January 26, 2003
Dear Family, Friends, Acquaintances (and Strangers),
Nearly six months ago, I sent out a plea for your financial support inviting you to join me in the worthy cause of making a donation to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I also solicited your spiritual support as I trained to run The Honolulu Marathon as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training. I joined in this cause to reaffirm my commitment to life and to acknowledge my many blessings.
For four and a half months, I was out the door early every Saturday morning to join my teammates for a practice run. Our first team run was for six miles. I had never run six miles in my life! As it turned out, every Saturday morning became my own mini-marathon. Each week that we increased our mileage, I would accomplish a new lifetime achievement: eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, fifteen and sixteen miles. It was after my sixteen-mile run with six weeks remaining that my running came to an end. Much to my frustration I developed a left knee injury. I worked with a physical therapist to explore every possibility imaginable in order that I would be able to successfully run or run/walk the marathon. It was two weeks before the event, on a sunny Sunday morning while on the Burke Gilman Trail overlooking Lake Washington and Mt. Rainier that I embraced my fate. If I wanted to participate in and finish the marathon I would have to walk.
The Honolulu Marathon had over 27,000 participants making it the fourth largest 2002 marathon in the world. I started to walk toward the start line at 4:00 a.m. and finally crossed it at 5:30 a.m. Once I began, it took me eight and a half hours to finish. Many times I wanted to break out running to test my knee one more time but I resisted the urge. The weather was a mixed bag, overcast skies, light rain, heavy trade winds and bright, hot sun. All in all I was on my feet moving for over ten hours. It was a very long walk and something that I had not trained or planned to do.
Throughout training and the events leading up to the marathon, I constantly heard testimony that this experience would be a profound, life-changing event for me. After the marathon all I felt was exhaustion and a deep respect for long distance walkers something I had not wanted to be. As I began my physical recovery and sharing my experiences, the lesson I was to learn first hand became quite clear. Life is the quality of the journey and not the destination. The life-changing event for me was not the marathon, not crossing the finish line. It was the quality of my journey to get there. I met and shared goals with strangers who became wonderful teammates. I was challenged and encouraged by coaches who voluntarily gave of their time. I felt honored and humbled, as day after day I would receive donations to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society many times from strangers. In total, I raised $4,502.00 to aid in their efforts to find a cure for cancer. I trained beside and was motivated by 46 year-old Maritza Baraga-Brown as she pursued and achieved her dream to successfully finish the marathon. Her Hodgkin's disease is in its second remission. When 5 year-old Katie Gunsolus, diagnosed with Leukemia nineteen months ago, would come out to our practice runs she would energize me with her big, bright, beautiful smile and her joy for life. I witnessed my very dear and special friend, Suz Lundquist, courageously fight her personal battle against cancer. I am relieved, grateful for her recovery and to share the spontaneity of her laughter.
And lastly, what a blessing running has become for me. I became one with the universe, stretching to achieve new goals, slowing down maybe but never stopping. I experienced peace and serenity running in the great outdoors in a variety of weather with a variety of people sometimes alone. Running has enhanced my awareness of life and the importance of living it fully everyday. My personal high was the strong, confident 14 and 15 mile solo training runs, in September, on Maui, surrounded by God's magnificent beauty. While much of the world slept, I was out on exhilarating runs watching the moon go down over the Pacific and the sunrise over the mountains. I was transformed as the darkness of the night gave way to the light of a new day.
Each of you supported the fight against cancer. Each of you supported me across the finish line. Each of you will continue to support me on my journey for it did not stop at the conclusion of the marathon.
With my sincerest thanks,
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