To Make a Donation to the 2016 team

Please visit my fundraising page to make a donation to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute ( Please help me reach my goal of $50,000 to fund important basic cancer research! With your support, we have already provided over $366,000 to Dana-Farber researchers over the past 9 years. Please give as generously as your means allow!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The finish line

Well, the 114th running of the Boston Marathon is in the books. I finished in 4 hours and 10 minutes, and was running when I crossed the finish line. It wasn't my best running day ever, but it was definitely one of my best days ever. Even though I didn't feel great, every mile was worth it.

It turned out to be a beautiful day. We had a really ugly weekend filled with rain, some sleet, and really cold temperatures. If the marathon had been held on Saturday, it would not have been pretty. But, it cleared out for the start, and the temperature, in the 50s, was just right for running.

I took a bus sponsored by a local running club from a nearby parking lot right to the Athlete's Village in Hopkinton. It took about 2 hours to get out there from here with traffic and road closures. I sat with a woman who I recently met who was running Boston as her first marathon ever. She started running about a year ago. She has 4 kids under the age of 8, too, which makes this feat even that much more admirable. What an impressive goal, one that she accomplished, too!! It was nice to have a friendly face to chat with to make the time pass quickly.

Upon arriving in Hopkinton, I bolted for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge pre-race haven in Hopkinton. A local church hall is set up as a refuge for pre-race with food, sunscreen, vaseline, water/gatorade, and many friendly faces. There are between 500-550 DFMC runners, and it is a sight to be seen in and around that church on Marathon Monday. We gather for a team photo before the start. After the team picture, they asked the "Living Proof" teammates to come up front for a photo. This year, there were 26 runners who are either cancer survivors or current cancer patients. They got a huge round of well-deserved applause from their teammates. What an impressive and emotional sight.

We milled around a little bit more, and then it was time to head down to be corralled for the start. They were set up for 27000 runners, and you gather in groups of 1000. Right before the start, they drop the ropes that divide the groups, and you all merge into a pack as you move towards the start. It took us about 8 minutes from where we were to get across the starting line. And we were off. Tens of thousands of people pounding the pavement towards Boston.

I knew early on that my time goal was out the window. I think deep down I knew that before I started, but had some hope that I would feel terrific after 3 weeks of rest and would be able to bounce happily towards the finish line on fresh legs. No such luck. By ten miles in, my legs were heavy and tired and I was just hoping to make it to the end. I saw some wonderful friends around the halfway point, and a quick hug and lots of smiles and cheers gave me the push I need to move on down the road. My husband, kids, sisters, aunt, cousin and neighbors were there to tell me that I was doing great and to just keep going. It was what I need to hear. By the time I saw them at around 15 miles, my legs felt like they should when I have only two or three miles left. Unfortunately, I had 11 to go. I handed over my watch to them so I would stop worrying about my pace, and just run based on how I felt. They were going to meet me about 6 or 7 miles down the road, and I needed that incentive to keep on moving.

By the time I got to mile 17, I was breaking the course down into smaller segments. Get to the next water stop. Look for the our friends at the Woodland T stop. Just get to the next hill. Another water stop ahead. Run past the Boston College crowd so they don't harass you. Run until you see the Citgo sign. Find your family again with the 23 mile marker within sight. Get a hug and some inspiration. Only 3 to go. The Dana-Farber group has a cheering crowd at the 25 mile point, and that became my next goal. The patient partners (pediatric patients who are matched up with runners) and their families are all there. I ran along next to them, giving them high fives and some cheers for being out there. I missed this last year. I didn't know exactly where they were and I was on the wrong side of the street at the time. I really wanted to feel their energy and support this year, and I am so glad I did. Only 1.2 miles left. Under Mass. Ave, right on Hereford, left on Boylston and you can see the end. .2 miles to the finish line. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. And then I was finished.

The crowds were terrific and huge and loud and encouraging and inspiring. Too many Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge signs to count. So many cheers of "Go Dana-Farber" and "Thank you Dana-Farber" along the entire route, in every town and throughout every mile. The thousands of other runners keep you going, too. There was a man that pushes himself backward with one leg in a wheelchair. I saw him last year, and knew he was back to do it again. Team Hoyt was there again, too. They are well known up here, but for those of you who don't know them, Dick Hoyt pushes his son, Rick, in a special wheelchair. Rick has cerebral palsy, and this was the 28th year that they have run Boston and they completed over 1000 races including Ironman triathlons together. Google "Team Hoyt" and read their story. There were blind runners with guides. There was Elvis, the Cat in The Hat, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Bananas, and Mario out there running, too. There are many other charities represented, each runner with their own purpose and inspiration. There were signs reading "Happy Thoughts" and "Where's Valerie?" and "Tampa Bay 6, Red Sox 0" and "Run, Mommy, Run." And everyday runners from all over the world. It's an experience that makes you have one of your best days ever, even if you don't feel your best.

Did I feel good yesterday? Not so much. Did I love it? You bet. My aunt said to me this morning that she wasn't going to even ask me if I was going to do it again until I could walk normally again. But, I already know the answer. If I am able, I will. What I realized is that this effort, this marathon, this isn't about me or my personal goals. They are good to have but should probably be saved for a different race at a different time when that is my focus. I discovered yesterday that what makes me run in Boston isn't trying to achieve a personal best. My focus for running Boston is my family, and your family, and friends. And funding research to find a cure for cancer. That's what got me to the finish line.

Be good. Be strong.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Providing a spark

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." ~Albert Schweitzer

I've been trying to say "thank-you" to as many of you as I can for your support of this endeavor this year. While the financial support of this cause has been extraordinary and out of the realm of anything I could have imagined, I've been truly touched by the everyday support and kindness in a way I will not forget. I've heard from cousins, elementary school friends, high school teammates, high school classmates of my parents, relatives of family friends, teachers, my dear college girlies, friends of my siblings, coworkers of my husband, parents of the friends of my kids, friends of friends of friends, and even from many people I've never met. The breadth of support has come from far and wide, and I am inspired and motivated by all of you. Thank you for hearing our story and understanding the importance of this cause. Thank you for offering a kind word when we've crossed paths. Thanks for the emails and cards with your meaningful messages of support. Thank you for planning the 80's party, and for coming out in support of this cause. Thanks for running with me, and for pushing me to continue on. Thanks for your advice and coaching. Thank you to all of you who have stood by our family, and who have really understood and listened. Thank you for teaching me about kindness and compassion through your example. Thank for being a part of this experience, and for making it so incredibly meaningful. Thanks for providing a spark. I am truly grateful.

Thanks to all of you who have been able to make a contribution to Dana-Farber this year in honor of the marathon. As of this moment, we've been able to contribute $19,296, which will help the entire DFMC team on the way to fulfilling the $4.4 million goal. If you would still like to make a donation, contributions can be accepted for a while longer, and can be made by visiting

I think my work for tomorrow is just about complete. Gear is all packed. We picked up my number and DFMC stuff yesterday in Boston. I've been getting some extra carbs and water on board. Dinner is planned for tonight. Spectator plans are final. All that is left to do is run, and to keep saying thank-you along the way.

If you are in the Boston area, come out and cheer for the runners tomorrow. It looks to be a really nice day. There are 26 miles of roads so finding a clear spot is not too hard! My family will be in Wellesley and hopefully Brookline before meeting me at the Finish. Let me know if you want to join them, and I'll fill you in on their top-notch viewing location. I'll be wearing #22881, my orange Dana-Farber shirt, and hopefully a smile!

Be good. Be strong.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Prep work

Marathon weekend is here. I am feeling the excitement, and am waiting with anticipation for Monday morning to roll around so we can get this show on the road! This week has been long, filled with emotions and stress and doubt, but also many well wishes and kind words. I got a run in for the first time in almost 3 weeks yesterday. No pain but lots of difficulty breathing and tired legs. But the important part of that is that I had no pain in my leg!! I hope the weeks of rest will pay off on Monday, but I am just thankful that I will be in Hopkinton on Monday ready to start. Hopefully I'll find myself in Boston a few hours later having arrived by running on my own legs!!

I finished my shirt (see picture) that I will wear on Monday, and will proudly carry the names of 135 people who have been diagnosed with cancer. Thank you for sharing their stories with me. If you are out on the course, please give a shout out to the 500 Dana-Farber runners out there. We'll all be cruising down the road in these orange shirts, so you won't miss us!

We'll head into Boston tomorrow to pick up my number and check out the expo. I'll check in with the Dana-Farber crew while we are in there to make sure I am all set for Monday. We may try to scope out a second viewing spot closer to the city. We have usually set up shop in Wellesley around mile 16, but my family may try to sneak a second location this year in Newton or Brookline. If anyone has any secrets about parking or getting to the course without a lot of walking, please feel free to share them.

And we'll spend some time relaxing. I am happy to have my sisters here, and it is supposed to be a rainy couple of days, so it is a good reason to stay inside and put our feet up. It's too cold for these Southerners in April, too! We'll eat some good carbs, and drink a lot of fluid in preparation. And by this time on Monday, I should be (hope to be!) finished with the 2010 running of the Boston Marathon, and will be relishing and rethinking the day from start to finish. I will probably be rehashing the experience while maybe having some ice cream or cake, maybe a margarita or beer, followed by some pizza or a burger. All depends on how I am feeling! Eating may be followed by a nap, and then maybe some more eating. I hope that I will be walking on my own without any extraneous bandages or ice packs attached as a result from the run, too. Without having any idea how I will feel on Monday or what kind of run it will be, I know that despite all the extraneous circumstances that affect the day, it will be good. And I will be glad it is over, and all the while, I'll be wishing to do it all again.

Be good. Be strong.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The old ball and chain

As the number of days until the marathon dwindles, I am finding my level of anxiety increasing just a little bit. The cut back on training as a race gets closer is always hard, but this year I have found it to be a little worse than normal. I don't remember feeling this way last year, but I was not trying to let an injury heal and had other things of higher priority as my focus at the time. As I've said before, running is a good activity for me because it keeps me busy, gets me moving, and occupies my mind. In the absence of this obsession, I have been restless and without much focus, and therefore, a total bother to my husband and kids!

My husband, Andrew, really isn't the old ball and chain as I named this post. He's actually quite the opposite, and a big part of the reason why I am able to run as much as I like to. He is deserving of a great deal of gratitude for making this commitment so easy for me. Having a spouse (or girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, ball and chain, etc.) training for a marathon is not easy. It's a big time commitment, especially on the weekends, and it can be a physically and emotionally draining time for both the runner and their family. I am lucky to have a husband who is not phased by this, and does what he can to be supportive. Andrew understands why I run, and how it makes me feel (which is usually much calmer and at ease). He understands how I feel when I haven't run, too (which can be edgy and impatient at best). Last week, he kindly nudged me to go "do something that will make you feel like you had gone running" so I would find a happy place again. He's been known to kick me out the door to go for a run because, more often than not, I am a happier person when I get home. He also recognizes this fine line that exists between feeling great and feeling like junk after a long run, and on those "junk" days, he so graciously suggests I take a nap. I imagine the alternative to me sleeping is for me to be cranky and annoying, so why not let me rest, right? And he knows why running for Dana-Farber is important to me. He just gets it.

The thing is that he has always "gotten it." Not just about running, but about life and family and providing support. Never has this been more evident than in the past two years. The craziness that comes with any long-term illness, like cancer, can really bring to light the core of who someone is inside. My brother, John, lived with our family off and on for five years, including the final year of his life. He came to live with us originally for about a year so he could begin receiving treatment in Boston, and over the next few years, while his health was good, he lived on his own. In 2008, John came back to live with us after the tumor had recurred so he could again begin treatment. Throughout these stays, Andrew's support was unwavering, not just of me but of John. He welcomed him in our home whenever he needed or wanted to be here. He just felt like that is what you do to help family. He believes that our extended families are one and the same. Not his family and my family, but our family. And he's always been willing to take with that whatever was coming down the road, and for a while, there hasn't been a whole lot of happy rolling down the street. When John's health started to worsen, my parents and sisters and aunts were here for weeks at a time. Andrew was happy to have them around. John's friends made trips to visit him and there were people coming and going at all times. Andrew was happy to see their faces. When visiting nurses or hospice people were here, he was always happy to help. He never complained, or at least only in jest to bring some laughs to the crazy aunties. He always shared a laugh or a joke when the mood called for it, and sometimes when the mood didn't but that is what you get with Andrew! He always tries to make better a difficult situation. He does this not because he has to, but because he wants to. Because that is just what you do.

I met Andrew in college, and frighteningly enough, have now known him half of my life. Way back when at the time we met, I could not have imagined that his easy-going, humor-filled, lighthearted, generous manner would be so important during a tumultuous few years. He balances my seriousness with laughter. He tries to make things fun even when it is hard to see that opportunity is there. He brings light in when I am sometimes inclined to block it out. He just does what it takes, whatever that might be.

We are coming off a media circus with Tiger Wood's ridiculously named "historic comeback" at the Master's. I was so happy to see Mickelson come out with the win. He played a great round of golf yesterday when it mattered, but that isn't necessarily the story. He, too, has had a personally trying year that wasn't the result of some really poor and selfish choices, and Mickelson deserved a lot of the attention that was, in my opinion, misdirected elsewhere. Rick Reilly of ESPN wrote a great story about Mickelson and his family, and what they've gone through. Take a minute if you read it. Rick Reilly: A Win Beyond Golf. He tells of his support for his wife and his mother and his children. And a little bit about winning his third green jacket. He writes that it was a win for women, which may be true, but it is also a win for the guys who work hard at just being decent guys every day.

I am happy to say one of those guys is my husband, who may be horrified that I wrote this, but he is deserving of some thanks. I'm sure he'll learn to live with the resulting fame! So, thank you, Andrew. I know I can't say it enough.

Be good. Be strong.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day 12, 12 Days

Still haven't run. 12 days since my last run. 12 days until I HAVE to run. Until I need to be ready to run. Until I really want to get out there and run. I am on the mend, but really getting anxious with the "not running" business. Days are passing by, and I feel like I am letting fitness slip away! I know it is not entirely the case, but after months of training, the current situation is a little nerve racking. Not packing on 10 pounds while "resting" is almost as hard as the not running part!

I've been keeping active by biking, and this week I added the elliptical trainer and for the first time ever, I did some aqua jogging. There are the special belts you wear in the pool that keep you upright, and you run just like you would if your feet were touching the ground. It was a pretty good workout and really kind of relaxing in a weird, running while in a pool kind of way! You just slowly move around the pool with your arms and legs doing exactly what they would do if you were on the ground. Just no impact. No stress on the strained muscle, and some good exercise to boot. I'll definitely keep doing that as a cross-training/non-impact workout. And maybe try to swim. I never got around to adding that in this time. Oh, well.

I also got into today to see a physical therapist friend who is going to help me get to the starting line WELL. She doesn't think it will be a problem, and I am a believer, too. While my leg feels much better after the past week or so of modified rest, I am going to keep from running for a bit longer just to be safe. I really, really, really don't want to reinjure it now. While mentally it is causing much anxiety, I know it is the right thing to do if I want to finish on April 19.

So I am waiting, not so patiently, to get back out there and remind my legs what running feels like. I am also starting the weather watch to obsess over what the day might bring. I have no control, I know. The way weather works around here, we won't know for sure what the day will be like until that morning. I'm also starting to prepare and gather the goods I need for marathon Monday. I will put my name on my singlet, and add the names you have all shared to the back. Get some safety pins for my number. Some extra bottles of water and Gatorade. Body Glide. Extra socks. Jelly beans for sugar. Dry socks. A baseball hat. A winter hat. Some gloves. Directions to where I need to be before the start. Blistex. "Throwaway" clothes for the start in case it is cold. A change of clothes for the finish. Oh, and probably some ibuprofen for after. Probably a few more other items. And enough inspiration to push me from mile 1 to 26.2.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Countdown is on

It's April. It's April? Really?? It's so hard to believe that spring is here and the marathon is upon us. Six months ago I was wrestling with the decision about whether to apply to run for Dana-Farber again, and worried about the months of training that would be ahead of me. I couldn't not do it this year after the events leading up to now. Not only am I so glad that I am a member of the team this year, but I am so happy to say that the training months have gone by pretty quickly. With the marathon only 16 days away, and the beautiful weather outside, it's hard to remember the cold, snowy runs of the winter. Maybe it is a little like childbirth in that you quickly forget the tough parts about it, or maybe my body remembers what it is supposed to be doing a little better after running last year. Whatever the reason, I am through the long runs and tapering down to Marathon Monday.

Last Saturday was my final "long" training run of the program leading up to the marathon, my third and final 20 mile run. I went in to Boston to run with the DFMC team and got all 20 miles in on part of the course. The downside is that a muscle pull from a run earlier in the week was made worse by running that distance. I hadn't though much about the tightness I had experienced while running on Thursday and it went away without further bother. Friday and Saturday morning I felt fine, and so I headed out to run the final big run of the Boston training season. About 9 miles in, the tightness returned, but wasn't anything that made me feel I couldn't continue. It was more a nuisance than painful. However, my lower leg ended up bruising and swelling a little bit after I got home, and I haven't run since then! Yikes! 16 days to go and I am not running at all! I've been biking all week and that doesn't bother my leg at all. I'm just trying to keep the cardio going this week, and will probably wait another few days and then try to get out for a few miles. I ran a few blocks after my children today and there was no pain, but I want to be sure that I don't re-injure it and not being able to run the marathon at all. Expert advice says the gas is already in the tank from the 20+ weeks of training, and I am better off letting this heal so I am fully ready to run on April 19. With the pouring rain earlier this week, it was easy to hunker down and not miss running, but as the weather has improved, I wish I could get out there! I may have to abandon my expectations for the finishing time, but I know that I will finish.

In other exciting news, the grand total for the 80's benefit was $3,685. Really unbelievable. Added to the donations that have already been made and some that I recently sent in, my fundraising total is now $16,630. Yes, that is correct...$16,630!! There has been such a phenomenal effort to support this run this year.

It's so inspiring and motivating to hear from so many people who also have stories to share or support to lend. I feel like I am not only representing Dana-Farber but so many families and friends who believe this to be important. I honored to be entrusted to carry the names of so many people with me to recognize and remember how cancer has affected so many lives. This list of names that keeps growing is made up of children and adults, men and women, moms and dads, cousins, sisters, aunts, best friends, childhood buddies, old teammates, teachers, coworkers. People diagnosed with liver cancer, brain cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, lymphoma. The list goes on. But the song remains the same. It doesn't matter who it is or what the diagnosis. There needs to be a cure. One step at at time, and we'll get there.

Thank you for supporting this cause. For supporting my family near and far. And for supporting me. I am so proud of what "Team Jennie" has accomplished this year. This isn't just about one runner. Or even 500 runners. It's about the people who help get us to the starting line and beyond. This has truly been a team effort. Thanks for being along for the run. I think we are just getting started.