To Make a Donation to the 2014 Team

Please visit my fundraising page (www.runDFMC.org/2014/jennie) to make a donation to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Please help me reach my MINIMUM goal of $35,000 to fund important basic cancer research! With your support, we have already provided over $165,000 to Dana-Farber researchers over the past 5 years. Can we make it to $200,000? Please give as generously as your means allow!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Some days are diamonds

It seems like months already that the 2014 Boston Marathon took place.  After months of training and preparation, it comes and goes in a flash and another long year of waiting begins to do it all again.

The weekend began with packet pick-up and the expo in Boston.  It was over to the top crowded with the larger field size and so many people who just wanted to be a part of the event to show support.  Besides long waits and a lot of people, it was much the same as prior years.  One of the stand-out memories is the blue and yellow scarves.  The Old South Church right near the finish line asked people all around the country to knit blue and yellow scarves so they could wrap the marathon runners in love and support the weekend of the marathon.  It was so incredible to see so many people with various patterns of blue and yellow wrapped around them.  Each scarf had a little note with who made it and where they were from.  To learn more, check out their website-http://www.oldsouth.org/get-involved/old-south-knitters#scarf-project.


Sunday was Easter and the Dana-Farber pasta party.  The pasta party is a celebration of the completion of the training season, fundraising accomplishments, family and friends, and our patient partners and in-memory families.  If you weren't motivated and excited to be a part of the DFMC team already, a few minutes in the room with 1600 people all brought together by the same goal will do the trick.
We had a special speaker this year...a former runner, Darby Stott.  Darby ran for Dana-Farber a few years back, but stood on the stage now as a patient.  Darby has metastatic breast cancer.  It has moved to different parts of her body, and as she told us, cancer will take her life.  But, that wasn't why she stood before us all.  She was there to say "thank you" for being a part of the team and raising much needed funds.  She asked us to remember that on the course every time we heard "thank you Dana-Farber" the next day. She reminded us that there is so much promise and hope in the pipelines and that the money raised by the team is making the difference.  And that while it isn't going to save her, it has extended her life in a way that wasn't available to her aunt 20 years ago.   So brave.  So strong.  So inspiring and moving.  She changed a lot of people through her story.

Monday started early with a long trip to the starting town of Hopkinton.  The DMFC team meets at a church and spends time together prior to heading to the start. I got to talk with Emilee and Alicia a lot, both of whom I had met briefly but hadn't had much opportunity to get to know.  We take a team picture which every year is highlighted by the "Living Proof" team....survivors and current patients....who are on the team.  I always well up as the rest of the team gives them a well deserved standing ovation as they gather for the picture.  This year, that group included a teammate who was diagnosed with cancer in December after having been accepted on the team and was in the thick of chemotherapy.  She started the race with us and her goal was to reach her family at 10k...which she accomplished!  Another teammate ran the entire distance and got in his car and drove himself to his next treatment at Dana-Farber.  For real?  Yes, for real.  No excuses, my friends.  These people are the real deal.

Brief race recap:  after a long and very, very cold winter, we were blessed with the perfect day for a marathon....IF you were a spectator!  It was warm.  Warmer than most runners would prefer after not seeing temperatures above 40 degrees for months on end.  Our wave started at 11 so beating the heat was not an option.  Those sorts of things are beyond control, so you have to adapt and roll with it.  I started slow and got slower but kept moving.  I was having trouble stomaching any fuel but was trying to drink enough to quench thirst and stay hydrated, which turned out to be unsuccessful as I took a little detour at the end of the run to visit the medical volunteers with Dana-Farber.  I started building in some walks on the first hill at mile 16 and kept it up until mile 25 when I ran the final 1.2 miles.  Not my strongest race, but that isn't what I want to focus on because overall, it was a great day to be out there and here's why:

*A million people were lining the streets of 8 towns soaking up the absolutely beautiful spring day.  They were 10 deep in places so early on the course that it was hard to believe there would be that many people all the way to Boston.  But there was.

*The daffodils planted along the roads from start to finish in honor of the 2013 Boston Marathon tragedy.  There were not a lot of spots along the course that weren't filled with people so it was tough to see them but when there were breaks, the roads were lined with yellow.

*People were holding signs that made me laugh (Chuck Norris never ran a marathon, If marathons were easy they'd be called your mom) and others that made me keep moving (No More Hurting People, Boston Strong, We own the finish line)

*My teammates that I saw on the course that carried me through.  I can't stress enough what a difference they made in the last 6 miles of the run.  I saw Chris and Amy in Newton, and fell into pace with them for a little while.  Chris told me that Meb had won the race which was a bright spot other than the sun!  I lost them when I went to say high to a friend in Newton.  Thanksfully, another teammate, Megan, ran up to me at Heartbreak Hill.  She was having some hip pain and was worried that she might not finish.  We ran the last 5-6 miles together, I think alternately took on the role of cheerleader trying to motivate each other to keep on going.  Her presence got me through the last miles in much better shape than had I been on my own.

*The noise level all the way along the course was deafening.  Once we ran into Kenmore Sq., the final mile was packed with people.  Boylston St. was overwhelming.

*A kind gentleman that had a bowl of pretzels and potato chips for salt.  A few of those chips tasted like heaven!

*There were bands and music all along the course.  In one spot in Framingham, "Sweet Caroline" was playing.  All of the runners around me joined in singing and yelling "So good, so good, so good" while pumping their fists.  Hilarious and uplifting.  And in another spot, someone was playing audio clips from "Forrest Gump."  As I came through I heard, "And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama." Amazing.  That clip stayed in my head for a while on repeat.

*My friends out on the course rocking the Be good. Be strong. shirts.  I saw friends in Framingham, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston.  It was unbelievable.  I know there were a bunch of people I missed seeing, but honestly knowing people were out there and looking for them along the road helps so much.  I got hugs and Peanut M&M's and high fives and a lift to keep going.

*All of the people who were riding along with me...those for whom I run.  I thought of them often and when I wanted to sit and call it a day, they brought me back to remember why.

*So many inspiring runners.....seeing Dick and Rick Hoyt in Wellesley as they hammered out that course for the 31st time.  Many blind runners with guides called Team with a Vision.  The team of survivors from 4.15.13.  Disabled runners.

*Amazing volunteer, Leslie, waiting as I came into the DFMC recovery zone.  She knew I had a tough day and was there as she always ready to help out.  I couldn't have been happier to see her smiling face!  There are hundreds of people that volunteer throughout the training season and over marathon weekend, and they are top notch.  Soup, and drinks, and a massage, and support.  Even a Fit Girl coach, Lisa, was around to help out this year.

*Another volunteer extraordinaire and friend, Sandy, waiting for me at Mile 25 and the DFMC
cheering section.  Sandy had taken 3 balloons and surprised me with them to release into the sky to my 3 angels, Molly, Mary & John.  Unbelievable moment.  I could barely hold it together enough to start running again for the the final 1.2 miles.  It meant so much, really beyond words. I had on blue socks in honor and in memory of her son, Matty.  Their family is so incredibly supportive of the DFMC team and Dana-Farber.

*My family and neighbors at mile 17.5.  Making that turn onto Comm Ave in Newton knowing they are waiting is the top moments for me each year.  Without their endless support, encouragement and assistance, I would not be able to do this each year.  
I'm not a professional athlete (shocker).  I run for health and well-being, and in this case, to give back. I was disappointed that I had a tough run, but also very much appreciate that I crossed the finish line that day.  I got dehydrated along the way and Some days are diamonds and some are stones....or some days your legs just feel like stones!  I am grateful that I can run and that I completed the course that day. I'll have another shot at that run.  And I'll keep doing what I can to run cancer into the ground.

Beyond Boston, I am still running a lot.  In fact, I have a year like no other which included this weekend with another marathon in Maine with my Fit Girl co-coaches.  And at the end of the month, I will be running a 50k, my first. In November, I will be running the NYC Marathon.  And as I continue to run, I will keep working towards my goal of $42,000 for cancer research.  Our team has collectively reached a record setting $6.2 million but we are far from finished this season.  We will continue to run in different aspects all over the country, racking up miles as we try to get money into the hands of researchers so people like Darby don't have to so bravely stand before a room full of people and tell them that she will die from cancer, yet with a smile thank us for running, and reminding us of the importance to keep going so others don't have to face the same fate.

You can make a donation online at www.runDFMC.org/2014/jennie

And I can't wrap up without some serious thanks...to everyone who donated, bought a shirt, or
supported me or my family.  To my family-Andrew, Maggie, John, Annie, Mom, Dad, and Katy.  My running partners and friends. To the DFMC staff and volunteers for outstanding support including a post-race email to make sure I was feeling okay after the post-race medical visit.  To the running community who helped us get back to the finish line this year.  Thank you a million times over.  I am floored, once again, by the support.

Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.


Be good. Be strong.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

4.15.13


I will forever carry the events of last April 15 with me.  It still does not feel real but I know I was standing there and heard the explosions.  I wasn't sure what today would feel like until I woke up this morning but I knew the events of April 15, 2013 would bring so many emotions to the surface.  I think of those whose lives were much more gravely affected than mine all the time.  Sometimes I remember with tears all that was lost, especially for the Richards, Campbell, Lu, and Collier families.  Very often I am filled with pride for the immense strength and determination of the survivors, to see how much they have overcome and how they continue to fight to move forward despite the many obstacle and the physical and emotional pain they feel every day.  Sometimes I am filled with the deepest respect for all of those who responded in the immediate aftermath and in the 365 days that have followed....those who ran towards danger to help, that have provided assistance and care, who made phone calls, and sent letters, and left messages of hope, and planted flowers, and run across the country, and donated to the OneFund, and given medical care, and mental health support, and shared hugs and laughter, and for all that will run in their honor next Monday. 


There are so many qualities that shine more brightly than the hatred that brought the bombings to Boston.  Bravery and courage.  Generosity.  Friendship. Such great strength in the face of tragedy.  This is what I will choose to remember and what we can all take away from last year.  We owe it to all of those affected to remember this day and to pay respect to both the victims and their families   but allow each the freedom and comfort to move forward in the best way for each individual.  To continue to support and provide kindness and assistance to others.   To rally with each other, to stand together, to fight back, to run again.

Young Jane Richards whose brother Martin died in the explosions, and who herself lost one of her legs, said of her older brother, Henry, that what got hurt was his heart.  For most of us who were not physically injured, the same can be said.  What has been hurt is our hearts. 


Be good. Be strong.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Company We Keep

So, I've had some days that turn into weeks sometimes when I just get in a funk and can't get out of my own head.  What am I doing with myself?  Is it the right thing?  Could it be more? Or less?  Am I expending energy where I should?  Too much where I shouldn't?  Have we made the right choices?  Are there changes to be made?  I sit and stew and over-think and work myself into a bigger headache without really figuring anything out.  I've been that way the past couple of weeks, and the past few days I've been reminded by the "answers" that are all around me.  Those answers are people...and those people are those who inspire and motivate me.

I'm fortunate enough to be involved with some pretty amazing organizations and groups of people.  The one I write about the most is the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team, and the past few weeks have not be devoid of inspiring connections.  A couple of weeks ago, the Dana-Farber team ran our final "big" run of the training season.  Most of the team was going 20-22 miles out the Boston Marathon course.  There must have been close to 200 runners gathered together before heading out to run.  Everyone is brought to this team for a reason.  Because themselves or someone they loved has been diagnosed with cancer.  Hilary...18  year survivor of pediatric AML...mother of three beautiful kiddos....full-time research coordinator at Dana-Farber...devoted teammate.  Leslie...volunteer extraordinaire...lost her husband to cancer....always with a smile and kind word.  The Dubuc family....Team Matty in honor of their son/brother....endless determination to fight cancer in Matty's memory and share love and kindness with the entire team....Don't stop believing.  Teresa....current teammate who was diagnosed in December while training...still trying to run through chemo...vows to start the marathon and go as far as she can....supported by her community through a 5k road race.  Runners who lost their best friends as children.  Runners who can't run because of injury who are logging 3 hours in the gym or pool to stay in shape.  Runners who have been running for 15 or 20 years to help end cancer.  Runners who are cancer survivors and haven't been slowed in the least.  They remind me to get out of my funk and keep moving forward.

I've also been lucky enough to being coaching a beginning running program.  I got certified as a running coach last summer and started the program in January and we're still moving.  This group came out twice a week for 10 weeks through one of the coldest winters in years to train.  Minute by minute we built up their running.  Through layers upon layers, frozen precipitation, dark and dreary winter mornings, they showed up each week and reminded me of the joy that running can bring.  How empowering it feels.  How setting a goal and working to reach it is such a reward and gift for ourselves.  They remind me to get out of my funk and keep moving forward.

And then there is the Fit Girls program, a running club for 4th-6th grade girls that meets to train for a 5k but also incorporates reading and community service.  It's not competitive, which is a welcome change from many youth sports these days, and the mission is to help girls lead healthy lives through running, ready and giving back to the community.  We are starting our fifth season and each has been full of so many rewards.  Seeing 100+ girls cross the finish line with smiles on their faces....hearing the pride as they tell how many laps or how many minutes they've run....watching them support and cheer for each other with no concern with winning....seeing them achieve their very own personal goals.  Additionally, I get to stand next to 5 other ladies each week who emanate strength and who make me laugh and inspire me to be better.  I am planning to cross the finish line of the Maine Coast Marathon along side these women as we strive for that collective goal we've set together.  They all remind me to get out of my funk and keep moving forward.

And it goes without saying that our friends and family don't provide the same.  If I've learned nothing else over the past five years, I know the value of surrounding yourself with those who make you a better person.  I've been witness to some real ugly in people, and who has time for that.  I mean, really.  I don't want to be around anyone who puts me in a funk (I can't escape myself, mind you, and I am usually the one who puts myself there) and sets me back. Now, I'm no Pollyanna and I can be a ginormous pain in the ass.  And there are times when I am probably the cause of someone's bad day (or week), but I work for the opposite.  But when the world gets spinning too fast and my brain doesn't slow down, instead of looking for the big answer, I need to just take a deep breath and look around.  Because I've made some good decisions that have led me to the company I keep. And for that, I am grateful.

And I am incredibly grateful for the many people who make up the ginormous team each year that supports the DFMC.  I run, but it is through the kindness and dedication and generosity of many, many people that we have together raised over $200,000 for innovative cancer research in the past 6 years.  Just incredible.  I am almost to my goal of $35,000 for this season, and in all honestly, would gladly sail by!  My thanks to all of you have supported the Barr Program.  It's making a difference.

Be good.  Be strong.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

One day per mile to go

26 days until go time.  One day for each of the 26 miles that will be run on April 21.  It's come quickly, although this winter has made the training season feel like the longest EVER!!  It's been a while since I've written, but certainly not for lack of things to say.

So, training has been going okay despite the freezing cold temperatures that have not let up this year.  I have managed to get most of the my runs in outside, and have surprised even myself by running in temperatures I once considered off limits.  It's amazing how warm 20 degrees feels after a few runs when it is 10!  There have been multiple days where the water has frozen in my water bottles and even during a race, the water handed out by the volunteers (who are total rock stars in my book for standing outside handing out water to foolish people choosing to run) had turned to slush.  Nice on a hot day...less desirable on a cold one.  All in all, I feel like I've gotten my miles in, although not feeling particularly speedy so we'll see how volume vs. speed translates over 26 miles.  Feeling healthy leading up the final long run this weekend and that is the most I can ask.

As goes the world, the season has not been without added inspiration to continue running.  A young lady who lives in town lost part of her leg as a result of cancer in her bone.  She's a friend of some of our friends and from what everyone says and what I have read, she is a true example of grace and strength. I run for her...that her future is bright and filled with good health and that she continue to inspire others through her actions.  My friend just lost her step-mother after already having lost her mom.  Another friend who I just me this year (and DFMC co-runner) experienced another anniversary of her husband's death.  Just like she will next year.  And the year after.  Those days don't go away and they don't get any easier.  We shared a laugh together, and declared that this cancer business, it's just bullshit, if you'll pardon the expression.  My friend, Sandy, and her family went through it again yesterday.  Instead of talking about high school with her son who would be 14 now, they were recognizing his "angelversary" by doing all the things a 7 year old loved to do.  February and March are tough months for our family, too.  Birthdays and the not-so-good anniversaries that take place come one after another.  Reminders of what drives me, sure, but tough days, nonetheless.

The DFMC team is a special bunch.  There is a similar reason we've all been drawn to the team, yet our stories are all unique in that cancer has affected us all but in many different ways.  You can't help but to be inspired and find strength through the stories of triumph and survivorship, and be driven forward by the memories of those who lost their lives to this disease.  It's good people, I tell you.  Just good people to surround yourself with, and I am grateful for everyone I've met over the past 6 years.

I wanted to share a great song and video that does a great job of capturing training and what it means to so many.

I'll try to get some more updates in before the 26 days are up (I know you are waiting on the edge of your seats!).  Please let me know if there is anyone for whom you would like to run...I'll be working on my singlet soon.  Thank you for the support and kind words.

Special thanks as we come down the homestretch: to Sheryl Vincent who organized the Be good. Be strong. shirt sales.  To Greater Boston Running Company for matching proceeds from a sale to DFMC.  To Kathy Glabicky and MSTC for holding a fundraising event for DFMC.  To the DeCesaris Family Foundation for their generous support.  And to the over 140 people who have already contributed to what is almost $30,000 raised this year.  I've upped my goal to $35,000 and I know we can get there.  This money is going directly into the hands of researchers who are working diligently every day to find new treatments for all types of cancer.

If you'd like to contribute, please visit www.runDFMC.org/2014/jennie or if you have any questions, feel free to email me at jfsheridan9@gmail.com

Be good. Be strong.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rewind

Yesterday, I just couldn't muster up the energy to get outside and run.  It was 13 degrees and windy, and standing outside to fill up my gas tank was enough cold for me for the day.  It's been a cold winter with what seems like many more days of high temperatures that don't get out of the teens than in the past few years.  It's been a long January, and despite having gotten out in temperatures as low as 6, yesterday wasn't going to be one of those days and the treadmill was calling to me.

I went down to the basement and flipped on the TV to find something to watch for the 7 or so miles, and found the Boston Marathon coverage from 2013 still on the DVR.  I have known it was there, glimpsing the listing often, but hadn't watched it yet.  I always record the coverage and usually sit down the morning after the marathon with a big cup of coffee and my legs elevated and watch how the race played out for the professionals.  Even knowing who ends up wearing the laurel wreath doesn't take away from the excitement of watching how the race is run, and I love hearing the stories of the "everyday" runners who run the race along side the DFMC team.

But I didn't ever watch it.  It's been 9 months and I couldn't delete it, but I haven't been ready to watch.  Until yesterday when I realized there was nothing better to help me through over an hour on the treadmill.   Since April, any story I hear about that day gives me goosebumps.  I feel a crazy mix of emotions.  I am overwhelmed by the strength of the victims.  I am heartbroken by those who lost family members.  I am inspired by those who have done so much for others as a result of what happened.  But, all of those feelings are based on what happened when the timing clock said 4:09....I hadn't done much thinking about the feelings generated from the previous 4 hours and 8 minutes.

The coverage of the marathon is always exciting and uplifting.  It shows the best of sport...people grinding it out for 26.2 miles to achieve their goals whether it be winning or a PR or crossing the finish line.  All of the stories that were supposed to be shared got lost and upended by the bombings, but I was so grateful to finally take the time to go back and be reminded.... to see what a close battle was fought in the women's race, and how Joan Benoit Samuelson ran within 30 minutes of her winning time from 30 years ago, and how the Hoyts finished their 30th Boston Marathon (which was supposed to be their last), and that the 26th mile marker was dedicated to the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, and there were soldiers that carried their rucksacks and wore their fatigues and boots and covered the entire course that day, and that over $11 million dollars was raised for Boston area charities, and how I ran faster than Joey McIntyre of NKOTB (we all have to have a "nemesis" to try to beat!), and how hometown girl Shalane Flanagan can hang with the best of the best in the world in this distance.  All that got lost in the aftermath.  But being able to rewind and look back, I got to hear the interviews with spectators and family members of those running.  And post-run interviews with elite runners and qualified runners and charity runners.  And people were happy and proud and exhausted and were feeling accomplished.  For many, up until 2:49pm, it was the best day of their lives.

And despite all of the sadness and loss and fear, April 21, 2014 will be the best day of many runners' lives.  And their families and friends.  It will be a day of triumph and strength and steadfastness.  It will be a time of healing and hope.  It will be an opportunity for many to finish what they started last year, and for others an opportunity to run strong and show that we won't be deterred.  It will be a Marathon Monday like none that I have experienced in the past 5 years, I feel sure of that.

The reasons that drive us all to compete by running the marathon are varied yet incredibly personal.  For me, it is the devastating effect that cancer has had on our family.  For others, it will be to heal from the events of last year or to overcome personal tragedy or illness or to help fund long term care for the victims or to share the message of 8-year old Martin Richard..."No more hurting people."  Or to run longer or faster or stronger than ever before. Whatever the reason, 35,000 of us will line up in Hopkinton and take a whole bunch of steps towards a finish line.  Just like last year.  And the 116 years before.  It's just going to mean a whole lot more.

To donate to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, please visit:
www.runDFMC.org/2014/jennie 

Be good. Be strong.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Spread the Message-Be good. Be strong.

A while back, I wrote what "Be good. Be strong". meant and why we it had become such an important phrase and mantra for our family.  Here's a repost:

John is the biggest reason why "Be good. Be strong." is the name of this blog, a mantra I repeat when I run, a tagline,a t-shirt, etc....but most importantly, a way to live life.  Molly used to say "Ya'll be good" or "Ya'll be sweet"when saying goodbye to people or to end emails she had sent.  When John designed t-shirts for the Brain Tumor Society bike ride our family participated in, he put "Be Good.  Be Sweet.  Be Strong." on them in tribute to Molly, he himself adding the Be Strong.  He then started using "Be Good. Be Strong." on his Caringbridge page, taking out the "Be Sweet" because he'd probably had enough "girlie" in his life, and it became his message.  It's become a message we've truly embraced. Live well by showing goodness and kindness and respect to others and to yourselves.  Be strong, not just physically but stand for what you believe and for what is right.  Fight the good fight.  Be good and be strong.


I share this again today because I am so excited to share that a good friend of ours has put together an online shirt sale to help raise money for innovative cancer research.  My husband came up with the design, and the shirts are $20.  The proceeds will go to fund cancer research.  

There is nothing I would like more than to know on Marathon Monday and hopefully on many other days throughout the year, there is an army of people decked out in a shirt that boldly states "Be good. Be strong."  And that when you do have it on, you will often have the opportunity to tell someone why you wear it and what it means.  And you can tell them about Molly, Mary, and John, and all they stood for, and about their strength and kindness. And that we always remember.

Wear the shirt. Spread the word.  Share the story. 

BE GOOD. BE STRONG.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New year, same commitment

“What grief is, is a form of love, but with the loved one gone.  So the work of grief is to find a new form for that love, to find a new expression for it, a new commitment, a way to honor the love.” -John Woodall

This is what brought me to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge six years ago.  Grief.  Then and still now, running for the DFMC team has been a way for me to honor Molly, Mary and John.  And while the grieving is not done and the feeling of loss are no less than they were when I ran that first mile for them, participating with this team by helping to find a cure is one of the best ways for me to process the immense loss in our family.  This has been my commitment, my way to share my love.

As the calendar flips to 2014, I want to wish you a very Happy and Healthy New Year.  And more importantly, to say THANK YOU.  I have so much gratitude for the support given to the DFMC in the past year, and I look forward to the coming year with renewed hope and excitement for the work we are doing together to find a cure for cancer.  I am committed to this goal in honor of Molly, Mary, and John...to aim high and keep moving forward in this fight, and am thankful to you all for being by my side over the miles. We are making a difference.  I promise.


www.runDFMC.org/2014/jennie

Be good. Be strong.