Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Race Report

True to form, this will be my rookie version of a race report.  Mainly, it is an opportunity to share some memories of one of the best days of my life and to say thank you to the people that got me through one of the most grueling challenges I've ever faced.

On Friday, October 12th at 9:00 a.m., I had my final pre-race correspondence with Coach Mike.  We hopped on Skype and within about 30 seconds of getting online with Mike, I was in tears.  My nervous energy was running high, I was overcome with the thought of all Mike had done to get me to this point, and I had just received a beautiful email from my dad and mom telling me how proud they were and encouraging me to Run Strong!  Mike – as always – gave me amazing advice that I used over and over again throughout the race.  He was facing his own epic journey the next day of participating in a 100 km run to raise money for children’s cancers.  I left the conversation both empowered and inspired.  Mike will forever hold a special place in my heart for his incredible contribution to Run Strong and to my growth as a runner and person.

On Saturday night (night before run day), Eric made me an amazing pasta dinner to ensure I had my carbs. After re-reading texts of encouragement from my brother, Joe, I tried to get to bed early, but tossed and turned for a while before falling into a peaceful sleep, waking up only briefly at 1 a.m. to the sound of our dog throwing up.  Realizing that this would likely be the only night ever that I would clearly have a free pass on doing dog clean-up, I poked Eric and gently explained that I couldn't clean up the dog mess because I had to run a really long distance in the morning. :0)  Eric is a good man.

I had set my alarm for 4:15 a.m. on Sunday morning, but my internal clock woke me up at 4:06.  I showered, did a last minute check of all my gear/nutrition and by 5:45, we were heading into Toronto.  One of the great moments of the day happened right before we left. I hopped online for a quick second to find a note from my mom and dad saying, “See you at the finish line”.  Both of my parents had been quite sick in the week leading up to the race and right up until that moment, I wasn't sure if they would be able to make it.  I was overcome with excitement and gratitude that they would be there.  My parents are amazing people.

Driving into the city, it absolutely poured rain.  Part of me was happy for the rain because some of my best training runs had been in the rain, but I was worried about how wet feet hold up over 42 km.  When we got to Toronto, traffic had already backed up at the Spadina exit off the QEW.  We parked just off the Lakeshore and walked up to the corral area.  Another incredible moment happened when we were waiting to enter the corral area and we saw my brother, Scott, and his girlfriend Taryn.  Taryn was also running her first marathon and Scott was running the half marathon: both of them had said in the early days of the Run Strong campaign that they would run in solidarity with me and the Run Strong cause.  Scott and Taryn are just such amazing souls that their presence instantly brought a sense of calm.  When I saw Taryn, I didn’t want to stop hugging her because I knew that she was the only person at that moment that I could hold on to that was feeling the same sense of foreboding about what was ahead of us.  I was just so happy to see them.

Taryn, Me, and Scott waiting to enter the race corral.

When the corral opened up, I said goodbye to Eric - and Scott, Taryn, and I parted ways, each of us going to find the space to run our own races.  I put my headphones in as I waited for the starting waves (ours was the last corral to go to the start line).  Even writing this, my heart is starting to beat faster thinking about that moment.  I had thought about this for a lifetime and now here I was.

It was such a thrill to start out on those first 5 km.  It had stopped raining and I felt strong.  After only 1 km, there was the most amazing cheering section a girl could ask for: Eric; my mom and dad; my sister, Marlo; my brother-in-law, Dean; my niece and nephew, Keelan and Charlie; and my amazing daughter Hannah.  I ran over to the side and high-fived everyone as I ran past.  At about 3 kms, I saw David Berger, one of my favourite people in the world, and ran over to high five him.  I had no idea the amazing comfort and joy I would feel by seeing friends and family along the route.  I can’t thank everyone enough for being out there.

At 4 km, I had another incredible race highlight.  Chris McGrath, a friend that I have known since kindergarten but probably have not seen in 20 years, was on the route cheering.  Chris was an amazing supporter of Run Strong and seeing him was an absolute thrill.  I couldn't resist running over to give him a huge hug!

Shortly after I saw Chris, I had my first encounter with the incomparable Jo-Anne Liburd along the route.  Jo-Anne is simply one-of-a-kind.  I spotted her in the crowd with a sign that said, “You are still faster than the King St. streetcar”.  It was the first time (but not the last) I laughed out loud on the route.  Throughout the entire race, Jo-Anne found a way to get to the most remote race points, where the crowds and cheering were sparse and would show up with the most amazing signs that kept me inspired, encouraged, and laughing.  I think my favourite had to be her sign that said, “Corrie, I think you are winning this!”.   If I could have gotten enough air into my lungs, I’m sure I would have laughed for a good 10 minutes at that one.

I was thrilled to see my family again at 5 kms and my dear friend David Berger again shortly after.  I was feeling great and trying to resist the urge to run faster than my training pace, as I knew that I was going to need energy reserves in the last 10 – 12 kms.

Feeling good in the first 10 km.

The Waterfront Marathon has a number of places where you run out to a point and then you loop and run back the other way.  This gave me an awesome chance as I was running out to see people who were faster than me and running back the other way.  At about 12 kms, I was running one way of a loop and coming at me in the other direction, I saw hands flying in the air and heard, “CORRIE!!!!!”.  It was my AMAZING cousin, Steve, who had come all the way from Michigan to run in support of Run Strong, along with his wife, Tara (also a marathoner), their girls, and my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Ed.  Seeing Steve at that moment, I wanted to cry I was so happy!!!  We high fived and kept going our respective ways, but his incredible smile fuelled me over the next part of the race.  Shortly after I saw Steve, I saw my brother, Scott, running the other way and again was so excited and inspired to keep going.

At 18 kms, there were Eric, my parents, and my sister again.  I was still feeling good but needed more hydration, so Eric quickly got me a bottle of Gatorade/water and I was off again.  I think one of the most difficult moments of the race came at 19 kilometres, where the course split and runners that were doing the half marathon went one way towards the finish line and the full marathon course veered off to go east, with another 23 km left to run.  I missed the bigger running crowd and 23 kms seemed like an endless distance to still have in front of me.

The next 10 kilometres were quiet and I had too much time in my own head.  Instead of focusing on the kilometres I had conquered, I was overcome with what was still in front of me.  I thought of everything Coach Mike had instilled in me; I thought about the life journeys of women living with violence; and I thought about the commitment I had made to all of the incredible Run Strong donors and supporters.  I was not going to stop running.  In addition, it was truly the amazing volunteers, the cheering crowds, and seeing Jo-Anne’s white hat and neon signs that kept me going over that stretch.  The good news was that the blisters that had plagued me all through my training were somehow not an issue for the first 28 kms.  The bad news was that my shoulders and legs were starting to ache badly.

People told me that a marathon really begins at 30 km.  Mine began at 28 km.  In my whole life, I will never forget the moment of running down the road and seeing my mom and dad and my sister in the distance.  They had a massive sign that said, “Run Strong Corrie-Annie-Banannie-Fannie” (my childhood nickname).  When I got up to them, all I could get out was, “I hurt”.  Their love and concern will stay with me forever.  And then, my sister, because she is the most amazing sister a girl could have, threw off her backpack and said, “Would you mind if I ran with you?”.  I am overcome all over again thinking about it.  My beautiful sister came out and ran with me from just before 28 km to 33 km.  She made me laugh, cheered me on, sang to me...anything to try and get me to stop thinking about the pain.  That, my friends, is an incredible sister.  She told me that Eric was going to run the last part of the race with me and that she would stay with me until he joined me.  I wasn’t going to run any more of the race alone.

My mom, dad and sister at around 27 kms.  I was hurting and was so happy to see my family.

My unbelievable sister running with me...5 kms down the road my equally unbelievable husband would join me.

And, just as Marlo said, at 33 km, there was my awesome husband ready to bring me home.  Marlo and I parted ways and Eric became the energy that got me through the grueling final 9 kms.  At 38 kms,  I looked at Eric and said, “I don’t think I have 4 more kms in me.”  He said, “Yes you do!!  You are so close now.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”  People along the route would cheer him on and he would say to them, “Don’t cheer for me.  Cheer for my wife.”  A wonderful man, indeed.

In the last 10 kms, there was one more hill to climb.  My legs were like lead and I couldn't fathom how I was going to manage an incline.  And there it was.  The white hat.  Jo-Anne had positioned herself at the top of the hill with a sign that said, “Pain is temporary.  Pride is forever.”  I just love her for getting me up that hill.

With 1 km left in the race, you turn the corner to go north on Bay St.  As I got closer, Eric retreated to the sidewalk to let me do the final kilometre on my own.  Ahead I heard my name being called and there were my cousins Stephen and Tara, their girls (Sophie, Ava, and Ella), and my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Ed cheering like crazy.  I turned the corner hoping to see the finish line right there, but instead found a sign that said “600 metres to go”.  I wanted to laugh and cry all in the same moment.  For that whole 600 m, I could hear my relatives cheering at the top of their lungs to get me to the end.  I put my arms up and gave the thumbs up and the victory sign.

And, then, one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen: to my right, my amazing mom and dad, my daughter Hannah, and my husband cheering at the top of their lungs, (with my dad in tears), and straight ahead, the finish line.  I crossed the finish line in a state of sheer agony and elation as the announcer announced, “Congratulations Corrie Schneider, you have completed your marathon!”.

Coming into the finish line

Post-race with (part of) my awesome family

My fellow marathoner and all-around great girl, Taryn.

Enjoying the after party with my superstar cousin, Steve (who, by the way, is running the Detroit Marathon next weekend...he's amazing!)

All there is left to say is, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to each of you that were a part of this amazing experience.  It was a day of love and achievement...and a glorious day of peace. Today I say this in a way I've never said it before: thank you for running with me!!

With heartfelt gratitude and love,

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Signing Off

Over the past week or so, Eric and I have put out calls for donations in a final push to reach Run Strong's fundraising goal.  I want to say an incredibly special thank you to Stephen and Tara N.; Taryn W.; Chris M.; Roseanne P.; Court C.; Renee M.; the Randalls; Jen C.; Jennifer D.; Rachel M.and my wonderful mother-in-law and father-in-law (Ed and Anne) for so graciously and generously supporting the run.  I want to thank my husband for giving again after he and the girls have given so much to this initiative over the past year.  Finally, I want to say a very special and love-filled thank you to my amazing parents who have encouraged me at every step and made the generous donation that got me to my fundraising goal.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to each of you that have given over the past year.  (Just to be sure if you''re still considering donating, I'm all for raising more than the target amount!!) :0)


So, this is it.  My next few days are going to be focused on staying calm and getting into the right headspace for Sunday’s race. (And I can imagine that you'll all welcome the break from hearing from me almost weekly.) :0)  Over this past year, my hope has really just been that people will think about the violence that happens both locally and globally because of power imbalances, and that people will engage in actions – either personally or more broadly – that promote justice and peace.  I just read a story yesterday about Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year old girl in Pakistan, who was shot by a Taliban member for speaking out on girls’ rights.  Two men stopped the school bus she was on, got on and asked who Malala was, and when the other kids identified her, shot her in the head and neck.  All because she spoke publicly about a girl’s right to get an education.

But the truth is that we don’t have to look as far as Asia, Europe, or any other continent to hear these stories. They happen here, in Canada.  Across all cultures, income levels, races, and ages.  But, here's the thing that I really want to say: violence does not have to be an inherent part of our social structure...because violence is a choice.  So, I guess if I could leave a final message it would be to ask people to think about your power and privilege and what you choose to do with it.  I personally believe our great hope lies in making purposeful peaceful, equitable, and just individual choices.  Our hope lies in our individual daily choice for peace over violence.

With that, I leave you with the words of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

So, this is me signing off.  I’ll see you on the flip side.  And, one final time, thanks for running with me.

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!! 

Monday, October 8, 2012


So, this will be my second last blog before the marathon.

Of all the things I've learned over this past year: fueling, blister remedies, running gait, pacing, hydration, the most important thing I've learned is how powerful gratitude is.

I feel so grateful.

I’m sitting here watching the most spectacular fall day in all its colour and breeziness thinking that it was a day like this a year ago when the idea of mixing my marathon bucket list item with my love for Interim Place breathed life and was morphed into the Run Strong campaign.  Thinking back on the year of training, writing, praying, hoping, asking, receiving, I am so aware of the many ways that our cups overflow daily.  And I am so grateful.

I hold dear the kindness of every single one of you that has supported, written, donated, guest blogged, ran with me, asked about the training, cheered, commented on a post, shared this initiative with your networks, commiserated with me through the fails, provided advice, or just listened to me.  Interim Place does such amazing work and the coming together of all of your energies for their programs and services has been incredible.  Thank you.

In the spirit of giving thanks today, I would like to share a few particular words of gratitude:

First to the staff and management of Interim Place.  The work you do is so critical: I said in a previous post that a marathon doesn’t seem far enough to run in support of that work and I meant it.  Being on the front lines of the work with women and children requires both commitment and resilience and you embody these qualities daily.  As an Interim Place board member, I am grateful for the many ways that you support the work of the agency; as a woman I am so grateful that you are there ready to open the door whenever it is needed.

To the board of directors and Interim Place’s Executive Director, Sharon Floyd.  You have all been one of the great lessons of my lifetime in commitment.  You show up daily to do challenging work because you so clearly understand the need and the opportunities to champion change.  My life has been changed by watching you in action.  Thank you.

To the Run Strong donors (Listed by name in the "Donations" section of the Run Strong Giving Page: http://www.canadahelps.org/GivingPages/GivingPage.aspx?gpID=15046 ).  Of all the emails I’ve opened this year, my very favourite have been the ones with the subject: “A Donation Has Been Made Through Your CanadaHelps Giving Page”.  Long after the run is over, I will smile as I think of the incredible generosity you showed in answering the call with your hard-earned dollars.  Thank you.

To my friends who showed support in countless other ways (running, writing, commenting, sharing).  Believe me, my heart remembers each of you individually.  What may have seemed like a simple kind word or random moment of kindness has been thought about and relived throughout my training over and over again.  Thank you for taking the time to take action.

To my cousins, Steve and Tara, thank you for travelling to be a part of the marathon.  You are just simply amazing and I am so grateful for your support.

To my mentor/coach, Mike Herzog.  In one of the most brilliant acts of grace in recent memory, you came forward of your own accord to assist me with my training.  You changed my entire perspective on running
and everything I believed about my perceived limits.  You are one of a kind and I don’t know how to adequately thank you for the impact you've had.

To my amazing family (by blood and love).  Taking on this kind of training (or any other challenge) can’t happen unless a million other foundational pieces are in place.  You are my rocks and sharing the finish line with you (in person or in spirit) will be what brings me home.

To my husband, Eric.  Thank you for standing with me in all of this.  And thank you for always being out there on the long runs.  When you cheer for me, all doubt falls away.

Finally, to all women of courage.  Next Sunday, your journeys will be my strength.

For all of you and your incredible impact, I thank God.

Thanks for running with me.

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Girl Like ME is Going to Run a Race Like THAT?! Part II

This week, I would like to send out a very special thank you to Daryl Tuttle, a friend, committed follower of this journey, and an extremely generous supporter, all of which he's done from the other side of the globe. Thank you, Daryl: I'm so grateful!

So, as I’m posting this, I am just over 2 weeks away from my marathon.  This is really it: there’s no going back now.

I’m going to be honest: I’m pretty scared.  The pragmatic, cerebral part of me is telling me that I’ve put in the hours of training and that if I stick to what I’ve learned, I’m going to finish and finish strong (perhaps a bit slow, but strong).  But, my nervous system is on overload and I’ve already got the heart flutters, the stomach turns, and the restless legs.  As the day gets closer, I’m less and less capable of sitting still.

In the moments of highest anxiety, I go back to the beginning of what this run is about.  On July 29th, I attended Interim Place’s “Steps to End Violence Against Women” walk.  Before the walk began, we honoured the 18 women that had lost their lives to violence in Peel Region over the past 5 years: their names were screened on the back of all of the walkers’ shirts.  After the walk, Interim Place’s Executive Director, Sharon Floyd, said to me, “Our goal will be to walk one day with no writing on the back of our t-shirts.”  I loved that idea...what a worthwhile focus to have.  A few weeks ago I went to Interim Place to meet with Sharon and she began our meeting with the heartbreaking news that there was already a woman’s life to honour at the 2013 walk...a name to be written on the back of our shirts.

This past year’s journey has been an exercise in some of the greatest learning and growth I’ve ever done in my life.  I know exponentially more about running effectively and training for an endurance event.  Every day I am learning something new about the causes and impact of violence...I am hearing the stories of women that are in the most gut-wrenching circumstances, and stories themed around children’s experiences with violence: stories that you really and truly hope to never hear.  I’ve also learned, beyond a doubt, that engaging in the area of violence against women will be a lifelong commitment for me.

Despite what may come through in my blogs of the last year, my hope and optimism in this area well understand that violence against women is not a comfortable – and often not a welcome – subject.  I know there is the perspective that asks why we focus exclusively on violence against women.  I am also aware standing against violence against women is often perceived as taking a stand against men.  I want to go on the record as saying that I absolutely believe that we have to address violence against women through a gendered lens and approach it specifically and uniquely: the socio-economic and political barriers faced by women are simply not the same as those faced by men.  Women are differentially affected by power and control and we need to understand and address these pieces to reduce violence.  I also want to go on the record as saying that I have been blessed throughout my life with men that have been my best friends, closest confidantes, brothers, colleagues – and over this past year, some of my best allies in my marathon journey.   I have been blessed with a husband, dad, father-in-law, and brothers that stand with me in my own personal empowerment and in wanting to see a day when abuse against women is no more.  I believe the journey to eliminating violence is one we must collaboratively take together and I love both the women and men in my life that are willing to walk even parts of the path that will take us there.

So, the answer is yes.  Yes, a girl like me is going to run a race like that.  I still have not a lick of athletic ability, but I still have that iron will (and that Palko stubbornness).   I’ll run the race and finish strong because I’ll be powered by hope, faith, and the inspiration of those who are braver, stronger, and more on the front lines of this quest than I am.  I’ll run the race and finish strong because t-shirts shouldn’t have names on them.

As I head into the last weeks of the Run Strong campaign, I’m kindly asking you to please support Interim Place’s programs and services for women and children experiencing violence through a donation.

As always, a million thanks...thanks for sticking with me over the past year and thanks for running with me.

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!! 

Always remembering.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Save the Shoes

I just want to start by saying a huge and sincere thank you to 2 people that I have known since I was in the single digits – the awesome Chris McGrath and Lisa Lisle – for their unbelievable kindness and generosity in supporting Run Strong.    I was blown away by your kindness and am so grateful to still be connected to you both 30 (something) years later.  Thank you, thank you!!!!  (Sherwood Village represent!)

I’m going to keep this week’s blog short.  A while ago I was asked to give a presentation on peace-building and I themed it around the idea that peace-building starts with each of us as individuals: feeling compelled and inspired to use our unique skills and talents as catalysts for positive change.  I’ve pulled out of the archives 2 videos I've used around this theme: the first a short TED Talk (“Save the Shoes”) given by a volunteer firefighter and the second a video I created for the peace presentation.  When I originally put this blog together, I did not consciously connect this theme with today’s marking of the 11th anniversary of the events of September 11th, but am glad to be posting this particular blog today. Wishing all a week of peace...enjoy the videos and thanks for running with me!!

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Play it Again, Sam

OK, so we’re now just over 5 weeks to the starting line.  This week, Coach Mike gave me very specific instructions to do back-to-back runs of 8 km the first day and 21 km (a ½ marathon) the second day.  The goal is to continue to build my endurance without taking on runs that are much more than 2.5 hours, so we split the full distance of 29 kms out.  I felt really strong on both runs, although it absolutely poured rain through the full 21 kms and I was soaked, with my clothes sticking to me and rain dripping off my baseball cap.  Eric met me a few times with towels, a dry shirt, and to see if I was holding up in the rain.  Then, at about kilometre 12, my friend Rosa drove by on her way home from work and starting cheering like crazy for me from her car...how can you not feel motivated with that kind of support?  I’m even getting to the point where after a half marathon, I’ve stopped curling up in a moaning ball of wimpy and am smiling at the end of my runs.  Here’s the proof (me after 21 k in the rain yesterday):

So, for this week’s blog, I wanted to share the Run Strong soundtrack with you.  I was raised in a home where music was (and is) a fundamental part of our daily living, so it makes sense that I draw incredible comfort and motivation from having music with me while out taking on the kilometres.  My playlist is ever-evolving, but there are a few constants that every time I hear them, make me run a bit faster, feel a bit stronger and sometimes even move me to let it all out and sing out loud.  I wanted to share with you little snippits of each of them (and then need your help to find new material), so here they are:

1. Who I Am (Rosemary’s Granddaughter) (Jessica Andrews) – This song has come to have special meaning on this particular training journey because, beyond figuring out how to endure the long distances, I’ve figured out a lot about what I stand for, who I am, and who I aspire to be...and I’ve found complete peace with my imperfections.  If you change the name of the grandma in this song, it describes how I feel every time I’m out training.

2. The Rising (Bruce Springsteen) – Who doesn’t get jazzed about listening to The Boss?!  I see so much of anti-violence work as a rising and emergence, and Bruce reminds me of it on every run. :0)

3. Fire it Up (Johnny Reid) – OK, truth is I could listen to anything Johnny Reid sings and run faster.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I start every run with his song, “Today I’m Going to Try and Change the World”.  This one has a bit more fire in it and every time he says “Fire it Up”, I have a compulsion to throw my hands in the air and yell, “Sing it Johnny!”.

4. Invincible (Hedley) – If I could pick a word to describe how I feel every time I conquer a distance that I didn’t think I could do, “invincible” would be it.  If I could describe how I would love for the courageous women working towards violence free lives to feel, “invincible” would be it.

5. Good Life (One Republic) - Because it is a good, good life.

Burning Heart (Survivor) – This one is a no-brainer.  Really, how can anyone hear this song and not picture Rocky pulling a horse cart through the mountains of Russia or doing chin-ups in his electricity-less cabin.  And how can anyone who pictures that not want to go for a run?

So, these are a few of my top picks, but my runs are getting longer and I need help filling the time with some inspiring new music.  Would love for you to comment below with some recommendations that will keep my heart pumping and feet moving.  Thanks for your suggestions and, as always, thanks for running with me!!!

(I’m going to end with a tune that I still listen to on my runs (even though it’s not Christmas) and include once again the video I made when I started this journey last year in the hopes that it will be a reminder of why I am running.  My favourite lyrics: ."Go now, go now and shine on.  We'll remember you, remember when you're gone.  I know you'll find peace in that silent night.  You ran the good race.  You fought the good fight."  Please consider a donation in support of Interim Place.  Thank you!!)

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!! 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My 23 KM Journey

I just want to take a moment to start this week’s blog with HUGE congratulations to my marathon coach, Mike Herzog, who since I last wrote, completed an Ironman competition which involves swimming 2.4 miles; biking 112 miles; and then running a full marathon (26.2 miles).  Not only did he complete it, but he did it in the amazing time of 10 hours and 27 minutes, which to me is the very definition of endurance and iron will and is incredible inspiration leading into my final 6 weeks of training.  Congratulations Mike!!!!

I read this great quote yesterday: “A river cuts through rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence”.

A great segue into the step-forward/step-back journey I’ve been on the past few weeks.  When I last blogged about my training progress, I told you about how my 8-year old told me to get a grip and run the 19 kms that I was supposed to be doing on my long runs (but couldn’t seem to conquer).  I pulled out my best bravado in that post and said I would rise to Mini-Me’s challenge...but here’s the honest truth of the matter: I didn’t.  That Tuesday (Tuesdays are now my long-run days) came, I put my shoes on, headed out the door, and about 9 kms into the run decided it was too crazy hot to run 19 kms.  I didn’t even try to apply the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; I didn’t try to conjure up any inspiring Oprahisms or recite a Maya Angelou poem in my head; I didn’t attempt to go to my happy place or call for ‘Serenity Now!’.  I just gave up.

Feeling guilty about my weakness, I started to sweat (pun intended) about how I was going to find the endurance to run 42 kms when I couldn’t even get to 19.  Then I did some gardening, cleaned the house, emailed some people, Facebooked a bit, sent some LinkedIn invites, took the dog out, folded some laundry, called my mom and dad...(Do you see where I’m going with this?  Feeling bad + Avoidance +Doing Everything But Training = More Feeling Bad).  It’s not pretty, but I’m telling it like it is.

Fast forward a week and 2 things happen that change everything.  First, Coach Mike sends me one of his famous emails with “Checking In” in the subject line (i.e., Subject: You Can’t Hide...I WILL Find Out Whether or Not You are Sticking to the Plan!).   I joke, but in fact when I confessed that I still had not done the 19 kms, he responded with supportive and critical advice on fuelling and hydrating during my long runs.  For other rookie runners out there, I just want to tell you that this was THE most pivotal information I have received throughout this whole experience.  Being properly fueled and hydrated during my long runs has increased my energy and endurance exponentially.  Later that same week, at the Palko family reunion, my cousin Steve (who you will recall is the AWESOME soul that is coming from Michigan to run the marathon); his wife Tara (also an avid runner and great supporter) and my brother’s girlfriend, Taryn (another amazing runner/person), talked shop with me for over an hour sharing their advice on how they fuel during long runs and inspiring me to get out there and give the 19 kms another try.

So, inspired by the amazing support of family and friends, that Tuesday, I did it.  I ran 19 kms non-stop.  My proudest training moment yet!!!

The next long run distance to conquer was 23 kms.  This time, I was determined to do it on my first try.   The big challenge was that we were going on vacation for a week and I didn`t want to lose the momentum I had built up. Truth time again: I wouldn’t exactly say that I stuck to a healthy protein and veggie diet while away; I, um, probably wouldn’t say that I chose exercising over napping; and I would say that relaxing on the beach was usually code for enjoying a glass (or two) of my favourite white wine...so, not exactly a prescription for advancing my training goals.

While I was away, my favourite coach “Checked In” with a stark reminder that I was 7 weeks away from the marathon.  Reality set in, the wine bottle was re-corked, and I made the commitment to myself that the next 7 weeks would, above all else (save for the health and well-being of my family), be about the running.  With a strategy in place for how the next 7 weeks will play out, a re-commitment to not wavering from the program, and with more determination than I’ve ever had, on Tuesday I laced up the old shoes and ran 23 kms non-stop.  No question, the highlight of my run was when my husband biked out to meet me at 12 kms with a fresh, cold bottle of Gatorade and a new pack of “Chomps” (my fuel).  With my route taking me back past my house at kilometre 20, Eric left me another fresh-from-the-fridge bottle of Gatorade at the end of the driveway...so awesome!!

I guess my point is that this is truly a story of comedy and tragedy...defeat and victory: cutting through stone with nothing but persistence.  That’s what makes it so exciting.  What makes it even more exciting is sharing these moments with all of you...the incredible Run Strong supporters!  Knowing that people are engaging in this journey right along with me keeps my legs moving, so thanks, thanks for running with me!

(P.S.  To end today’s blog, I thought I would share with you my “must-haves” on every run.  These pieces, which may look commonplace and perhaps un-noteworthy, are my comfort and have been by my side through now at least 100 training runs):

My well-worn Notre Dame hat.  I wear this on every run because it represents "Our Lady"; in honour of all mothers; 
and to keep my whole family close in thought while running: my brother who is also running this marathon and has 
been one of my biggest supporters is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

My peace necklace.  I almost never take this off.  It was a gift from my husband, Eric, so 
I wear it both as a symbol of what I am striving for and to always keep my family close to me. 

My bracelets.  One says 'Faith.  Hope. Love.'
The other says, 'Laugh.  Love.  Live'
When I look down, they are my reminders of what is important 
and to take on even difficult challenges joyfully.

You can't see it in this picture (purposely), but at the base of my thumb, I have written the initials of 
someone we have been very close to that has been deeply affected by violence and abuse.  I 
write their initials on my hand before each of my long runs to remind me what this is really all about.

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!! 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Why I Love Interim Place

This weekend, Interim Place will be holding its inaugural “Steps to End Violence Against Women” walk.  In my capacity as a board member, I was asked to prepare some opening remarks for the walk and sat down to give some thought as to what I would want to say about Interim Place.  In those quiet moments, I was overcome with thoughts of this incredible organization, but I only have about 30 seconds to speak on Sunday, so thought I would share with you the full version of what I want to say about Interim Place and its work with women experiencing violence and their children.

I didn’t know much when I started working with Interim Place.  I mean, I knew things, but only 2 ½ years later can I look back with a clear understanding of so many things that I was in many ways ignorant about when I walked through the doors.  I’ve learned, for example, that violence is about power more than anger.  I’ve learned that macro political and economic decisions we make impact people (and, specifically at Interim Place, women) in ways that many of us don’t think about when we participate in politics and economics.  I’ve learned that I have many, many privileges, and an undeniable responsibility to think about what I do with my privilege.  So, I love Interim Place in how it challenges my thinking and keeps the realities and experiences of women - and particularly marginalized women - on our community agenda when we might otherwise not be thinking about them.

I love Interim Place because, in the way that I’ve experienced this organization, its doors have a “Welcome Home” sign on it that never gets taken down.  In one of my first blog posts, I posted a video in which Patrick Stewart conveyed his experience growing up in a violent home and I was broken at the moment I heard him say, “We had nowhere to go”.  Of all the challenges that violence and abuse raise, I am always most affected by the idea that women and children in that situation may feel that there is no alternative...there is no way to escape it.  I LOVE that not only is Interim Place a never-closing door for women, but that when women and children come through the door, they are welcomed in a way that endlessly strives to make them feel at home.  Not just a place to go, but a place to go home.

Finally, I love the women of Interim Place.  Interim Place is run by an exceptional management team, staffed by women that commit themselves to frontline work in crisis situations every day, supported by a passionate group of volunteers, governed by a board of directors that I am incredibly proud to be a part of, and visited by some of the most courageous women you could ever hope to meet.  From the first moment I walked up the steps to Interim Place, I have experienced an energy there that is fueled by commitment, passion, social justice, and – yes – love.

It’s no stretch, then, to imagine what drives me to get out on the road to run in support of Interim Place.  I remember arriving to a meeting one night when a woman and her children were exiting a cab to go to the shelter.  My initial reaction was one of sadness and despair for the journey they were facing, until I realized they were entering a space that would welcome them home, keep them safe, and help them to heal.  A marathon doesn’t seem far enough to run in support of that work, and that hope.  This is why I also continue to unabashedly ask you to support the work of Interim Place through a donation to Run Strong.  Every donation made goes directly to support Interim Place’s programs and services.

Thank you for continuing to follow this journey in support of so many other journeys.  And thanks for running with me.

(If you would like to make a donation, please click the link below).  Thank you, thank you!

(Also, if you would like to participate in the Steps to End Violence Against Women Walk, please visit the website at http://stepstoendviolenceagainstwomen.weebly.com/index.html.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What's in My Noodle

A few things to start off this week:

Thank You

I want to take an opportunity to say a special thank you to the Interim Place Board of Directors this week. This is an absolutely amazing group of women (past and present) that I am so proud to be a part of. Every time I walk into a meeting that involves the board, someone takes the time to ask how my training is going, and the support these women have shown this initiative has been a great inspiration. Thank you for your dedication to the work of Interim Place and for demonstrating all the amazing qualities and perspectives that women bring to leadership roles.

I also want to thank the incredible people I’ve come across on my training route. From the neighbours and other runners/cyclists out on my route that seem to always take a minute to cheer me on, to the drivers that move to the other side of the road to give me enough space, I’ve witnessed so much generosity of spirit while out training and some days it’s what keeps me going. Thank you!!

Training Update

So, I had moved up to 16 and then 19 km training runs, but felt like I had hit a wall doing the 19 km distance. I’m not sure if it’s been adjusting to the heat or what’s going on, but I had major struggles with my 19k run. So, I consulted with my running mentor, Mike, and he suggested that I dial it back to 16 for a week or 2 and then try again. I’ve been doing 16 km for 3 weeks now and have been struggling to take on 19k again. After my 16k this week, my daughter Hannah asked, “How far did you go, mom?”. “16k”, I told her. She asked why I hadn’t increased my distance again and I admitted that I thought I might still struggle with the increased distance. She said, “Pull it together, mom, it’s only another 3K”. From the mouths of babes…so next Tuesday, I’ll be attempting 19k.


Okay, so in one of my first posts, I said that I would eventually post more about the psychology of running, but because I’m among friends, I feel like I should admit that the only running psychology that I’ve ever studied is my own and, well, I wouldn’t say I’m representative of a broad population of runners.  So, I’m going to compromise and let you in on what goes on in my noodle when I’m out on the road.  This week’s blog is a sample of the honest-to-goodness things I have said to myself while training.  True story…I’ve actually thought each of these things at least once:

-Hi there, pain.  Nice to see you.  Thanks for running with me.  (I got this how-to-stay-happy-while-wanting-to-collapse ditty from the Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer)

-Well, at least I’m at zero risk of getting a ticket.  (While passing the 60 km/hr speed limit sign)

-I’m counting, what, like 450 clouds in the sky right now.  And not one of you can float your fluffy selves in front of the massive ball of burning gas currently searing the top of my head?

-Ignore the squashed animal on the side of the road…just ignore it…pretend it isn’t there…forget it, I’m crossing to the other side.

-Interesting choice I made doing this run at high noon in the middle of July.

-Taylor Swift, you are so right.  Today WAS a fairytale!

-How much further than this is a marathon?! (Or there are multiple variations of this, e.g.:) If I ran from here to Copps Coliseum would that be equal to a marathon? (or) If I added up all the times I’ve walked to work in the past 10 years, would that be equal to a marathon?

-Thank you, God, for the side of the hill that goes down….and for the Freezie I’ll enjoy when this is over.

-Here comes a pack of 20 super fit cyclists, gliding quickly and effortlessly straight towards me in their slick racing gear.  This definitely isn’t going to be awkward.

-Wonder what the chances are that Eric and the girls will swing by in the car in the next 45 minutes.

-Giggle.  Giggle.  (Every time I pass the deer crossing sign on Centre Rd. where someone has drawn a red ball on the deer’s nose)

-(As I approach my turn-around point) 50 metres…40 metres…30 metres…20 metres…10 metres…Can I get an AMEN…I’m now running home!!!!

-Terry Fox ran a marathon everyday while battling cancer and on a prosthetic leg.  Quit your complaining, Corrie, and do this.

-Oh, no you didn’t!  (To a mosquito I nabbed that was depleting my much-needed blood supply)

-Sure hope I make it home in time for the (insert event here).  (e.g., conference call/dentist appointment/Mentalist).

-Sure hope people donate to Interim Place (this is actually more of a shameless plug…if you haven’t yet donated, please consider supporting Interim Place’s work with women that have experienced violence and their children by clicking on the link below )

-The iPhone is the greatest invention the world has ever known. Not only can I listen to my playlist while training, but if I experience heart failure/get attacked by a coyote, I can call for immediate help.

-I am so grateful for my legs.

-I wonder if any of the random strangers that live along this stretch of road would mind if I borrow their hose.

-Someday I hope to complete one of these runs in a time that I’d be proud to post on Facebook.

-(And, when the going gets really tough, I think of this quote)

Thanks for running with me!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

4 Days...2 Incredible Life Moments

Corrie’s note: When I first wrote this blog, I had been deeply affected by two amazing happenings. However, over the past weeks I’ve also been deeply moved by – and want to acknowledge – the incredible generosity of those who have made recent donations to Run Strong.  As I’ve said before, the real success of this initiative is if there is if there is even a small increase in the capacity to meet the needs of women and children fleeing abuse.  I am so very grateful for the donations that have been made and for the generous hearts behind those gifts.  Thank you, thank you.


On March 20, 2012 at 6:20 Toronto time, I boarded a plane bound for Rome, Italy.  It was any day for most people around me...life and routine as usual.  However, that day and time will probably stick with me for the rest of my life because in that moment I knew some of the worst anxiety I have ever known in my life.

To say I am not a good flyer is an understatement.  From the time I was very young (7 or 8 years old as I recall), I have had recurrent dreams about plane crashes...not just yearly or monthly, but at least once or twice a week.  Applying my exceptional psychic abilities (and – let’s be honest – largely influenced by the movie La Bamba), I decided that this was my sub-conscious’ way of giving me a heads-up on how things were going to end for me.  You can well imagine, then, what the moment of saying good-bye to my family to go on a trip looks like.

While I have flown several times and absolutely love to travel and experience new places, I had all but resolved myself to the fact that I would never have it in me to fly overseas.  I wanted so desperately to go to Europe – among other reasons, to see places that my family immigrated from – but did not think I could bring myself to get on a plane that would wander out over ocean nothingness...miles from any safe airport to land at in the event of an emergency.  When the opportunity to go to Rome came up, I knew that I was going to have to face my worst fears if I was going to go...and at 6:20 on March 20, 2012, I did just that.

I had always dreamed of what it would be like to go to Europe (I mean, literally...in between plane crash visions, I would dream of sightseeing at Buckingham Palace).  When the plane took off, I started counting the 530 minutes until we would be on land again.  I watched the plane’s progress on the digital map and I’m pretty sure let out an audible groan when the little moving plane icon headed out over the Atlantic. But then, the most amazing thing happened...

At around 1:00 a.m. Toronto time, after flying in pitch blackness for 5 hours, I could see a hint of blue out the plane window...a hint that became a gush of blue and started to spread across the sky.  In my exhausted, anxious state, I let out a massive, cathartic, glorious exhale as I realized that I was now flying into a European dawn...while my family, friends, and sweet girls were tucked in their beds fast asleep, morning was breaking in southern Europe and I had safely made it to the other side of the Atlantic.  For the rest of my life, I will never forget that exact moment.  I realized what a massive, imposing barrier fear is and that the rewards can be incredible if we face it head-on and become determined to overcome it.  I thought of my marathon and wanted to share the exact moment with you as a reminder that amazing things can happen when we refuse to let fear win.  Here is that moment in pictures:

Dawn breaks in Europe: A moment I'll never forget.

Moments later, my breath was taken away as we flew over the French Alps.  I simply couldn't believe I was there.

I arrived back from Rome on March 27th at approximately 2:30 p.m. Toronto time.  When I landed, I let everyone on Facebook know that I had survived the traumatic journey.  A number of people posted comments saying how glad they were that I was home safe, but one post stood out: as I was sitting on the tarmac exhausted and elated, my friend Mike Herzog posted, “Time for a run!!”

Now, you may recall that I mentioned Mike in a previous blog post and that – as a great supporter of Run Strong  – Mike was a previous guest blogger, but on March 17th – 3 days before I left for my trip – Mike did something that has changed my entire approach to this marathon: of his own huge-heartedness and volition, he developed a training plan for me based on where I was starting from, my typical speed, and my goals for the race.  And then he challenged me (and has been ever since) to stick to it.

Before Mike sent me the training plan, I was loosely following the “Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer”...and praying a lot that I could do this.  When Mike sent me the plan, he (as an accomplished endurance athlete) basically said to me, “Not only can you do this, but you need to think bigger because you can run faster than you are running.  It is, however, going to take consistent and diligent training.”

Mike’s guidance has changed everything about my approach.  I am now running faster and smarter and I feel significantly more accountable for my training.  It’s also changed how I think about myself.  He has told me over and over again, “You can achieve incredible results: you just have to be whole-heartedly committed to it.”  To know that I am not limited by where I am at today has set me free to imagine not only that I can finish but that I can become a strong, consistent runner even beyond my marathon.  By extension, I’ve learned that we can all become our best selves when we do it with passion and commitment.  Thank you, Mike, for the incredible impact you've had.

No doubt, March was an amazing month for me.  2 incredible experiences taught me to think beyond my own perceived limits and that courage and persistence can change everything.  To everyone reading this, I wish you safe travels, passionate pursuit of your goals, and strong, brave running.

Thanks for running with me.

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thoughts on Our Village

One of the great learnings for me since I have been working with Interim Place has been to come to a greater understanding of the rich diversity of our communities and, no less, the remarkable diversity of people around our world.  I am developing a keen understanding that the lens I see the world through is formed by the complex intersection of my culture, background, religious beliefs, race, gender, and life experiences, among other things.   That intersection is unique to me, as yours is to you.  Our great challenge is to build peace and decrease violence in a way that not only respects, but appreciates, and celebrates that diversity.

This is why we speak particularly about violence against women.  Violence shows its face in (too) many forms and against both genders around our globe, and I have learned that to understand its root causes and effectively address them, we have to understand how violence is perpetrated and experienced in a multitude of unique situations and circumstances: there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to eliminating violence.

To eliminate violence against women is not to deny the existence of violence against or among men.  I would love for humanity to be able to say that non-violence and peaceful conflict resolution is a fundamental characteristic of our entire species.  Yet to address issues of women abuse, there is undeniably a need to look at the unique ways that violence is perpetrated against women and to address those issues directly.  It is to be honest about the role that power plays in violence.  It is to understand that women experiencing violence may also face poverty, employment, housing, mental health, immigration, addiction and other issues that are related to or affected by their experiences as women.  Sometimes these additional issues affect whether women will continue to live with the violence.

This realization was how I came to be involved with Interim Place: many times while up in the middle of the night with my newborn baby girls or in the stress of the most difficult days as a mom, I wondered how I would cope if I had to deal with all of these mom stresses while also fearing for the safety of myself and my children. Would I have the means to provide an alternative for my family (particularly having been out of the work force while on almost consecutive maternity leaves)?  Who would care for my children while I had to work?  How secure would my employment be if I had to be absent to care for a child that was sick or had special needs?  Where would we live? How would I know what my legal rights would be as a mom?  Could I afford a lawyer to tell me?  What if, in addition to these pieces, I was living with a disability?  I realized that women in violent situations have painstaking decisions to make and that we can’t understand women’s experience with violence in isolation of all of these considerations.

Through the amazing women working at and with Interim Place, I continue to learn and think about these pieces daily.  My challenge to everyone reading this is to consider these pieces the next time you find yourself generalizing about people, their experiences, or – in particular – about women experiencing violence.  Our backgrounds and experiences are mind-bogglingly unique, so our analysis on how to address critical issues such as abuse has to reflect that, including what it uniquely means to experience violence as a woman.

To close off this week, I want to share a piece that always gives me perspective and reminds me that my individual experiences are not global experiences.  While we share a great common humanity that binds us, the world is infinitely rich in the diversity of the people that live in our incredible global village.  It’s a description of how the world would look if it was a village of 100 people.

If the world were a village of 100 people:

61 would be Asian ; 14 would be African; 11 would be European; 8 would come from South America, Central America (including Mexico), and the Caribbean; 5 would be from Canada and the United States; 1 would be from Oceania
50 would be women; 50 would be men
47 villagers would live in an urban area
12 villagers would have a disability
43 villagers would not have basic sanitation
33 villagers would not have access to a safe water supply
20 people would own 75% of the wealth of the entire village
50 villagers would be malnourished
16 villagers would not be able to read or write
Only 8 villagers would have an internet connection
21 people would live on US $1.25 per day or less

In all of its diversity and with all of its challenges, it really is an awesome world...with lots of work to be done.

Thanks for running with me.

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Inspire the Inspirer by Guest Blogger Scott Palko

It's once again time to take a break from my musings to hear from this week's guest blogger.  He's the owner of CCI Studios (a corporate sponsor of Run Strong and the creators of the Run Strong website) and an amazing soul that will be joining me in my marathon quest in October.   He has been one of my most committed and enthusiastic supporters in this journey and he also happens to be my brother...not to mention (get ready for my unapologetic sister brag), he was recently named Sarnia's Citizen of the Year!  This week, I asked the amazing Scott Palko to send me his thoughts on why he - and CCI - are supporting Run Strong.  Here's what he had to say (thanks for running with me!):


Corrie is a human goldfish.  She can go through her packed day of being a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, entrepreneur and runner and have the world cave in.  Yet, like clockwork, tomorrow’s morning hits and she is the reverse-Cinderella.  The resetting of the clock resets her dedication to change and she forgets the bad from the day before like it did not happen.  The world can be great, she can make it that way – and the glass shoe will fit perfectly.  Many people say they live this way, but few actually do it – C Dawg is one of them.

So, when I have my bad days and I begin to struggle with whether or not I can actually change the world, I am inspired by this trait of perseverance in my sister.  I am motivated by her bottomless well of belief in the good that we, as individuals, can bring about.  I am in awe of her actions in the face of societal contempt and her selflessness in a world of narcissism.  At the same time, I am reminded that simply thinking highly of her is not enough – I must act.  I must help inspire the inspirers by actively embracing their efforts.

When people ask why I am running this marathon with her and why CCI Studios supports Run Strong – it is not just because of the great cause Run Strong supports, it is because when someone dedicates themselves, day-after-day to doing good – they need to know they are doing it.  They need to know that their actions are inspiring other people and the two hands they have attached to them are working toward building a brighter future for everyone around them.  They need to know that their unrelenting faith in human beings and unabashed concern for the inhabitants of our world – the majority of whom they will never meet – IS making a difference.  The world IS changing because of their efforts – and their works are, well…working.

So, that is my reason for running this marathon with my sister and running this race of change with all of you.  We need to celebrate and support those who are making a difference.  It’s not enough to assume these individuals will just keeping doing good – we need to tie up our shoes, climb to the mountaintop and exclaim “Thank you.  You have changed my world, which has, in turn, changed our world”.  Today, it is my sister Corrie’s marathon.  Tomorrow it may be my sister Marlo or my brother Joe or my parents or anyone of you who need to know your actions are making a difference.  To that end, your call should be answered because you are making a difference and your actions are bringing about change, as well.

Change is happening – and we are all making it so.  In this case, I thank my sister for taking on this task and allowing me to run her race of change beside her, with the purpose of inspiring her to continue to make the world the place she believes it can be.

Train Hard.  Make Change.  Run Strong.


(Corrie's note: Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you'd like to donate offline.  Thanks for your support!!)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How I Learned to be Grateful for My Legs

A good friend of mine recently commented that running a marathon is a spiritual experience.  I can imagine that in the agony of those 42 long kilometres, I will need to get acquainted with my spiritual self and, in fact, have had to find inspiration to push on through many of my training runs.

I’d like to share with you one of the great sources of that inspiration.

She’s my daughter, Hannah.

Many of you may know Hannah’s story...and a lot of you were (are!) a key part of the story line.  Hannah was born in August, 2004...19 days ahead of schedule.  People say you forget your labour and delivery the minute you look at your child, but I clearly remember every single moment of it.

Hannah was a beautiful, happy, pudgy, baby with a head full of perfectly formed curls.  I was a neurotic first-time mom...googling every wheezy sound or odd movement she made to ensure that she would survive the next 24 hours.  When Hannah was 3 months old, I started to have a mom’s intuition that something wasn’t quite right.  Many people kindly assured me that not every baby develops according to “What to Expect the First Year”, but Hannah wasn’t making any effort to move toward any of the first-year milestones...sitting up, rolling over, or - later - crawling.  At her 3 month and 6 month Healthy Baby check-ups, I talked to our doctor who felt that it was a factor of Hannah being a big baby and that she would eventually catch up.

When 1 year rolled around and Hannah was making no effort to get on her feet, I stopped accepting the Big Baby Theory and asked for a referral to a pediatrician.  We saw Dr. MacGregor, an amazing pediatrician who patiently listened to all of the diagnoses that I had already made as a result of my exceptional internet research, and then politely suggested that maybe we should let a neurosurgeon do the diagnosing.  Hannah was booked for an MRI and an appointment with Dr. Drake, a neurosurgeon at Sick Kids.

What Dr. MacGregor had discovered in that initial exam was that Hannah’s feet did not bend at the ankles...something was pulling her lower leg muscles in both legs extremely tight, and he hypothesized that it was a neurological issue, related to either her spine or her brain.

Many months, a host of doctors, and a battery of tests later, Hannah was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.  It is a spectrum condition, so some children present mildly and others can face severe challenges.  All we knew at the time was that it was causing Hannah’s legs not to work properly.  She was almost 2 and still not standing on her own.

During the testing and diagnosis period, we had been referred to Erinoak (now ErinoakKids) to begin treatment.  I tried to show everyone what a tough cookie I was during this period of our lives, but when I think of those days of watching Hannah’s little legs put in casts to try and get them to bend in the right position; to her being strapped to a contraption that artificially kept her in the standing position that she couldn’t sustain on her own; to her learning to walk on her knees because she couldn’t bear weight on her legs; and eventually to her little ballerina-decorated leg braces and granny walker that she pushed everywhere she went, I still have to swallow the lump in my throat.  Some of that period is a blur now, but I remember with extreme clarity being told, “We don’t know if she’ll ever walk” and “She will likely never walk without an assistive device” and “She’ll definitely have to wear leg braces until she stops growing.”

The most difficult part of all was that the doctors wanted Hannah’s treatment regimen to include regular Botox injections into the muscles in her legs.  I count the Botox days among my worst as a mom.  We would go into the treatment room, where they would lay Hannah face down across my lap on a little cot and then inject her 5-8 times in each leg while I restrained her.  As you can imagine, she would scream to high heavens, but Hannah’s incredible resilience is one of the reasons she is an amazing gift and, once the injections were over, she would get up, wipe her tears and tell the doctors, “Thank you”.

Hannah took her first steps in October, 2006 at 26 months.  Last year, Hannah ran her first 1 km cross country race without stopping, without assistive devices, and without leg braces.  She no longer needs Botox injections.  I credit the power of prayer, the incredible medical support, the powerful love of our entire family, and her unbreakable spirit for how far she’s come.  In those early days of uncertainty around what Hannah’s future held, so many prayed that she would be able to use those tiny pudgy legs to walk one day and I swore with everything in me that if we were given that gift, I would set an example of never, ever taking our abilities for granted.

That is one of the reasons why, despite not being a natural athlete, I will run for as long as my legs will let me...and that is how I learned to be grateful for my legs.

Thanks for running with me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

We All Need a Little Good News

This past week, I’ve been in a number of situations/conversations that really made me think about the critical importance of self-care and respite from the stresses of our daily lives.  So, this week’s blog is meant to be a few minutes of taking a big deep cathartic breath through your computer screen.

First up: I had a major break through in my training this week.  With the weather being so warm, I’ve been able to get out almost every day.  11 km has become my standard run and by the beginning of April, my goal is to increase that to 16 km.  My breakthrough was the realization that if I double that 16 k, that will be 32 km, just 10 shy of what I need to reach for a full marathon. Now I’m sure that sounded like WAY more of a breakthrough when it happened in my head, but the point is that for the first time, I can tangibly visualize the distance and really see myself getting there.   I’m finishing my 11k feeling strong and, with 200+ days still to go before the race, I am sure I am going to be ready.  

The second thing I wanted to share and, honestly, a good news story that makes me want to burst with excitement every time I think about it, is that my mom has taken up running.  My mom is the epitome of the woman I still hope to be someday: beautiful, active, funny, caring, inspirational, and now a runner.  She went to the Running Room, had an analysis done on her feet, outfitted herself with the right gear and has started running.  To say I’m super proud of her doesn’t even begin to cover it, but I want to give her a huge shout-out for being amazing!!

The last 2 smiles-on-a-computer-screen I’m going to share are in video format.  The first is a video I saw a few months ago on Facebook and it makes me happy (and teary) every time I watch it.  The second is the song I play at the beginning of every one of my runs and I hope it will inspire you the way it inspires me.  I hope you all take good care of yourselves this week…and thanks for running with me.

P.S.  Please consider making a donation to the Run Strong initiative in support of Interim Place by clicking on the button below or if you would like to send a cheque/cash, please email me at corrie@run-strong.ca.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

If You Read and Share Only One Blog, Please Read This One

It’s been 12 weeks since I started writing the Run Strong blog and regardless of the topic I’m posting about on any given week, the message of this particular blog is always sitting in the back of my head.

The truth is this: success on this journey will only be achieved if at the end there is greater capacity to meet the needs of women facing violence and their children.

During the first 3 months of this initiative, the Run Strong blogs have been written to demonstrate 2 things: 1) there is immediate, critical need at this moment to give women and children safe haven; and 2) I so believe in the work of Interim Place that I’ll train, run, blog, ask for help, whatever it takes.  But the real story of this journey is YOU – my family, friends, colleagues, and those kind souls I haven’t met – and your willingness to respond.  So many of you have already far exceeded any response I could have asked for in terms of your messages, your offers to run with me, and your response to past blogs: it has been incredible.

Now, I’m asking you to do one more thing: please make a donation.

As many of you know, I’ve worked in the non-profit sector for over 15 years, many of them as a fundraiser.  I intimately know how many charities ask for your support and I completely understand that there are only so many dollars to go around.  I can assure you of 2 things: first, I would only ask for your financial support if I could personally bear witness to the great impact that these dollars can have. At Interim Place’s 2011 Annual General Meeting, a past resident of Interim Place was the keynote speaker.  It’s hard to imagine a reality worse than what this woman went through: years of almost unimaginable physical and verbal abuse.  Her story so greatly saddened me; to think that one human being could do such horrendous things to another.  But, there was this incredible shift in her story when she talked about coming to Interim Place.  Having not much more than the clothes on her back, she arrived at the shelter doors where she was, first and foremost, kept safe.  She was welcomed and provided with food and shelter.  She was supported: she received counseling and was offered assistance with legal, housing, employment and other issues that would help her to move towards a life free of violence.  What an image of triumph she was on that evening last June, now an entrepreneur, author, and spokesperson for Interim Place.

The second thing I can assure you is that Interim Place holds itself to high standards of financial accountability and funds raised are used effectively and efficiently.  I am a member of the Board of Directors and previously the organization’s Treasurer, so you have my personal assurance that great care is taken to ensure that dollars raised are used to increase the capacity to provide services to women and children.

My marathon won’t end global violence against women, but I know this for certain: your donation will directly and immediately impact women’s lives.  At the most fundamental level, it ensures there is a safe
place for women to go: some of whom are in life-threatening situations and all of whom are in crisis and require assistance fleeing violence.

Consider this:

$25.00 provides a rescue ride to help a woman and her children escape to safety
$50.00 provides a woman with a shelter Welcome Kit which includes new pajamas, undergarments,  
        socks, slippers, bathrobes, toiletries and personal items
$500 helps to give a fresh start for a mom and her two children to settle into their new permanent home  
        in the community.
$1,080 provides one year of free, confidential 24 hour crisis counseling for one woman experiencing
        abuse in the community to keep herself and her children safe and a plan to safely escape.
$1,440 provides 24 hour one-to-one and group counseling for a woman with three children during their
        four month shelter stay.

Please, before you close this blog, I ask you to do one more thing and click on the donate link.  You can donate online or send a cheque made out to Interim Place (email me at corrie@run-strong.ca if you prefer to mail a cheque).  As my personal way of thanking, you, I will send a “20 Life Lessons I Learned From Running” poster to all Run Strong donors.  Any amount you can give is a true gift to Interim Place.

I am so sincere when I tell you how grateful I am for your donations.  I know what these dollars can do and, on behalf of Interim Place and the women and children we serve, thank you…thank you.

Thanks for running with me.