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It was a beautiful day, as I set out to run farther than I ever had before.

 

 

Not Quite Finished
I've still got half a mile to go before I can claim to be able to run a full five miles--and I still need your pledges of support for Organs'R'Us.

 

 

 

My Beautiful Medal
A tangible reward for my inner athlete.

 

 

Tears of Relief, Tears of Joy
It finally hits me--I've done it!

10/24/02
Race Day

Finally, the day of reckoning was at hand. I had participated in the Organs ‘R’ Us Learn to Run, Save a Life program, now it was time to show my stuff on the last leg of the Providian Relay.

Arriving at the exchange point, with the team vans and other runners all around, the energy was high and contagious. The spirit, so near the finish line, was through the roof.

I performed my warm-up maneuvers carefully and thoroughly. I took a long drink of water, and I was ready. Well, ok, I wasn’t ready, but it was time to go, anyway.

Accompanied by my tireless partner Robert (taking photos and providing me with water and encouragement), I started out walking. After a few minutes, I had gathered the courage to begin running, albeit slowly.

As the “real” Relay runners passed me, I began feeling sorry for myself. Sorry that I hadn’t put more time into my training. Sorry that I still carried so much extra weight.

Along the sidewalk, I saw a young man on crutches, headed down the hill. “Well, here’s one person I’ll be able to pass.” I thought.

It wasn’t until I got quite near him, that I could see the reason for his crutches. He had only one leg.

I’d like to be able to say that sight cured me of ever feeling sorry for myself again, but I think that habit is too engrained for such a quick fix. What did happen is I felt a flood of gratefulness wash over my body. I noticed all my parts, and how marvelously they all worked together. “I don’t even know how lucky I am.” I thought.

Concentrating on what was working got me through the first part of that run. If I had been thinking about how far I had left to go at that point, I would have never made it.

Now, here I was, running along these familiar streets, my whole body working beautifully. Certainly, it didn’t hurt that the route was mostly flat or downhill, but now I saw looming ahead of me the hill on Walnut Avenue. I knew this hill. I had nearly lost my life once attempting to roller skate down this hill. I don’t like this hill.

I was going to take this hill. To my surprise and delight, it wasn’t that difficult. Halfway up, a Relay team van was parked, with team members gathered around it. As I passed by, they voiced their encouragement to me.

Topping the hill, I felt triumphant. I had promised myself I would walk, if I needed to. So far, I hadn’t needed to.

Farther along, a family was having a garage sale. A woman in a folding chair in the driveway called out “Way to Go!” as I passed. Then a VW Bug with two young women approached. Through the rolled down windows, they shouted in unison “You’re almost there!”

Even other Relay runners, as they passed me, said encouraging things: “Lookin’ Good!”

Each one of the comments gave me a boost, kept me moving. Now I was headed toward the coast, more than halfway to the finish line. That’s when Rita, coach of the Organs ‘R’ Us Team, caught up with me. She'd been running and coaching her team all weekend, so I don’t know how she still had the energy, but she came out to support me to the finish.


She matched her pace to mine so beautifully, I never felt like I was going too slow or had to push too hard to keep up. It was an incredible act of generosity. She said, “We can walk if you want to.” but I kept checking in with my body and my body kept saying, “I can run.”

I took it minute by minute, like my invaluable coach Danny had advised. He told me, “Just keep checking in. When you feel fatigue, make a small adjustment (posture, length of stride, pace, breathing, etc.) and see how that feels.” I found that treating it like an experiment, testing those small adjustments and noticing the results, kept me moving.

Then we were there, a stone’s throw from the finish line. We waited for the last member of the Organs ‘R’ Us team to arrive, and the whole team crossed the finish line together, exploding into cheers and hugs.


At the awards ceremony I was honored with a special medal, being the first person to complete the Organs ‘R’ Us training program. They asked me at that time if I wanted to say a few words, but I was too choked up and overwhelmed to attempt it. I know now what I would have said:

I want to thank so many peopleJeff Shapiro for giving me the opportunity to take on this challenge and believing I could do it; Maria for her love and enthusiasm; my Robert for his support in training with me; coach Danny Dreyer, for teaching me how to run without strain or injury; David Degan for being the first person to contribute to Organs ‘R’ Us in my name; Lisa Henson for her encouragement and advice; Rita Comes for her support all the way to the finish.

I want to thank Rob, my mom Claire, and Meg and all my other friends for their generous pledges of support and their kind words; and Cathy Olmo for all she does for Organs ‘R’ Us, year after year.

And I especially want to thank anyone who takes the time to have a conversation with his or her family about organ donation. Half the people who intend to be organ donors aren’t, because when the time comes, their families don’t know about their intentions. Tell your family!

So now that I’ve accomplished this goal, what’s next? Well, I know I’d best keep up my training, because there’s a spot on next year’s team waiting for me. And right now, circumnavigating the whole globe sounds a lot easier than running the whole Relay!

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