Tuesday, February 16, 2016

2016 Austin Half Marathon

This weekend was the culmination of months of effort on many different fronts. I am both full of emotions, and completely drained of energy- a satisfying combination!

The 2016 Austin Marathon and Half Marathon had me working harder than I have for any other race mentally and emotionally, because it combined my full time job as a nonprofit fundraiser with my other roles as coach, daughter, supporter, and athlete. I not only spent the past five months fundraising my butt off for work, but also coached my mom through her very first half marathon. Both endeavors ended in great success!

To tell the story, I'll have to jump around a bit, so I'll start with work first. I work for Family Eldercare, a nonprofit in Austin that serves seniors and adults with disabilities in Central Texas. We've been around since 1982 and serve over 6,000 clients annually, and yet many have never heard of us. We're essentially the biggest nonprofit around you've never seen! That's because, unfortunately, the needs of the community we serve are often completely overlooked. If you know me, you know I love puppies as much as the next person, but I have learned so much the importance of paying attention to other valuable missions out there, and my job is to make ours more well-known. To do this, I applied to be one of 25 Austin Gives Miles charities for the 2016 race and was thrilled to learn last fall that we had been accepted!

The program allowed us to start a team and recruit runners to fund raise for us. This was really hard, because again, no one knows about us! A few of our social workers joined and really did an awesome job getting donations, but we weren't taking off. That is, until the coordinator Carly announced that two amazing things were taking place in December- The Moody Foundation was going to match up to $10,000 in donations AND there would be a competition to be the charity of choice for a contest called "The Chase is On."

Well, adding competition of this level changed the game. And let me tell you, when I play, I play to win. I did a little digging and found out that offline donations made toward the campaign could count towards our total, so I reached out to a major donor my boss had been working with, and he agreed that we could count his $10,000 in un-restricted funds to the campaign. Bam! That would be hard to beat on its own, but just to be sure, I scrounged around my contacts and landed another $5,000 on top of that. We won by leaps and bounds!

This meant that not only would we get $10k in matching funds from the Moody Foundation, but also a runner, Steve Chase, would be running for us on race day. He started in the very back of all 15,000 runners and for every full marathoner he passed, he earned $2.60, thanks to Conley Sports (the owners of the race), as well as several other donors he put together all on his own.

Well, on race day, he passed an amazing 3,185 runners! That's after having been held back AND after chugging a beer at mile 20 to earn an additional $750 for another charity. We were blown away! This single event, one where all I had to do was market, design some team shirts, and a few banners, has already raised nearly $40,000! That's an amazing start to our 2016 at work!






The second half of this race's story is through my mother. My mom has never run a half marathon before. She has never considered herself a runner, an athlete, or frankly an "anything" before that I know of. She has spent 25 years in Texas away from her family in Michigan, raising two kids practically on her own when my dad was gone for work. She has helped my dad survive lung cancer, helped me survive major life changes, helped my brother survive college, helped old ladies at church to their cars when its raining, and helped pretty much everyone but herself her whole life.

Race morning ready!
When I brought up that I was doing the race for work, I suggested she sign up, and she surprised me by doing just that. I found her a simple training plan, told her to buy shoes that were comfortable without getting too caught up in marketing hype, and told her that sweat-wicking clothes were worth their weight in gold. She started by running one minute at a time, and eventually worked her way up to 9 and 10 minutes at a time without stopping. She ran 9 miles on her own, with my dad riding SAG in the truck next to her while she did laps at a local park in my hometown in East Texas.

She received lots of support, but lots of snotty comments from insecure people to. "Are you sure you can do that?" "Do you think you'll be able to?" I was so mad for her when she told me about it, but she kept her chin up, her running shoes on, and kept going! She came to Austin in December and completely smoked a 5k race, which further boosted her confidence.

Race Day ready in my Moxie jersey!
Unfortunately, she had some knee pain I couldn't "diagnose" (we runners are bad about this!) and after a doctor visit, learned she had a bruised bone and arthritis. Showing true runner colors, she lamented to me that she was afraid that four weeks out she'd lose all of her hard-earned endurance and wanted to keep running. I told her she'd be fine, just stay on the exercise bike and keep her heart ready. There was nothing else she could do.

Race day came, finally, and she and my dad joined me in Austin on Saturday. I worked the Expo both days for hours at our charity booth, then took them to dinner at Threadgill's, where we both got grilled fish. The night before the race was not the best ever, considering Embassy Suites put us in a smoking room (GROSS, how do those even still exist?!) so all too soon, it was 5:30 and time to get up!

Just like the year I ran the full marathon, it was mild and muggy outside, despite being February. We got up, got dressed, and ate a small breakfast before walking from the hotel to the starting line. We met up with our work team, and I did one of many outfit changes for the day. (I was running the race for Moxie, but also raising money for Family Eldercare, so I brought my charity shirt with me for photos before and after the race!)


Team Family Eldercare
Ready to race (before costume change!)

Because of our photo location we ended up starting towards the back, which was OK. It took about ten minutes to get to the starting line. There were about 15,000 runners, and we all started at once! I borrowed the video below from the Austin Marathon Instagram page that shows the magnitude of the starting line!



video  
Our beautiful city!



We got going and mom asked me what the plan was. I said she was in charge, I was just there for support. We ran the first three or four hilly miles at a consistent pace, with me stopping to pee (and then sprinting to catch her) at mile one. The race course undulates the whole time, up and down, up an down. It's a heck of a beginner course! We found out too late that there were no snacks on course, but THANKFULLY I knew at mile 9, we would be saved. Family Eldercare was in charge of that aid station, and I knew my co-captains had food. Those were the best cereal bars ever, as far as I'm concerned. I ran back and forth, greeting runners and volunteers I knew, grabbing necessities (um ,beer and champagne...), and saying thank-yous. Mom kept plugging along- refusing to stop or turn around, even for a second. She had victory on her mind, and she was so close she could taste it.
My only view of mom if I fell behind. She is a FAST walker!
My co-workers are great sports, even when I volun-told them to do things!

Co-captain Virginia on trash detail!

Volunteer captains running the show!

She only punched me in the arm once, when we encountered the biggest hill on course at mile 12.Other than that, she was up-beat the entire race. We conquered that hill, the last of so many, and began the final downhill decent toward the finish line. She told me when she could see it, she wanted to go for it, and sure enough, when we rounded the corner by the capitol she took off!

We crossed the finish line in 2:48- only one minute slower than my first-ever half marathon time back in 2011. I wrapped her in a big hug and she told me thank you.
Bling Bling! And another costume change! (I had about 15 minutes until Steve crossed the line. Yea, he ran an ENTIRE MARATHON in just 15 minutes more than we ran half. Wow!!)

It was nothing mom, I'm so thankful I could be there to help you through, but you did it yourself, all I did was cheer for you. You are capable of absolutely anything, and it's never too late to start believing that and doing it. If there's anything endurance sports teach us, its that nothing is impossible if you want to try. Its a matter of doing it, not without fear, but in spite of it. You did it, and I'm so proud of you!

I called her the day after the race and she said she wasn't as sore as she thought she would be. I didn't have the heart to tell her DOMS usually waits until the second day....

Race #1 done- bring it on, 2016!

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