sure does feel good to do good.

-Kendra