To Make a Donation to the 2016 team

Please visit my fundraising page to make a donation to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.runDFMC.org/2017/jennies). Please help me reach my goal of $50,000 to fund important basic cancer research! With your support, we have already provided over $312,000 to Dana-Farber researchers over the past 8 years. Please give as generously as your means allow!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 Resolution-$28,000

Happy New Year to you, family and friends!  I hope the holiday season has been filled with a lot of laughter, joy, and peace.  The beginning of the New Year provides us all an opportunity to think about our resolutions for the coming year while reflecting on the past and hoping for the future.

One of my resolutions for 2013 is to raise $28,000 while training for and ultimately completing the Boston Marathon in April.  As many of you know, for the past four years I have run the Boston Marathon as a member of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team in an effort to raise valuable funds for the Claudia Barr Program in Innovative Cancer Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  I am honored to again be a member of this successful and positive team and I would appreciate your support during this milestone year.

This run each year, and the training season that leads up to it, is quite significant and important to me.  I run in memory of my three siblings, Molly, Mary and John, who at too young an age lost their lives to cancer.  It’s a reality that is often still too difficult to really think about and absorb, especially during the holiday season when we feel the impact of their absence so greatly.  Unfortunately, there are many other families who also feel similar loss right now, and sadly, most of us will at some point in the future.  It is for Molly, Mary, and John, and all of our families, that we should join together for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge as runners and as supporters.

The Barr Program at Dana-Farber is one of the largest and most successful research programs of its kind, funding the brightest and most creative scientists who are making discoveries that are transforming cancer treatment across all therapeutic areas.  These breakthroughs are creating real change right now, resulting in improved survival rates and better quality of life for thousands of patients all around the world.  Every penny of your gift-ONE HUNDRED PERCENT- goes directly to this program and these amazing scientists.  Your gifts are truly making an impact and the benefit for our families and friends will be far reaching.

Making a gift to the Barr Program is easy.  You can visit www.runDFMC.org/2013/jennies and follow the link to make an online contribution that goes directly to Barr Program researchers, or you can send a check made out to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge to me at home.  

We don’t get to pick who gets cancer, nor are we able to decide who responds to treatment and who doesn’t.  It’s not a choice, and unfortunately, the challenging reality is that we all know someone whose life has been directly affected by cancer.  But we can fulfill our obligation to our families, our friends, and ourselves to keep fighting the good fight.  To accept the responsibility to generate important changes.   Together, we are making an impact and are moving towards the ultimate finish line of a world without cancer.

Thank you in advance for your generosity, kindness, and support. 

Be good.  Be strong.

With gratitude,

Jennie Firth Sheridan

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Winning isn't the most important thing

I saw this story on the news this morning, and it really is a great example of what it is to Be Good. Be Strong.  We can only hope that what we teach our children guides them to be "that kid" in this story...."that kid" being either the young man that doesn't give up and gets out there on the match to wrestle OR the young man that the coaches choose to wrestle in this match because he just gets it and knew exactly what he needed to do in that moment.  They are both incredible examples of courage and compassion and kindness. 

Great story.  Great lesson.  Please take a couple of minutes to watch.

Video story of wrestling match

Be good.  Be Strong.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Running in circles

I got back on the track this morning to do some speedwork for the first time since April.  Most of the summer, I was happy to just get in a run here and there, but now it is time to buckle down and try to get my fitness level back to where I was. I turned 40, got lazy, ate a lot of Halloween candy, and pumplin pie so I have some work to do!!  We ran some 400m repeats with 1 mile warm-up and 1.5 mile cool down...and it felt good but it was not easy.

In March, I ran a 20 mile race as a prep/test run for Boston which was 6 weeks later.  I ran it in 2:47, which was a 8:22 pace.  I finished strong...taking it easy at the beginning and finishing the last 3 miles at the fastest pace for the whole race.  My goal for the marathon was 3:45 (Boston Qualifier) so I was on track to get there pending a major meltdown in the last 6 miles.  But then the weather happened and all bets were off.

My goal hasn't changed, but I've got some work to do to get there.  So, round and round the track I will go as long as the snow stays away.  And when winter does show (hopefully not with a vengeance to repay the mildness of last year), I'll hit the treadmill or the streets to get these legs moving with a little more speed than they've become accustom of late!

Monday, November 26, 2012

4.44 million strong

2012 DFMC Team Members
In October, the big reveal of the 2012 DFMC team total was made at an event at Dana-Farber.  Last year's team raised $4.44 million dollars that will go directly to researchers at Dana-Farber through the Barr Program in Innovative Cancer Research.  $4.44 million.  That's a lot of millions.  And there is a lot of brilliant work to be done with it.

Two of the incredibly bright researchers who have been recipients of Barr Program dollars spoke to the gathered group of teammates and family members about their work and how effective the Barr Program is in funding cutting edge programs.  We are in a time of uncertain NIH funding, so these dollars are incredibly important in continuing to move the fight to cure cancer forward.  We can't and won't stop now.  The Barr Program is a one of a kind program that has translated into many, many therapies and treatments for patients all of the world, and when you hear these scientists speak of what they are doing in the labs, it is incredibly humbling to know that you've played a part in that work.  I can't "do science" but I can do my best to make sure those minds that can do it are able to continue.


And now, for my own personal big reveal of the 2012 marathon season.  Through the amazing generosity and support of so many of you, my fundraising grand total for 2012 was $40,052!  Without your support, it would not be possible for me to continue to be a part of this team since the primary goal is to raise funds for cancer research.  The running is secondary, and a means to a bigger end.  Thanks to the Bo Good. Be Strong. Ride for Life team in Chattanooga for their efforts and support again this year...a big chunk of that total is a result of your commitment, time and support in honor of my family and Dana-Farber.


My personal fundraising total for the past 4 years is just over $122,000, which is so hard to believe.  When I started the first year, I set my sights on a far reaching goal  of $7,500 and have since been blown away by the generosity over 4 years, but the work isn't finished. I had initially set my goal this season at $20,000, but I am changing it to $28,000 so I can try to reach a lifetime achievement of $150,000 in 5 years.  It is ambitious but possible, and I know the impact of this commitment can truly be great.  Though the reason I run is very personal, the funds committed to the Barr Program as a result are universal in value. 

So, the goal of $4.6 million is set for the 2013 team, and I know that together we can reach that level.  I am so thrilled and honored to be a part of the team for the 5th year, and am anxious for the season to get underway.  I look forward to getting to know new team members and catching up with those I don't see often.  I am back to a consistent running program and am starting my outreach to reach my goal of $28,000.  Now.  Game on.



To contribute, visit www.runDFMC.org/2013/jennies

With gratitude and continued hope. 
Be Good. Be Strong.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reboot

If something doesn't work around our house, the first line of attack is shutting it down and restarting.  Fixes most everything.  Better than hitting it with a hammer....most things anyway.  Can fix even us humans since a good sleep can make a world a difference in our attitudes.

Since the marathon, I've kind of been in a long, slow shutdown mode in terms of writing this blog and running.  I have thought about sitting down and writing a post many, many a time but never did.  There are thoughts and ideas and events and changes that have been swirling around, but just not making down in writing.  I've been trying to focus and to zero in on a purpose and that has slowed me down instead of pushed me forward.

I've had lots of days where I thought about running but never hit the road, although it was at least a little more  frequent than the ZERO days of posting to this blog.  It just hasn't been as much as I would have liked, or probably need.  There was no big fall race on my schedule which gave me a out when it was too hot, too early, too hard.  I like to (or more accurately need to) to have something like a race to motivate me to put in the longer miles, and I haven't had that this summer/early fall.  A few miles here and there have felt almost sufficient, but not quite.  Not really close.

The running and the writing, no matter how good or how bad either is on any given day, both kind of give me an outlet which I think has been sorely lacking but it's time to make room for both of them once again.  The next race is now on the calendar.  The motivation to keep writing is rekindled...raise awareness, support friends and family, promote wellness and good health, and share Be good. Be strong. and what it means to many. 

So, I am rebooting.  Starting up after a shut down with the hopes that things will be fixed.  Whatever "fixed" means.  Maybe a little better or with a little more focused.  Maybe just refreshed, like a webpage when stuck.  Whatever it means, this is my restart. 

One post down.  One run in.

I feel better already.

Friday, April 27, 2012

It all started there.

Don't know where the time goes.  I've been trying to get this written for over a week, but it's been a slow process!  We are about 10 days out since the 116th Boston Marathon, enough time to reflect a little on the day and the weeks leading up to it.  It always comes and goes so quickly, despite the months of training leading up to it.

The entire weekend leading up to Monday was filled with activity and preparation for Monday.  On Friday afternoon, I had the pleasure of helping at the Dana-Farber runner check-in.  I got to meet some new teammates and catch up with some of the people I met over the course of the season, which was a lot of fun.  I've been so grateful to have had the time to get to a lot of the runners meetings and group runs this season, and seeing everyone marathon weekend was the icing on the cake.  The topic of the day for all those checking-in was most certainly the weather forecast which had started in the 60s early in the week, and was creeping up and up as the days passed.  Everyone was feeling a little anxious and still hopeful that the conditions would change and this cold front that was looming would come crashing through before 10 a.m. on Monday.

After check-in, I went over to the expo and number pick-up with my sister, Katy.  My parents came down and met us and we wandered around looking at all the gear meant to help you run fast and look good while doing it!  We came away with some samples of snack bars and the infamous marathon jacket, but not much else.  We had a nice dinner in the Seaport with a gazillion other runners who found themselves down there, too.  It was nice to have a "grown-up" night out with them before the major weekend chaos kicked into gear.

Saturday was less marathon, more family....packed full of soccer games and baseball, which was a nice distraction from marathon mania.  The weather was most definitely still the topic of conversation with anyone who knew I was running the marathon, and while the activities of the day weren't running related, the emails from the Boston Athletic Association with high heat warnings and offers of deferrals were rolling in and it was hard to direct attention away from that. 


Sunday was all marathon prep....finished my singlet with the names of those to honor and remember.  Gathered all my goods to take with me in the morning.  Starting eating food with lots of salt in it, while trying to keep hydrated throughout the day.  Early in the afternoon, all of us loaded up and headed to Boston for the DFMC Pasta Party.  This event is a celebration of this amazing team with recognition of achievements in fundraising and team longevity.  It is also a celebration of the pediatric patients at Dana-Farber, both the partners for current runners and the in-memory patients and their families.  About 1500 families, runners, patients, and donors attend this beautifully orchestrated event the day before the marathon, and I am so glad I was able to attend for the first time with my husband, kids, parents and sister.  It's the first time I've attended in the four years that I've been on the team.  Given how emotionally draining the last four years had been on our family and because I knew how emotional this event would be anyway, in prior years we just had a quiet afternoon at home with family.  I just wasn't prepared to take that on yet, but this year, while still difficult, it was uplifting and inspirational to celebrate this amazing program and be surrounded by so many people who feel the same.

In addition to seeing all of the patient partners and their runners, and recognizing our teammates who have run for 5, 10, and 15 years, we were treated to kind words from Uta Pippig (3-time Boston Winner in the 90s), Jack Fultz (our fearless, funny, optimistic coach), and Delores Barr Weaver (founder of the Barr Program in honor of her mother).  We were brought to our feet with applause and in awe of our teammate, Dennis Moran, who's video I've included.  His determination and drive are really amazing, and truly encompass the spirit of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge.  We were sent on our way to sleep well and make our way to Hopkinton in the morning.



 My trip from home to Hopkinton were not as seamless as I would have hoped...very slow loading on the buses, an accident on the turnpike and traffic, but got to spend the morning with my friend, Chris, who gave me a ride into town and was good company throughout the waiting process.  I missed sending Dennis off to the start for the handcycle participants, which I was really bummed about.  I did make it in time for the team picture and to get myself coated with sunscreen before dumping my bag on the bus to meet me back in Boston.  I decided to bring my camera along for the day since I knew I would be dialing the pace back a bit and wanted to try to capture some of the "fun" of the day.  We had about 45 minutes to catch up with teammates and get ourselves ready for the walk to the start.  I spent some time talking with Ed Feather, whose video I shared last week.  We had not met in person but had seen and read about each other and our reasons for running.  I loved seeing familiar and friendly faces at the church, and felt more a part of this team than I ever had.  At 10:15, off we went with the masses to be herded into corrals for the start. 

We were sweating before the gun went off, and the temperatures were expected to climb continuously into the upper 80s.  There were signs and warnings over the entire course telling us to take it easy and it would not be a day for personal records or speed.  Take walk breaks.  Hydrate.  Respect the heat that was upon us.  The trees here are just starting to get leaves so there was not a lot of shade to be had either.

I was pretty anxious about the day, and had totally changed my plan for the day.  I was hoping to slow down by a minute to a minute and a half per mile, and just get through without a visit to the medical tents.  I was worried about getting the right balance of water and Gatorade and food.  I think I was more afraid of getting too much water than not enough, and dealing with the fall-out from that.  These weren't conditions I was used to experiencing, even in the heat of summer.

We started at a pretty steady pace.  I was running with my teammate,  Scott, who I had run with a couple of group runs this season.  At around mile 7 (I think...it all blends together), I starting taking short walking breaks after the water stops....walking breaks that grew longer as the miles began to build.  When I was running, I was holding an okay pace, but it was exhausting so catching my breath and cooling down every mile or so at the water stops was imperative for me to get through.

The hours and miles kind of blur together for me and I can't say I have totally clear memories throughout.  Some highlights (or lowlights)....I remember thinking around 8 miles that it was going to be a long, long day.  Longer than I thought originally.  At mile 10, I got myself psyched up because we were almost halfway.  I grabbed a hug from Delores Barr Weaver who founded the Claudia Adams Barr Program at Dana-Farber in honor of her mother, which is funded by the marathon runners.  When she spoke at the Pasta Party, she told us where she would be with a huge DFMC flag.  I spotted her in Framingham and took her up on the offer of a hug...soaking sweaty wet and all.Wellesley was, for the most part, a pretty good stretch, but after Wellesley was Newton and the hills.  I was going back and forth with my teammate, Mike, who I had run with a few times over the past few years.  We were on opposite walking cycles so kept passing each other back and forth.  I talked with Tony, who I had only known through the online website, Daily Mile, and saw Fran, a first time marathoner who I had a few conversations with this season as his "connection" within DFMC.  I saw my friend Katie as I was running down Grossman's Hill and was happy to see a familiar and smiling face!

At Mile 17.5, my awesome family and friends were waiting for my arrival. I was so happy to see them that I was actually running up the hill, which I thought might be unlikely!  They had handed out 30 bags of ice to runners and had a hose going for people to run through to try to cool down.  I stopped and talked for a few minutes, before heading back out for the final 8ish miles.  Their effort each year to be out there with anything I might need is exceptional.  It does me wonders to see familiar faces along the course and I am really thankful to them for being there and doing so much for me and for all the other runners! With some hugs and kisses and smiles and cheers, off I went.


The rest of the miles were not quick, but I was checking them off one by one.  Caught the friendly faces of the Smith family right near Heartbreak Hill, which was a great surprise.  The raucous BC crowd propelled me once again through miles 20 and 21.  From then,  I was driven to get to Mile 25, the largest of the Dana-Farber Cheering sections and where all of the patient partners gather.  They were still going strong almost 5 hours later, and that is a huge gift given how brutal it was for everyone to be out in the sun that day.  Many of the cheerleaders there are kids, namely patient partners, and they are standing on the highway overpass where there isn't room to run and play.  They just wait there, standing together and cheering us on.  It's incredibly motivating to drive you to the finish.  It's an amazing spot on the course for all of the Dana-Farber team members, and I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some more friends standing just before the DFMC crew.  They even caught me smiling in a picture as I was heading that way to give high fives to all of the kids!

I ran in the last 1.2 miles, which was the longest stretch I had run in hours.  The crowds were huge throughout the entire course, and were still loud and full of energy when I was making the right on Hereford, left on Boylston.  The Finish Line, while welcome in any race, was especially welcome that day.  Finishing was the goal, and that goal was met.   My time was 4:42, which was about an hour under my goal, but as I said, it was a finish.

The spectators got the runners to the finish this year.  They were out there with ice, wet towels, cold water, sprinklers, hoses, fruit, flavor ice and popsicles, pretzels, water, beer, and most of all, wicked HUGE enthusiasm and encouragement for all of us.  I was taking chunks of ice out of peoples hands and filling my hat and also eating the cubes since the water at the water stops was "room temperature" which was 87 degrees.  While it felt good dumped on my head, it wasn't all that refreshing to drink.  But most importantly it was serving the purpose of preventing dehydration.  I got a cup of ice cold blue Gatorade from a lovely and kind soul in Brookline, and took advantage of the many sprinklers lining the streets.  The crowds stayed out for a long time, and from this runner, I offer my thanks and gratitude!!

I made it back to the DFMC recovery zone for a change of clothes and a most welcome massage.  I shared a nice conversation over a bowl of soup with Tony and Ted, who were also carrying the name of Helen Morey with them just as I was.  More hugs and congratulations, and I was off to home to my kids and family.

I also want to offer my thanks to the staff and the hundreds of volunteers for Dana-Farber who make this program as special as it is.  We are well taken care of by these many kind people from group runs to the pasta party to the pre-marathon refuge and the post marathon recovery zone.  We are treated like rock stars, and they make every single runner feel like the valuable member of this team that they are!  Thank you, thank you!

The marathon this year isn't what I thought or expected it would be.  But hey, as running often mimics reality, life isn't always what we expect or want it to be.  Best laid plans, right?  My goals and plans were adjusted based on what we were facing, and I am happy to have again had the opportunity to be a member of this team and to spend the day with so many fantastic people.  The upside is that my legs recovered faster than normal since I wasn't running as hard, and it ended up being a beautiful week here so I got to enjoy spending time relaxing and recovering with my family.  We accomplished what we intended on April 16...after all, we are out there to run the race against cancer.

So far, this team has raised over $3.5 million on the way to our goal of $4.8 million.  With all of your help, I've raised over $28,000 and still going.  Knowing what these funds can do keeps us all pounding the pavement year after year, closer to a cure.  Thank you for your support and generosity for without it, I couldn't continue to run for this team.

If you would still like to contribute, it isn't too late.  Visit www.runDFMC.org/2012/jennies to make a gift!

Be good.  Be strong.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

A hot one

Looks like it is going to be a hot one.  A "warm weather advisory" has been issued for the Boston Marathon tomorrow as temperatures are expected to rise into the mid-80s by early afternoon.  With a start time of 10:40, I can be guaranteed that I will be on the course during those early afternoon high temperatures!  The daily high temperature in the Boston area is usually about 50-55 degrees at this time of year, so a 30 degree increase is a pretty big change.  We've been training through the winter and early spring, and although it's been a very mild year, there has not been the time to become acclimated to the heat.  But hey, this is life.  Sometimes it hands you a tough day, and that is what the weather is looking like for marathon running tomorrow.  You adapt and move on.

My running plan for the day has been adjusted.  I am dialing back my intended pace, taking it easy, taking in some increased sodium, looking for shade, and soaking in the amazing crowds of Boston.  The bigger plan...the reason I run...has not been changed.  It's why I started in December and it's why I'll be at the start line tomorrow.  And using some patience and I hope some smart running, it's why I'll finish in Boston tomorrow afternoon.  I'll be out there in honor of Molly, Mary, John, and many, many, many others to raise funds for research and raise awareness.  In addition to those who have been diagnosed with cancer, I run for all of their families, too, with special devotion to my nephews and niece, who we are not able to talk to or visit with.  The list of those for whom we run grows each year, and drive me step after step towards the finish.

My amazing crew of support will be out there again...my husband and kids, my parents and sister, and some friends along the way.  I am grateful for all they have done to help me get to the start again this year.  It's not only that I have had the time to train and to spend more time actively engaged with the Dana-Farber team.  I've learned through the example of my parents of the importance of standing up for what you believe, and facing each day with the right attitude no matter what it the day brings.  My husband and children show me hope, and remind me each day of the need to try to find happy.  My sister embodies the bond that always existed among the five kids in our family...that our siblings are our first friends, our best friends, and we would do anything for each other.  My family and friends from many different communities we've been a part of over the years have shown that we just need to be kind to each other.  I see true examples of what friends should be, and I learn every day from their kindness.  I have said it and mean it...this is a team effort through and through.

Thank you, thank you for all of the support this year again.  The gift total now stands at $25,927.60 which is just amazing and generous.  Almost $1000 per mile of a marathon!  These contributions will allow the scientists at Dana-Farber to continue their successful and cutting-edge research, and that is something we can all be proud of.

Here's the continuation of what I mentioned in the last post about sharing the story with other outlets.  The Boston Globe is running an article and did a video piece to accompany.  It was put together by Lauren Frohne, a Boston.com videographer.  I really am humbled and honored (and a bit self-conscious and nervous) to have had this done but I do think she captured why I decided to run back in 2008, why I continue, and what it means to me. 

Be Good. Be Strong.



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Beautiful tribute

As part of the DFMC team, we have the opportunity to meet many people with just indomitable spirit and inspiring gifts.  This video was done by one of my teammates, Ed Feather, who lost his wife last year to cancer after five years of treatment.  I wrote about his two sons back in November because they shared with the team the "drum show" they had in the driveway to raise funds, and provide the kick-off for their dad's run this year. 


I love what he shares about the difference between her spirit and her body...physically her body just couldn't take any more of the treatments and just was done.  But, her spirit was always there and she never gave up.  It such a raw, honest and insightful picture into his feelings.

Cancer can do many things to families....it can bring them closer and make them stronger; it can force them to re-examine relationships and priorities; it can also show the cracks that may exist, causing them to get larger and relationships crumble.  What a gift he is giving his sons in spite of the hardships they have experienced.  He's setting such a strong example for his kids to continue to carry on.  He's helping them to remember their mother every day with such genuine respect and awe and love.  And to not give up.

I've been lucky enough over the past week to have shared my family's story with a few different groups.  It's lucky in the way that it's allowing us the opportunity to increase awareness and better the lives of patients and their families through the research funded by the DFMC.  Slightly unlucky in that the past week has been kind of a whirlwind of writing and talking and is pushing me a little outside of what is inherently comfortable for me!  Yes, I write this blog which puts a lot of stuff out into the vast spaces of the internet, but it's kind of an anonymously quiet little place where I have had the means to share my journey and my feelings with what is mostly an audience of friends and family.   The reach is now going to be a little broader and hopefully that will continue so we can continue to build on these efforts.  It's been a chance for me to really think about why I run, and the meaning of this team in my life, and what my hopes are for the future.  And what I want people to take from this story.

Some college friends of mine write for and manage a blog called StyleBlueprint, which started in Nashville and is now in a few different cities in the south.  They asked me to write a piece about "Why I Run" and it ran today.  Most of you who know me and saw "style" in that sentence are probably quite happy it wasn't a post about fashion in any sense of the word!  But as my friend, Liza, said it would be a post about style "as in reaching into your soul and finding your best self to hold your head high."  Which I think is what I want people to take from this.  We all need to find our best selves.  We have a choice to pick up and carry on from a bad meeting, from crying kids, for a broken relationship, to a devastating loss.  Do not get me wrong....I have days filled with complete sadness or overwhelming stress or frustrations.  But I try to not let it be my every day.  My husband and I say to each other when the days or weeks are not looking so rosy to "CHOOSE HAPPY."  Some days it's a little bit harder to find, but it is there.  Do what you can to find your happy!

Here's the post:  StyleBlueprint

Be good. Be strong.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Seeing the Why

Last Saturday, I went into Boston and met up with about 100 other Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge runners for our last "long" training run of the season.  We were to run out 11 miles on the course, and turn around and run back.  Boston College to Natick and back.  Simple concept, and not so hard to execute as long as you just keep moving!  I had a good run, falling in with 4 other teammates of similar pace.  We took turns leading the way, and got through the 22 miles mostly unscathed, with some good conversation and get to know you talk.  It was a perfect weather day for a long run...overcast and 50.  The atmosphere on the course was electric with hundreds of other runners out testing themselves on the actual Boston Marathon course 3 weeks before the BIG day.  All is all a success, and in terms of running, I got out of it what I needed. A good, long run to conclude the peak week of training.

I got a little more out of it in terms of inspiration.  At each group run put on by Dana-Farber, volunteers set up water stops every 2-3 miles.  These wonderfully kind people stand outside for hours, early on weekend mornings, sometimes in sub-freezing temperatures and gusty winds.  Many are former patients, families, runners, or Dana-Farber supporters.  We run from January until April together, so generally speaking, the weather is not ideal for standing still outside.  But they do it, each and every week, and it makes our lives easier.  They have water, Gatorade, pretzels, gummy bears, and my personal favorite...peanut M&M's.  And they always have a smile on their faces and encouraging words for every single runner that stops in for some fuel.

This week, we had a family come out to man one of the stops for us, and since it was an out and back course, we hit each water stop twice.  Matty's family...his parents, brothers and friends...were out there with balloons, "Don't Stop Believin" playing loudly, big cheers and applause for our team.  They were out there in honor of Matty, whose "Angelversary" was the next day, March 25.  5 years since his family had lost Matty to cancer.  They also had a big picture of Matty. I saw his smiling face on that picture during our first stop, but on our way back, I stopped to look a little closer and there was the year 1999 marking his birthday.  The year he was born is also the year our oldest daughter was born.  But next to his birthday was his "Angelversary" and standing there making that connection really got me.  He should be 12 years old, but his picture was that of a sweet-faced 7-year old and it always would be.  I had to step away, take a deep breath and collect myself and get moving.  This lovely, kind family was out there to celebrate Matty's life.  They had such a positive, enthusiastic attitude, and how do you not find inspiration from this family out there honoring him in such a positive way, and reaffirming their commitment to bringing an end to cancer.  How do you say thank-you for that?  You can't.  You just don't stop, and keep running.

Saturday was also my sister Molly's birthday.  It would have been her 41st, and there would have likely been "getting old" talk, with some jokes and digs in there, cake and paper crowns.  She did birthdays right.  But like Matty, Molly's pictures will not show her age beyond 36.  No gray hair or wrinkles, always the twinkle in her eye.  I got a little lift from her on Saturday, maybe I do every day, but she was certainly along for the duration.

And with continued inspiration and a final really long run, the beginning of the end of training is here.  About two to three weeks before a marathon, the process of tapering begins.  For many (if not all) runners who have been training for months for an upcoming marathon, TAPER time is a welcome occasion.  For the Boston Marathon, Saturday marked the last "long run" and the beginning of our taper leading up to April 16.

"Long run" is a relative term.  When beginning training 15 weeks ago, it meant 8-10 miles.  Saturday, it meant 22 miles which is a BIG difference, but also totally doable given the gradual increase over time.  The schedule for the coming week week, when our miles are decreasing, calls for only 12-15 miles.  At what point 12-14 miles becomes a "short" run, I am not sure but it sounds awfully nice after 22.  Mentally and physically, the next three weeks allow for some healing and resting before the marathon. 


Although the TAPER period for running has begun, my efforts for raising funds are still moving in the opposite direction.  I am still in the process of trying to increase the gifts we gather for the researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  It is not too late.  There is no gift too small (or too large, for that matter!).  EVERY cent matters and every cent helps.  I set a goal of $20,000 for this year, with a hope that it would be the minimum amount raised.  I'd certainly be grateful for your help in reaching that milestone.  We are almost there!

There are two parts to this Marathon training story....the "Running" and the "Why."  The Why gives Running some additional meaning and purpose beyond what I reap from just regular runs around town.  These two pieces of my life have really become truly intertwined over the past 4 years when I started running the Boston Marathon for Dana-Farber.  I believe in both of these things.  The people I've met, the stories I've heard, the roads I've run, the research that has been funded....it's made a difference, to me and I hope to others who may reap the benefits.

Be good.  Be strong.

To make a gift, please visit www.runDFMC.org/2012/jennies

Friday, March 23, 2012

Unless

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better, It's not.
~Dr. Seuss

I took my kids to see "The Lorax" last week, and admittedly, I have not read the book.  We've read a whole lot of Dr. Seuss but not that one.  When the above line was spoken in the movie, I began repeating it to myself so I would remember to look it up when I got home.  Lucky for me (and my memory) the quote was posted at the end of the movie so I had another opportunity to tuck it away in my brain.  Those words written back in 1971 by Dr. Seuss about environmental issues speak volumes to me, and I think it is still a relevant concept in so many ways.

The Chief Scientific Officer of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. Barrett Rollins, stopped by the DFMC runners meeting last night to talk briefly with us about the Marathon Challenge team and the Barr Program (the beneficiary of the funds raised by all of the runners).  In addition to being the CSO of Dana-Farber (one of the top cancer centers in the United States), Dr. Rollins is a 12-year member of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team, raising funds and running along side us because he truly believes in the importance of what we are doing.  He talked to us last night about some of the research the Barr Program has funded, and drew direct links between that research and new treatments out there right now that are bettering the lives of many people diagnosed with cancer.  There is a direct connection between the funds these researchers receive from what we are doing and effective new treatments.   It's as simple as that.  It's hard to see in the early stages of research studies (and hard for this non-scientific mind to understand all the scientists are doing), but to be able to visualize how these ideas develop and eventually become new, effective treatments is confirmation that the DFMC makes a difference.


So, why does his timely visit to talk to the team really matter to me today?  And why does it matter to Mr. Lorax?  Because he helped to remind me that caring about this cause and running this marathon is helping things get better.  There are certainly many days when I am more than frustrated about cancer, and what sometimes seem like the lack of advancements or changes.  People we know are still losing their lives or are not given great options for treatment.  Some days, there doesn't appear to be hope.  And my frustrations and anger at how deeply this disease can affect families raises questions about whether we can make a difference.  But we are.  We are, we are, we are.  Hearing what Dr. Rollins had to say about the importance of what this team is doing verified that.  It's a long road, and honestly, I don't know that the finish is yet in sight but progress is being made every day.

Each of us have things we care about it....politics, education, childcare, trees, religion, food, exercise, friends, health, coffee....whatever it is.  I know for me, sometimes it is just easier to accept things as they are then step in and try to help out, to make it better.  But unless we care enough, "a whole awful lot," to DO SOMETHING, it isn't going to get better.  It can be a simple act or it can be gigantic.  It can be whatever you have within you to do.  When we can, using our abilities and within our limitations, we need to DO...not just talk about it, complain about it, criticize it, praise it, laugh at it, whatever.  DO IT!  We have the ability to make changes.  We do.

Tomorrow is the last long run of this training season before the marathon.  22 miles.  I am looking forward to getting out on the course with my teammates, people I am so inspired by and proud to run with and to call friends.  I am just $2000 shy of my goal of $20,000 this year and am once again overwhelmed and grateful for the support.  It is making a difference.  There is no doubt about that.  Thank you for caring a whole awful lot.

Be good. Be strong.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It is what it is

I am lucky enough to wake up this morning looking at a snow covered Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.  It's a beautiful, bright blue sky, clear morning and if I could figure out how to upload a mobile picture onto here, I would share it!  It's calming and peaceful and awe inspiring, and it feels like the right place to be on my brother's birthday.  He loved the mountains and being outside.  He loved to use his camera to capture scenes like this, photos that made you feel like you were there, too.

He was born 35 years ago, and I vividly remember the day my parents brought him home from the hospital.  He did not stand a chance from that day on being the youngest of five and the only boy.  We certainly did not make things easy for him, but I'd like to think we gave him enough love and attention from an early age that he still felt it when he packed up and moved thousands of miles away from us for a much needed respite!

When John needed to get additional treatment following his second surgery, he came to live with us in Massachusetts.  While there is no gratitude for his cancer diagnosis, I will be forever thankful to have had the years that I did to spend with him.  He lived with us for a while, and then on his own, and then came back to live with us with his treatment plan called for more.  Knowing him as an adult (although he was always the baby) was a irreplaceable gift.  We talked all things Red Sox and suffered through the Aaron Boone HR before celebrating the World Series in 2004.  We went grocery shopping and took the kids to play miniature golf.  We celebrated holidays and birthdays, making ugly cakes with sprinkles to hid the flaws.  We sat together through his chemo and radiation treatments and managed doctors appointments, those with good and bad news.  There were a lot of ups and downs, but I appreciate all of the moments.

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.

It's been an emotional week for me.  I love and hate days like today, when remembering is bittersweet.  I really felt the sting of Jeff's death, knowing how difficult this week has been and what the coming days hold for his family and friends that knew him best. It's just so difficult to grasp.  I had one of the best runs of my life on Sunday, yet have felt really off since then...more than just fatigue from a long run.  I have felt an overwhelming sense of pride about my high school community who I believe really comes together in support at difficult times.  Which leads me to a feeling of sadness being so far away and disconnected from the very thing that has brings such pride.  A lot of ups and downs...it is what it is.  Nothing else.

I am going to go out and do some cross-country skiing, a much safer alternative than downhill for a newbie skier like me who is trying not to blow out a knee five weeks before the marathon.  I am going to embrace breathing in the clean, cold mountain air...thankful for the opportunity, reflective of this day and this week, and grateful for the good people in my life.


Happy birthday, John.
Be good.  Be strong.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In sympathy

I learned this morning about the death of a high school classmate.  Jeff lost his life to brain cancer just as my sister and brother did.  I fell in between he and his brother in school, yet high school was small enough that you spent time with and developed friendships with many kids outside of your own grade.  We supported each others sports teams throughout the years, and shared classes.  I have not seen Jeff since I graduated from high school yet was profoundly touched by the strength and fight and compassion of he and his family as I followed the news of his health, and found myself really overwhelmed with sadness this morning reading the news.  My heart breaks for his parents, his brother, his wife, his daughter, and his friends.  There is no sense to be made of such a devastating loss.   I also find myself angry that yet another family finds themselves saying goodbye to a person who should not have left this life right now, knowing the pain and the long road they've traveled together all the while hoping for a different outcome.  As much as you try, you are never prepared to face this.

I will say prayers, and send love and hope for strength and healing for all of the people who are so profoundly feeling the loss of such a young life.  I am inspired by his courage and kindness, and as I run, I will dedicate miles to Jeff and the Millers, because that is what I know to do when I just don't understand the ways of the world.  It will be with a heavy heart.

There's very little that can be said.  I am sorry is just not enough.   I hope that knowing so many people are surrounding them all with love provides a small bit of comfort as they navigate through some really difficult days. Be kind and love each other without condition because sometimes when rendered helpless, that is all we can do.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Running your own race

That lone figure in the back of this picture is Desiree Davila, who eventually placed 2nd in the 2011 Boston Marathon.  Once the lead pack took off, she was pretty much written off as a contender.  I don't think she was even much of a  thought to be on the podium at all, but the fact that she didn't push to keep up early in the race had the analysts dropping her from coverage.  But not for long.

Desiree kept running, all the while sticking to the plan she and her coaches had developed.  HER plan.  She plugged along at the pace that was best suited to her mile after mile, not getting caught up in the excitement of the race or feeling the need to push ahead to keep up with the lead women.  Eventually,  she caught that pack.

And then she passed all but 2 women.  She ran with both of them for a while, and then one woman fell back.  All the while, Desiree Davila stuck to her plan and kept plugging along through 25+ miles.  With about a half a mile to go, she gave what she had left and it was almost enough.  She placed second, with only two seconds between her and the winner.

It was a great race to watch play out over 26 miles ( I record the TV coverage of the marathon and watch it when I get home).  I've read a couple of articles about Desiree's race that day, and she was spot on her plan for the day.  She knew her strengths, she knew what she had trained for, she knew what worked best for her, and she stuck with it.  She didn't get down on herself and just kept going.  And it worked.

I love that race story, and as I've written many times before, running often mimics life.  Know what works best for you.  Don't worry about keeping up.  Run your own race and write your own story.  Just don't give up.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Breaking records

Last winter

Not land speed records by any means, but weather records!  Last year at this time, we were under multiple feet of snow.  And we had been for weeks and weeks.  It seemed like every other day we got another storm and it didn't seem possible that the giant mounds of plowed snow would melt before summer.  I know we have many days of winter left, but the "winter" days we've had so far are few and far between in Massachusetts. We are currently standing at the record for least amount of snow in a season, although I think another 1/2 an inch or so will end that.  While it hasn't been a great winter for skiers or outside skating rinks, maybe it's just time for a "nice" winter for those of us who don't fully embrace the cold.  It's definitely been a very kind weather winter in my books so far and I love every day the thermostat jumps out of the 30s.
Same spot this winter

With all of this spring weather, I've been able to get outside for almost all of my runs, including most Tuesdays at the local track. I didn't get on the outdoor track last winter AT ALL.  It was covered with snow from December until March so any speed work was done on the treadmill.  Which means not a lot of speed work was done.  It's been exhilarating and kind of fun to be outside pushing the speed once a week, and despite the work, I have been loving every second of it.  I've been able to spend more time on the local rail-trail which was also out of the question last year when it was buried under the 80 inches of snow we had had by this date last year.  Not that I obsess about the weather, though!

The other thing that has been "record setting" for me has been attendance at the DFMC group runs.  During the training seasons prior to this one, I had trouble getting to a lot of the weekend runs due to kids activities and scheduling conflicts on the weekends.  Last year, I needed the hours alone for the long runs to think and grieve and exhaust myself.  But this year, the timing is easier with our schedules so I've been heading to towns in and around Boston to get the miles done but more importantly, to appreciate more fully the bigger experience of the DF marathon challenge....my teammates.

Sun shining on the track this month...no snow!

Truth be told, the group runs were intimidating to me (and honestly, kind of still are).  Walking into a group setting where I didn't know anyone and trying to meet people is out of my comfort zone.  It was easier to walk out my front door and just run.  I really wanted to try to be more involved and get to know more of the other runners this year, so I've been trying to attend as many of the team runs on the weekends as I can.  So far, I've been to 4 which is about how many I got to in total over the past 3  years.  And it has been great. And what I need.  It pushes me outside my little protected comfortable space, and as such, I've met some really great people. Depending on pace and time spent at water stops, I've had the opportunity get to know a variety of different people each week and have really enjoyed each of them. 

Having company while you are out doing 14, 16, 18 miles doesn't hurt, either, and not much else to do out there but chat!  Even this past weekend, although I ended up kind of in no man's land without any other runners around for most of the run, I still had the opportunity to talk a little with some of the amazing volunteers who man the water stops out on the course.  I am really grateful for the kind people I've met so far, and look forward to getting to know more team mates as we get closer to Marathon Monday. 

Training so far has been on track.  I really can't complain, so I won't!  I am knocking on wood right now that things continue this way until the marathon...no injuries, no mental breaks, no major weather fiascoes.  I have 3 more "long" runs (anything under 14 miles now qualifies as a shorter run!) left with a couple of "rest" weeks and then the taper period before the big day. 

14.5 miles down, 11.6 to go!
We are just under 8 weeks from the Boston Marathon.  So far, the fundraising total stands at $11,088.  This is a little bit more than halfway to my goal of $20,000 for this year, and I thank you so very much for the support again this year.  Reaching out and asking for your support is not completely within my comfort zone either, but I am less shy about it now tbecause the goal of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge extends beyond this running season and this event.  "A World Without Cancer" is not just my goal for this year or this marathon, but for life.  The generosity shown to this cause in honor of my siblings has been phenomenal, but now is not the time to stop.  We need to continue the efforts at full speed building on momentum until we meet this goal.  If your means allow, please consider a gift to Dana-Farber and the Marathon Challenge team.  We all benefit from the innovative and cutting edge research.  Every single one of us because cancer doesn't discriminate

To contribute online, please visit my personal page at www.runDFMC.org/2012/jennies and follow the link.

Always with gratitude for your kindness and generosity.

Be good. Be strong.

Training Update (it's been a while) for those of you who are interested:
1/19: 4 miles
1/20: Stationary bike
1/22:  10 miles
1/23:  Yoga
1/24:  Speed work at the track (3 x 1600m)
1/25:  Stationary bike
1/26:  7 miles
1/28:  15 miles
1/29:  5.7 miles
1/30:  Yoga
1/31:  6.3 miles with hill repeats
2/1:  Stationary bike
2/2:  4 miles
2/3:  Stationary bike
2/4:  17.1 miles
2/5:  5 miles
2/7:  Speed work (6 x 800m)
2/8:  4 miles
2/9:  8.4 miles
2/11:  11.6 miles
2/12:  Stationary bike
2/13:  4 miles
2/14:  Speed work (12x400m)
2/15:  Stationary bike
2/16:  8.4 miles
2/17:  Stationary bike
2/19:  18.8 miles
2/20:  3 miles

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Go All In


"Life is a crap shoot.  Unpredictable.  And there is no telling....no rhyme or reason.  So it becomes a matter of what we all make of our lives.  The relationships we forge, the love we share, and the promises we keep."
~Mary Frances Firth (Nov. 10, 1975-Feb. 7, 2011)
 
One of the lessons Mary felt she learned throughout living with cancer was the incredible importance of family and friends.  A truer friend could not be found, and those bonds were only enhanced throughout the many ups and downs she experienced beginning with her diagnosis.  In response to the words of Lance Armstrong "So if there is a purpose to the suffering that is cancer, I think it must be this:  it's meant to improve us"  Mary wrote that what she thought was to be improved was the relationships she had with her family and friends.  That was her silver lining, as it has been for all of us, even when finding anything shiny seems impossible.  Mary fully recognized that life was about loving each other as best as you can...no conditions, no lies, no wavering.  To her, you went all in.  And the reward of that wager was knowing the genuine love of so many people. 

We shouldn't need a reminder, especially one that comes from the loss of a young, vibrant, beautiful girl like Mary, but quite honestly, we do.  It's easy to lose sight and put focus on other things, to forget the people that shouldn't be forgotten, to get wrapped up in ourselves and our lives.  Our relationships...with our family and our friends...are what truly matter.  Every single day.  We need to remember what is important, and to get out of our own way and to recognize the people in our lives that matter.  It's work to maintain, but that doesn't mean it's hard....it's friendship!

That's what I've thought about all day today, and have been witness to in many ways today. True friendship and genuine hearts.  Our family, today and every day, is surrounded in friendships that have stood through hardship and weathered the storms.  Certainly not all come out intact when all is said and done, but it allows for some clarity to see who is most meaningful in your life, and to foster and build those relationships.

One of the gifts I feel most fortunate to have received is the friendships that I now have that began with Mary, Molly, or John.  Many of their friends are now my friends, and having these wonderful and kind people in my life is such a welcome treat.  Our mutual care for another brought us closer, and I thank you to you all for staying in our lives.   Your messages, your cards, your notes, and for remembering birthdays and days like today bring comfort and peace. 

I am lucky beyond words to have strong friendships with my husband, my parents and my sister, my unwavering cousins, aunts, and uncles, and my extended in-law family. "Family" and "friends" are not always synonymous so I am grateful every day for the rewards I reap from each and every one of you.  We've held each other up, and will continue to do so...dancing and laughing with each other through it all.

I am so grateful for my friends, to all of you who have picked up and carried the heaviest part of the friendship the past few years when I couldn't do it.  Daffodils, balloons, coffee, text messages, hugs, emails, meals, walks, and the many, many, many other ways you have lifted my spirits....I am lucky to know such kindness in my life.

So, let today serve as a reminder.  Build relationships.  Share love.  Keep promises.  Go all in. 

Full moon dancing tonight.

Be good.  Be strong.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Why Dana-Farber?

In the fall of 2008, I was reeling from the death of my sister, Molly, six months earlier, and my brother, John, had recently moved back to town to again begin treatment for the recurrence of a brain tumor for the third time.  I was in search of a way to help.  And I found the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge.

For those of you who don't live in the Boston area, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute may not be familiar to you.  I think it is important to understand as much as you can about this institute and to realize how their work might just affect you or your family, if it hasn't already. 

For those of you in New England, that name is as commonplace as the Boston Red Sox, Dunkin Donuts or Lobster rolls.  Dana-Farber is consistently rated as one of the top 5 cancer centers in the country and the top center in New England.  It is world renown for the exceptional care given, the cutting-edge research conducted, and the excellence of the staff.  

So, why the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge?

For one, every single cent of money raised goes directly to research.  100%.  For cancer research.  Unfortunately, not all donations to non-profits go where you think, and it was important to me that I know that ALL of the contributions in honor of the marathon challenge were going to fund innovative, cutting edge cancer research.  Not to fund lawsuits over using the name "for a cure" or to pay enormous salaries.  Or for first class travel.  Or copying expenses.  100% directly to scientists and doctors to continue their research.

Secondly, I was trying to find an organization whose work would span across different hospitals, states, countries, genders, and ages.  I wanted to make sure the organization could profoundly affect my friends and family who lived outside of the greater Boston area.  And I found that in Dana-Farber.  Their work has impacted treatments for many, many different types of cancers.  And has altered outcomes for pediatric patients and adult patients alike.  And the work they have done has been shared throughout the world to advance the research in places around the world.

Over the course of ten years, Molly, Mary and John were treated at Johns Hopkins, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Duke University, the National Institutes of Health, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute in Seattle, Vanderbilt University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and a variety of smaller community hospitals in multiple states.  While no one in my family was directly treated at Dana-Farber, but I feel sure that their treatment was affected by work done at this hospital.  John's treatment at Mass General was because MGH is an outstanding partner within the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.  And I know Mary's was, too, because the doctor that was in charge of the treatment protocol at NIH was a Dana-Farber fellow and expanded on his research over the past years.  The impact is not local...and is for everyone.

And thirdly, the Boston Marathon is my hometown marathon.  By applying for a spot on this team, I would be allowed the opportunity to participate in an event that was close to home while helping to give back to an institution that has helped so very many people, near and far.  I would be able to run with a team whose mission was the same as mine.  To continuously find inspiration, support, and kindness from the other runners out pounding the pavement to reach the same end.  To run for those we love.  In Boston, in Massachusetts, in the United States, and beyond.

So, that's why.  And it is why I am proud to be a team member for the fourth consecutive year.  An amazing institute.  ONE HUNDRED percent of contributions go to research.  World reaching results.  All types of cancer.  People of all ages.  It's name, Dana-Farber, is synonymous with excellence.  And that's why your help makes a difference...here in Boston, in Tennessee, in Maryland, in Montana, in Missouri, in Sweden, in Australia.  Wherever you are.

We're running as fast as we can in the right direction.  Please consider a contribution to this valuable and important cause if you can.

www.runDFMC.org/2012/jennies

Be good.  Be strong.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Live in the NOW

We got a lot of mileage out of the "live in the now" quote from Wayne's World way back when in college.  Probably not as much as the gun rack bit*, but a lot of mileage.  As ridiculous as it was in the movie, and increasingly ridiculous given how many times it was  repeated after seeing the movie (again...way too many times), it's an idea/a mantra/a theory/a belief that seems to keep showing up in my life.

There's been a lot in the news lately about mindfulness...about focusing on what is happening right now instead of concentrating on things other than what we are doing in this moment.  And the research shows, that we are happier and more content if we spend our time focused on NOW instead of letting our thoughts wander.  Even if what you are doing right now is watching soap suds spin down the drown.  It doesn't even seem to matter if the wandering mind goes to positive or negative experiences....the now wins out.  It's "Live in the NOW" backed by science!  I've been thinking about this a lot lately as I train for the marathon, and really just try to navigate life.

Last weekend I ended up doing a long run of about 10 miles on the treadmill.  I was dreading it, but we had some snow on Saturday and then freezing temperatures over night, so the roads were not in great shape and I was not psyched about the ice.  An hour and a half is a long time to spend on the treadmill, but I covered up the "dashboard" so I couldn't see how long I had been going, jumped on, and made a conscious choice to just run it out.  No bad attitude.  No dread.  No thinking about how many minutes I had been on there or how many I had left.  I just needed to hop on, push start and get it done, focusing on how I felt right then.  And it wasn't bad.  I'd venture to say it was pretty good.  I am realizing the same attitude affects a lot of my runs.  Before I leave I start thinking about how many miles I need to get in and how long it will take, but if I just take the first step and concentrate on RIGHT NOW, the response is usually that I feel okay and I enjoy it.

I am working on this in the day to day living, too.  I get in my own way of accomplishing things because I get too wrapped up in tomorrow or yesterday or 3 years ago, and then I don't get anywhere.  Not even started, much less close to finished.  I can get overwhelmed thinking about how today there are things that aren't as they are supposed to be or even close to what I expected life to be like.  I can spend a stupid amount of time pondering what I should be doing or would like to do or what would be fun or cool to be doing or how I want next month to be like or if I should just take a nap, all the while not thinking about right now.  More likely, just avoiding right now.  Despite all those expectations or beliefs or hopes of what "should" be, today is just today...not yesterday or tomorrow.  

There are so many things that have happened in life and many more that will happen that aren't changeable:  good, sad, joyful, defeating, angering, peaceful, shocking, boring.  Every day brings a host of new experiences and encounters from cancer invading our family to making bold moves to going for a run to cleaning the bathroom to connecting with a friend.  There's a way to not forget the past but to feel it and accept it as it is, nor to cease living with hopes or dreams for the future.  Just to accept where we are in this moment, on this day, what brought us here, whether good or bad.  I've got a long way to go to understand and to put this into practice, but I am trying to see clearly, to feel fully, to accept, and to use all of these things to live the life I'd like in the way that I'd like.  No what if this didn't happen or what if something else does...only just do.  Today.

Live in the NOW, Wayne.  And be good and strong while doing it.


*Wayne: A gun rack... a gun rack. Shyeah, Right! I don't even own A gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack. What am I gonna do... with a gun rack? 
Stacy: You don't like it? Fine. You know Wayne, if you're not careful, you're going to lose me. 
Wayne: I lost you two months ago. We broke up. Are you mental? Get the net!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Forward progress

As we get into the thick of the marathon season, there are a few new things I am trying to do to connect the "running" and the "why" parts of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge.  There are hundreds of marathons run each year in this country, but I find the Boston Marathon to be a unique and uplifting experience because it involves being a part of the Dana-Farber team.  I started this blog for a few reasons, but a big reason was that I wanted this experience to become important and meaningful for all of you because the depth and breadth by which cancer has affected all of us is bigger than many of us realize. 

I have in past years asked you all to share the names of your friends and family members with cancer.  I'd like to go a little beyond just names this year, and share on the blog and on the facebook page more....a picture and some information.  I think it's important to understand how very real this is to many, many people.  I hope maybe it will provide some support, some community, some clarity, some strength.  If you are comfortable and willing, please email me at begoodbestrong@gmail.com and let me know who you would like to recognize....share a picture, a story, how it has affected you.  In addition to sharing those stories, I'll will again be starting an In Memory/In Honor/In Support section on both pages, and will wear all of the names on my race day shirt.

I was also hoping to get a few guest bloggers to write some entries on here....what's your connection, why is the Barr Program and Dana-Farber important to you, what does "be good, be strong" mean, etc.  What's your perspective as a friend, family member, random reader, teammate?  Would love to be able to offer a broader view.  Think about it and let me know (begoodbestrong@gmail.com)!

Fundraising progress
Another thing I am doing is posting a map using the Boston Marathon course to show how the fundraising is going.  For every $763 raised, we'll move along the marathon course one mile with plans to reach 26.2 miles and $20,000 by April 16, 2012.  Currently, 46 people have made gifts to total $6,675.  Thanks so very much to those who have supported the DFMC so far this season.  This is truly an effort of many, many people coming together to reach a goal....taking part in whatever way we each can.  We're off to an amazing start and are at the 8.75 mile point on the course, and I am excited and anxious to keep moving forward down the road one mile at a time.

I've been using the Daily Mile website (www.dailymile.com) to track my training this year.  The bigger, better part of just having a place to write down your workout is that there is a community of teammates and friends who  provides support and motivation and where you can share your training, ask questions, commiserate, etc.  I'd encourage any of you who are runners, exercisers, athletes, or just starting out on a fitness path to sign up.  It tracks running, swimming, biking, yoga, cross-training...many options to fit your plans.  Please "friend" me since it is a social network of sorts in addition to a great place to monitor your activity.  It also adds some level of accountability, which I personally really need, and is proven to be helpful for anyone trying to keep up with or maintain any sort of fitness program or training plan...accountability AND support.  Since I am formally tracking my miles, I am also setting a goal to try to run 1200 miles in 2012.  There is is.  Written down.  Yikes.  So, sign up and find me on Daily Mile! 

Training update:

12/30:  4 miles
12/31:  8.4 miles

1/3:  4.4 miles (4x800 meter repeats)
1/4:  Stationary bike, 40 minutes
1/5:  8.4 miles, easy pace
1/6:  Stationary bike, 40 minutes
1/7:  3.6 miles
1/8:  13.4 miles, long run with DFMC team

1/9:  Yoga, 45 minutes
1/10:  4.75 miles (1200, 1000, 800, 600, 400 meters speed work)
1/11:  Stationary bike and strength training
1/12:  3 miles, treadmill
1/13:  14.1 miles, long run

1/17:  4 miles, treadmill
1/18:  6 miles treadmill

Be good. Be Strong.




Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Miles to go


Sometimes I start rolling along and things seem to be pretty constant without too many pace changes.  Certainly not following a straight and flat road, but riding along at a steady speed.  We made it through the holidays with some emotional ups and downs, but mostly happy and unscathed.  Kids are back to school.  Marathon training is moving forward as it should.  I am taking some steps to do some things I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’m thrilled with the support that has been shown to DFMC so far.  It hasn’t snowed more than a dusting.  Nothing too crazy, either good or bad. Just life.

And then I get knocked down.  Yesterday, my attention was once again primarily focused on the importance of this marathon endeavor.  A friend that lives in town sent me a message asking me to recognize her husband this year as he was getting ready to start his second round of chemotherapy after having been in remission for 3 months.  What?!?  I didn’t even know he had been diagnosed and was so surprised to read her message.  It guess it was so unexpected because this town we live in feels like it can close in around you quickly with how small it feels and the speed at which “news” travels, yet I can go months or years without seeing someone that lives within the few square miles we call home.  We met when our kids were pretty much babies.  Once they got to school age and were in different schools, our paths didn't cross as often although we would catch up on the soccer field or in line for ice cream in the summer.  Clearly, it had been too long.  I wanted to know that they were okay, and if they needed anything, and if there was anything that could be done to help them out. How was he doing?  How were the kids?  How was she?  I have learned the importance of a community giving a helping hand, and I hope that many hands had lent if that was what they needed or wanted.  And I totally understand if it was what they didn't want, too, because sometimes moving forward at your own pace, with your own rules, is what you need.  Either way, I have been thinking about their family all day, and hoping that he gets through this next round in good health and good spirits.  And that the rest of the family does the same.

We also heard yesterday about a woman (although I am more inclined to call her a girl, as I do most people my age) who went to college with my husband and me.  She also grew up in my husband’s hometown and they knew each other in high school and share many friends.  After a year of battling breast cancer, she passed away yesterday at her home.  She, too, has 2 young children and the reality of this all is that just isn’t fair.  She was a girl.  Still a young adult and too young for this.  I did not know her well, but do know all too well what the next few days and weeks and years hold for her family and friends.  It makes me sad. It’s devastating.  And it isn’t fair.

So I am running.  And running and running.  Running away from the stress and sadness.  Running towards health and healing and relief.  Towards a cure.

If you are able, please consider a donation.   Every dollar helps.  Every cent goes to fund research at one of the top cancer centers in this country.  If the time is not right for a monetary gift, please consider giving of your time by volunteering.  We’ve got miles to go, and we can make a difference together. 


Be good.  Be strong.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year, New DFMC Challenge



Happy New Year!  I hope this January finds you happy and well, and ready to challenge the New Year.   For me, the beginning of the year brings about the excitement and mission of training for the 2012 Boston Marathon in an effort to raise funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  I will be running again as a member of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC) team, and I would be grateful for your support of this respected and meaningful cause. 
Running the marathon for the DFMC to raise valuable funds for innovative cancer treatment is an incredibly personal and important experience.  I take these steps to honor my sisters and brother, Molly, Mary and John, who devastatingly lost their lives to cancer as young adults.  The DFMC allows me the opportunity to pay tribute to their memories, their lives, their strength, their will, and the beauty they brought to the world, while simultaneously helping to better the future of all cancer patients by raising funds for the Barr Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. And to be honest, the entire experience helps me do some healing, too.  It is unfathomable to me that my siblings are not here with us today, and their very absence is what propels to me to continue.  Molly, Mary and John believed in fighting the good fight and they never gave up on themselves and their family, nor did they stop doing their part to improve the future of cancer patients.  I will not give up on them, and am committed to doing what I can to assist in finding new treatments and eventually a cure. 
Every cent of your gift – a full 100 percent-  goes directly to funding research through the Claudia Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research at Dana-Farber, widely recognized as one of the most successful programs of its kind.  Based on a rigorous and highly selective process, the Barr Program funds the brightest scientists making basic research discoveries that are transforming cancer treatment.  These breakthroughs are resulting in improved survival rates and quality of life for thousands of patients everywhere.  Many of you have been ongoing supporters of my participation in the marathon for the past 3 years, and it is because of your unfailing generosity that I am able to once again take part.
We unfortunately, yet surely, live in a world where 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, so taking steps now to help find a cure will be beneficial to us all in the future.  Suffice it to say, there are many, many others who I also run to recognize including my aunts and grandmothers, my mother-in-law, my husband’s aunt, many friends and their loved ones.  I run for daughters, brothers, cousins, wives, and fathers.  I run for our kids and for our future.  Please let me know if there is someone you would like me to recognize and I would be privileged to honor them during the marathon.
Making an online gift is easy.  Just visit www.runDFMC.org/2012/jennies and follow the link to make a gift.  You can also send a check made out to the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge to me at home (let me know if you need the address).  Thank you in advance for your kindness and support.  I can’t imagine not taking these steps in tribute to Molly, Mary and John, and it would not be possible without your generosity.   Please know how much this means to me and my family.  With your help, we are truly making a difference.   A cancer diagnosis can change your world.  We, together, can change how cancer affects our world.  
Be good.  Be Strong.
Kindly,
Jennie Firth Sheridan