Tag Archives: fundraising

Countdown

23 Feb

first halfmarathon medal

Three minutes… Will it begin? Or end?

I shift nervously from foot to foot as I look at the crowd around me. The vibe here is immense. I feel like the collective energy created by these twenty thousand people could lift me up and carry me. I have not slept for a week in anticipation of this day, but that does not matter. Standing here, it is impossible to feel tired.

Two and a half minutes… Will these 13.1 miles make me or break me?

It all started six months ago with an email. A local autism centre was entering a team into this race. Was I interested in joining, to raise funds for autism services? My first reaction was: You must be joking. At the time I was tipping the scales at almost two hundred pounds, which was a lot for a woman whose pre-pregnancy weight had been 130 pounds. I had let myself go to seed following the birth of my younger son. Exercise was a four-letter word to me. I found it impossible to lift myself out of the post-partum depression I was still suffering from for long enough to walk to the mailbox and back. And now these people wanted me to run a race?

Two minutes… Will this race be the fruition of all my efforts? Or will it make me slink back into depression?

I deleted the email, but its contents pulled at a thread in my mind. I was in very bad shape, both mentally and physically. It was clear that I needed some impetus to get myself sorted out. Could this be it? Did I finally have the right reason to get up and do something? Would this venture even be possible?

One and a half minutes… Will I have the strength to go the distance? Or will I give up and not finish the race?

I recovered the email from my Deleted Items folder. If I decided to join the team, I could choose a distance. I ruled out the marathon – it would definitely be too much. I considered the 5 kilometre run, but somehow this did not seem to be enough. If I was actually going to do this, I wanted it to be a real challenge. I’ve never been one for doing things in moderation. Either I don’t do it at all, or I go all out. Abruptly, I checked my thinking. Was I seriously thinking of attempting the half-marathon? Was I crazy?

One minute… Will this endeavour cement my newfound love of running? Or will it make me toss my running shoes into the back of the closet forever?

My thoughts drifted to my older son. My beautiful boy with autism, so loving and full of promise. He could go so far and accomplish so much, but he would need help along the way. He would need services and social supports and programs, all of which cost money. The autism centre was hoping to raise funds to finance exactly the kinds of programs that are needed by kids with autism. I could be doing this for my son.

Thirty seconds… Do we proactively give our kids the best possible chances to overcome their challenges? Or do we just sit back and hope for the best?

Just like that, the thread in my mind – the one that the email had been gently pulling at – unravelled. I knew what I had to do. I pulled out my calendar and looked up a few online training programs. I worked out that in six months, I just about had time to train for a half-marathon. I signed up and got to work. And now here I was at the start line, fifty pounds lighter, and although not exactly fleet of foot, at least capable of running for a couple of hours.

The starter’s siren goes off and the crowd surges forward. As I cross the start line, I put a picture of my son in my head and run from the heart.

(Postscript: I finished that first half-marathon in almost two and a half hours. I remember the lump in my throat as I crossed the finish line and the tears that sprang to my eyes when I received my finisher’s medal. Every step of that race was dedicated to my son. Since then, I have done two more half-marathons for autism, and this year I will be doing it again. In my three autism runs to date, I have raised about $1500 for the Geneva Centre for Autism. My sons – the child with autism and his loving, caring brother – are my inspiration. I would run to the ends of the earth for them.)

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Shauntelle challenged me with "Write a story that begins "Three minutes. Will it begin? Or end?"" and I challenged Head Ant with "Write a story that includes the following: a dreamcatcher; red high-heeled boots; a broken wine glass."

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Autism: Running To A Better Future

4 Sep

Running in the 2010 event - I want this one to be even better!

Six weeks to go…

As of today, I have precisely six weeks to do two things: first, to get myself into good enough physical shape to put in a half-decent showing at a half-marathon, and second, to raise a thousand bucks.

On October 16th, I will be participating in my third annual Run For Autism. I am joining the Charity Challenge at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon/Half-Marathon/5K. I will be running the half-marathon, any funds I can raise in sponsorships or donations will go directly to the Geneva Centre for Autism.

My stated goal on my fundraising page is $500, but I am really hoping to raise at least $1000.

There’s just one problem: I’m not really pushy enough to be a good fundraiser. I suffer from social anxiety, and I have a hard enough time talking to people about things in general. When I have the added pressure of asking for money, that makes things so much harder. So usually I send out fundraising emails to people who I think might be receptive to the idea of forking out a few dollars. While my fundraising efforts have, in the past, had reasonable enough results, I cannot help thinking that I would be better at this if I was just a different kind of person.

This year, I am trying to be more pushy assertive about making my sponsorship requests. I have sent out my fundraising email to people I actually know, and now I am appealing to you, the general Internet public, to consider sponsoring me for this run.

I would appreciate, and so would the children and youth with autism who would benefit from expanded services – services that can be a crucial part in helping people with autism become integral, economically active parts of their communities.

My son George, who is almost eight, would appreciate it. He has an entire future ahead of him, and the quality of that future could have a lot to do with the services he has access to now.

To sponsor me, please visit my fundraising page.

(That wasn’t too pushy, was it?)

(Photo credit to the author)

2011 Run For Autism – The Countdown Begins

3 Jun

I’m feeling fantastic today!

Actually, that’s not strictly true. I was awake all night with a sick child, who at some point during the process very generously shared his bug with me, as a result of which I am bone-tired and tossing my cookies. So in reality, I feel really, really rough. I feel like a hedgehog that just got dragged backwards through the business end of a lawnmower.

But despite my less than stellar physical condition, I am feeling good about some things that have happened this week.

First, I resumed early morning running. I’ve been a little out of it for a while, and a lot of my running has been done on the treadmill. But two days ago, I dragged myself out of bed and went for a run before work. It was great. I felt the way I always do when go for early morning runs: alive, invigorated, positive about starting the day with an accomplishment. And since my route involves me running east over the Rouge Valley bridge, I get treated to the most spectacular sunrises. I mean, what’s not to love about all this?

Later that same day, I got a series of emails informing me that I am now officially registered for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon. Which means that everything I do between now and then (everything running-related, anyway) is in preparation for that race. It is my annual Autism Run – the reason I got back into running two years ago. This will be my third year doing the run. In 2009, I finished in about 2 hours and 28 minutes. In 2010, I improved that time to 2:22:38, knocking more than six minutes off my time from the previous year. This year I want to do something even more spectacular, and break 2 hours.

That will be a tall order. Taking 22 minutes off a time over a distance of 13.1 miles? It’ll be tough. But that’s not going to stop me from trying.

The other thing this all means is that I am now officially fundraising, enlisting people to sponsor me for the run, trying to gather together as much money as I can that will all go towards providing services for children and youth with autism.

I cannot stress how important this is. George’s progress since diagnosis has been off the charts, but this is no accident. It has taken many hours of hard work, buckets of tears, patience, IBI therapy, parent training, information sessions, and advice. George would not be where he is today if it weren’t for the Geneva Centre for Autism, who have provided services and training and all kinds of other resources.

I cannot help but think that if George continues to get services that evolve with his needs as he grows up, the sky will be the limit for him. This child is so loaded with potential, but he does need help and support to realize it. If funding dries up, so does my child’s future.

So I spent some time yesterday setting up my fundraising page. I have set my initial target at $500, but I am really hoping to surpass that and raise the target. Preferably more than once.

My call to action is this: if you have the financial means, please consider sponsoring me for my run. If you cannot afford it (and I totally get  that – life ain’t easy for many people right now), then please spread awareness about autism. Help spread the word that people with autism are a valuable part of our society.

And if you circulate the link to my fundraising page, that will be an added bonus as well.

I am excited about getting this show off the road and doing the best I can for my George, which means doing the best I can for my family, and for the community of autism.

Moving On After A Disappointment

29 May

This morning I woke up with a heavy heart. I got up and half-heartedly made breakfast for my family. I put on a cheerful enough face as we all ate together, but Gerard could tell that I was not quite my usual self. As we were drinking our coffee, he asked me what was wrong.

“I was supposed to be running a race today,” I said.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Today is the day I was supposed to line up at the start line of the Toronto Women’s Half-Marathon, run a gruelling but satisfying race, and be doused with water by shirtless firefighters.

But because of life getting in the way of my training all season, I was not able to run today. Since the beginning of the year it’s been one thing after another. Weather so bad that I just couldn’t face outdoor training. Me being sick. James being in hospital. Me being sick again. Gerard being faced with ridiculous work deadlines and therefore being unavailable to watch the kids. Planning a wedding.

I have not, at any point, stopped running altogether, so I’m in reasonable enough shape. But still, considering how sporadic my running has been, attempting a half-marathon today would have been sheer lunacy. I would have risked illness or injury or both, and I would have stood a better-than-average chance of sidelining myself for the rest of the season.

But still. Knowing that I did the right thing in forfeiting this race does not make me feel any better about it. My Facebook page is full of statuses and pictures of people who did run the race, and I am – well, jealous. I feel as if I missed out by not being there.

At the same time, though, I cannot allow myself to dwell on this. Sure, I could mope around all day lamenting the fact that I missed a race I registered for months ago, and have been looking forward to for ages. I could tell myself that running at all today is out of the question because Gerard is at work and I have no-one to watch the kids.

Or I can put on my running clothes, pull out the treadmill, and as much as I hate treadmill running, get in the 10km that I want to do today.

I am going to choose the second one. I am going indulge in my guilty pleasure (a DVD of Friends episodes) while I clock up some miles on my lab-rat machine. The good thing about this: it’s a treadmill that has a slight built-in incline, so it replicates outdoor running fairly well. It’s a lot harder to run on than the treadmills at the gym.

Because I have a big goal this year: to break two hours in a half-marathon. And I want to do it in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon in October – my annual autism run. I want to break all kinds of records this year. I want to kick butt with my fundraising, and make lots of moolah to benefit people like my son – people who are loaded with potential that can be realized if the services are there. And I want smash last year’s time of 2:22:38.

It’ll be tough, but it’s never too late to start working towards it. I definitely won’t get there by sitting on my ass and feeling sorry for myself.

I do, however, stand a good chance of it if I start working towards my next race: a half-marathon in the Niagara region on July 18th. I’m not running this race with the intention of clocking up a specific time. I just want to gain the psychological advantage of having done a half-marathon this year: a practice run in preparation for the real thing.

So, this is my choice: I am going to write off today’s missed event as an unfortunate but necessary loss, and I am going to immediately start focusing on the race coming up.

I may have woken up feeling down this morning, but I am by no means out.

I am ready to pick myself up, dust myself off, and kick some serious ass.

2011 Run For Autism: The Countdown Begins

7 Jan

This is so weird.  It seems like it was just yesterday that I did my first autism fundraising run, back in September 2009.  I still remember how it was.  I had resumed running after a layoff of several years just six months previously, when I weighed almost 200 pounds or 91kg (to put that into context, my height is 5′ 6″) and I could barely stagger around the block, never mind run 21.1 km.

Since then, I have run a 5km event, three 10km races, two ten-milers and two more half-marathons, including the 2010 autism run.  This year I am planning more and aiming for some ambitious time goals.  How things have changed since 2009.

What’s really exciting me today is that we have already started the process of planning the 2011 Run for Autism.  I was on the organizing committee for the event last year – a committee made up of Geneva Centre for Autism staff members and parents of children with autism – and I will be helping out again this year.  Yesterday I met with Holly, the outgoing fundraiser for the Geneva Centre, and we threw around some ideas.  The first official committee meeting will happen sometime this month, and soon I will be registered for the half-marathon and starting to raise sponsorships.

People have different reasons for running.  Some people do it competitively.  Others do it to stay in shape, and others do it simply for the love of the sport.  People get hooked on the endorphins that kick in after thirty minutes or so of pounding the pavement.  And me?  My reason for running is my kids.  I got back into it because of the opportunity to raise funds for autism services, to do my bit to improve the lives of people like my son George, and also their siblings who need a special kind of support of their own.

The running is not always easy, of course it’s not.  I go through peaks and valleys (right now, in fact, I am trying to claw my way out of a bit of a valley), and there are times when I want to simply quit a run half-way because the going is so rough.  But I put a picture of my boys in my head, and that gives me the strength I need to keep going.  It is the reason I started running, and while I am really enjoying the other benefits that come from running, my boys are the reason I keep it up.

I would run to the other end of the world for my children.  Surely I can manage the occasional 21.1 km.

2011: Aiming for 1:59:59

30 Dec

Today is the first anniversary of my pinched nerves.  I am almost tempted to go out and buy a cake with one candle, in recognition of the day I went to the chiropractor and left with a bundle of pinched nerves in my neck and going down my left arm, that put me out of action for three months.  I would not want to celebrate the incident itself, but the fact that I got through it and am now in the process of planning out my 2011 running season.  Or maybe I just want cake and I cannot come up with a better excuse.

Either way, I am oddly superstitious about this day.  I feel that if I can get through today without incident, I will be fine.  I just have to avoid walking under ladders and avoid the cracks in the sidewalk.  I am planning a treadmill run at the gym later on, on the assumption that I am not tempting fate.

Be that as it may, my running has taken a little bit of a dive over the last few weeks.  I had a bout of bronchitis that sidelined me for three weeks, and getting back into it has been surprisingly difficult.  It’s not that I’m in bad physical shape.  It’s that I came back from my illness setting ridiculous paces at the start of my runs that I can only sustain for 5km or so.  I’ve always been perfectly happy to start slow and build up to my target pace.  Why the sudden need to be a speed demon?  It’s not like I’m winning the Olympic Marathon anytime soon.

My poor pacing has the effect of making me feel a bit despondant about my running.  I fade at the fifth or sixth kilometre, and one of two things happens.  Either I finish my planned distance a lot more slowly than intended.  Or I simply cut the run short.  Neither scenario goes well with my psyche.  Both make me feel like I have a big red L on my forehead.

It is time now for me to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start running again properly.  That means proper planning, proper pacing, proper nutrition, and not being too lazy to take five minutes to stretch at the end of each run.

I have just gone online to order the 2011 Runners World calendar.  This calendar is amazing.  It has gorgeous photographs of “Rave Runs” – beautiful trails and paths that people run on.  It has race listings, running tips, inspirational quotes, and space to plan.  Simply having this thing on my wall on 2010 has been a great motivator for me.

Now I am planning my racing calendar for the year.  I am going to start out this coming Saturday, New Years Day, with the Running Room Resolution Run.  This is really more of a fun run than a race.  It is not chip timed, and I don’t even think the course is officially certified for the distance.  But that’s OK.  What better way could there be for a struggling runner to start off the new year?

My next racing event will be Harry’s Spring Run-Off on April 2nd.  It is only 8km, but the location – High Park – has so many big hills that it will feel like 10km.  I am doing this race specifically to have hills to train for.  I need the discipline, and when I am registered for races, I am actually pretty good at sticking to the right kinds of training programs for them.  Here is a promo video for the race.

Usually I would do the Sporting Life 10K down Yonge Street on the first Sunday in May, but since I am getting married the day before this year’s event, I should probably give it a miss for 2011.  So my next run will be the Toronto Women’s Half-Marathon in Sunnybrook Park.  I am really looking forward to this, not only because a fellow member of my running club is running it with me, but because the water station manned by shirtless firefighters.  Not to mention the chocolate station.

After that, I will do either the Acura Ten-Miler (which I hated in 2010, and feel the need to conquer) or the Midsummer Nights Run 15km (follows the same course as the Ten-Miler, so it will be just as much of a victory).

In late September I will do one of my favourite runs ever – the 10km Oasis Zoo Run.  I had a blast at this event a couple of months ago, and it has earned a permanent place in my annual racing calendar.  I cannot find a promo video for it, but here’s a montage of pictures I found of the 2009 event.

Then, on October 16th, I will run in what is by far the most important event in my race calendar.  It is the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon, and this is my reason for running.  This is my Run for Autism, the race I do for my son George who has autism, and his little brother James, who is experiencing the challenges of being sibling to a child with autism.  This event is loaded with emotional meaning for me.  Every step I take is for my boys, these beautiful people without whom my life would be empty.  Here is a nice video showing some highlights of the 2010 event.

I have a lofty goal for this year: to break two hours for the half-marathon.  That means shaving 22 minutes off my best time.  I’m going to have to train my ass off.  Literally.  With the amount of training I will have to do, I have no doubt that part of my ass will indeed come off.  Which is a good thing.

Anyway. I am excited about the new year.  Just planning it out is helping me break out of this funk I am in.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone all the best for 2011.  Aim high and whatever you want to achieve, go for it.

Running into 2011

18 Nov

2010 did not start off well for me, especially from a running perspective.  As I rang in the New Year with Gerard, I was high on Percocet that was barely making a dent in the pain I was in.  Two days previously, a chiropractic adjustment had gone horribly wrong, and damaged a bundle of nerves in my neck and going all the way down my left arm. For the next six weeks or so, I was in unspeakable pain.  The next few weeks were a blur of doctor’s visits, emergency room visits, nights of crying myself to sleep in agony, and many, many drugs. A series of physiotherapy appointments gradually got me back on my feet, and almost three months after the original injury, I was finally allowed to try running again.

The first post-injury run did not go well. I was only able to run for about one kilometre, and it took more than eight minutes.  I kept getting shooting pains going up and down my left arm and I had to keep stopping for walk breaks. The following day I needed about an hour of intense physiotherapy. But I was officially on the road again. I had graduated from injury status to rehabilitation status. My next run two days later was a lot better, and from that point on, the improvement was exponential.  Still, it would be several months before I could say that my rehabilitation was complete.  Even now, I get the occasional twinge in my arm, which I am trying to resolve with the help of a sports massage therapist.

Despite the rough start to the year and the hammering that my average pace took as a result, I ended up having a busy running season. Here is a list of the races I took part in:
– Early April: 10km waterfront race in Pickering. It went OK, especially considering that this was just two weeks after I had started running again.
– Early May: Sporting Life 10K down Yonge Street. I enjoyed this event and I was happy with my time of 1:05:00. Sadly, though, when I got home from the race I got word that my friend and fellow writer Tim had lost his battle with cancer.
– Late May: Whitby half-marathon. Despite some pre-race concerns about the organization of this event, it went really well. Gerard and the kids, along with some extended family, were cheering for me at the finish line.  My time was just over 2:25:00. This was just over two months after my first post-injury run – I was thrilled just to be able to finish a race of that distance.
– Mid-July: Acura Ten-Miler in the Distillery District. The less said about this, the better. It was not my finest moment. Life had gotten in the way of training, the course was mentally challenging and offered almost no shelter from the midsummer sun, and I pulled a hamstring. I finished the race in less than two hours, which is a miracle considering all that was wrong that day.
– Late September: the main event – my 2010 Run for Autism, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon. I cannot put into words the emotional high I was on when I crossed the finish line. It was phenomenal.  I managed a negative split, and beat my time from the previous year by a full six minutes.
– Mid-October: 10km zoo run. I did this race purely for the fun of it.  I had no expectations whatsoever.  I had an absolute blast and got a respectable enough time of 1:06:00 to boot.

All in all, not a bad year.  I put in almost 90km in races, and hundreds more in training.  I overcame a debilitating injury that I had at one point feared would sideline me for good, and I am looking forward to another great season in 2011.

So what does next year’s race calendar have in store for me?  I will start with the Resolution Run on New Years Day – just a fun 5km event that’s not even officially timed, but that does throw in a nice running jacket with the race kit. After that, I’m thinking of doing an 8km race in High Park in early April.  There are lots of hills in High Park, and they’re big hills.  It will be a tough run, but it will force me to be disciplined about hill training.

I have to give the Sporting Life 10K a miss because it’s happening the day after I get married.  I don’t think my new husband will be too pleased if I jump out of bed to go to a race at six in the morning.

At the end of May I will be running the Toronto Women’s Half-Marathon. They have a chocolate station and a water station manned by hunky shirtless firefighters.  I will be a married woman by then, but I am still a woman.  And chocolate is chocolate and shirtless firefighters are nice eye candy.

I’ll skip the Acura Ten-Miler, because my experience with it last year was enough to put a huge mental block to it in my head.  I am thinking about the Midsummer Night’s Run 15K instead, but that follows most of the same route.  I may have to figure out a summer race later on.  I may even have to find one I need to travel to.

At the end of September I will do the 10K zoo run again.  I had way too much fun to even consider missing that.  And then, in October, it will be time for my 2011 Run for Autism.  I have big plans for that – to break two hours.  That will mean chopping at least 22 minutes off of this year’s time, and that’s a massive chunk.  But I am nothing if not ambitious, and assuming I don’t start the year with an injury, I think it might be possible.  Especially since I am doing it for my boys.

There is no time for slacking.  Right after the Resolution Run on January 1st, I will be diving straight back into training mode.