Monday, July 5, 2010

An Open Letter to Those Considering Team in Training

In January 2007, I attend an info meeting for the Team in Training marathon team in Culver City, CA. And I had no idea what I was getting into other than these purple-shirted people promised that they could get me to run a marathon. Ha! Had they read my high school essay on the despised “Timed Mile”?

I was still fairly new to Los Angeles, having lived here for only 5 months. Despite the city’s best efforts to overwhelm me with its not-east-coast culture, I decided to take on the challenge of running my first marathon. Why not? Living in LA was difficult enough. Why not try and run across the entire city?

I came to the program a veteran of 1 half marathon (Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL Jan 2007). I remember finishing that race and thinking, “Damn, how do people do this twice?!”

[Left] Post-Half Marathon

Nevertheless, my ambition got the best of me, and I committed to a full marathon, to fundraising $2500 and to seeing through an accomplishment I thought impossible.

Why TNT? Well, it’s really hard to say exactly. Cancer runs in my family, although there is a there is a survivor in my family, without a cure, cancer's presence still looming. And my mother is a pathologist, specializing in hematopathology (blood diseases), so my connection to the causes serves her life’s work. It’d be a gift to help cure it. I am just one person who wants to help out someone who needs help – and TNT provided an outlet.

I didn’t know at the time how much TNT would grow into my west coast family. How much helping those who fight against cancer would become a part of my life. How much my teammates and colleagues would mean to me.

After 3 season as a participant, 1 season as a mentor, 2 seasons as an assistant coach, and 1 season as a co-coach, here I am at the brink of season number 8. The head coach of the Greater LA West Side marathon team. And I write this not from a place of pride, but from a place of enthusiasm, reaching out across the web to encourage anyone who has a slight interest and desire to join me in this journey – whether you are in Los Angeles or not. We are one big family. Corny? Yes. True. Yes.

See, Team in Training is more than purple jerseys. We are more than the “Go Team!” cheer. We are more than a group of individuals who gather each Saturday or Sunday to log our miles, share our frustrations of the week’s workload, complain about chafing, rejoice in conquering extreme distances, and cheers over giant plates of eggs, bacon and toast.

Eight season has taught me that we are greater than the drug, Gleevec; we are greater than the over $1 billion raised to fight cancer; we are greater than the 13.1 or 26.2 miles that stare us down on race day. We are all these things and more. We are a collective of individuals who, through our fundraising and through or dedication to walk and run down the miles before us, can actually make a difference. We change lives – others' lives and our own.

I’ve experienced it. Laura, Nick, Krissy, Phyllis, Kyle, Stevie, Chris, Javi: These are all people dear to my heart. People who I call on when pushing my body beyond the brink seems like a crazy idea. Before my time with TNT, I never considered facing the challenges of running (and biking and swimming) long distances. 26.2 – are you kidding me? 50 miles, running? Why would someone do that? 140.6 miles of swimming and biking and running … and no one is chasing you … and you are paying to do this?

I never thought I had it in me. TNT has given me that perspective, that focus and that drive.

[Left] Three and a half years after that half marathon, the Ironman Finish Line

It is my turn to reach out to you, wherever you are in the country, and encourage you to seek out an info meeting, talk to a campaign manager, and see how TNT could fit in your life. Not just for you. Not just for the patients who will benefit from your effort. Not just for your teammates who will draw motivation from your smile. But for anyone who has ever had the flicker of hope and potential in them – what if I could … what if I did … wouldn’t they all be surprised if it just … - do it for us, and do it for those people.

I’m not trying to shill this experience on you. It is way too personal for me to sell it out like that. I really do mean what I write. It is life-changing. I have an Ironman medal from Coeur d’Alene that I owe to my coaches and teammates from the West Side over the past three years. I promise you that you can be there too. At whatever finish line you have in mind. You can experience thesetriumphs too, if you just give it a chance. Lace up those shoes and don that purple shirt.

Final Thought:
“It always seems impossible until it’s done. - Nelson Mandela”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an awesome and inspiring post! I love working with TNT and will continue to do so for as long as I can or until there is a cure!