Running for a Cause in 2017

Hi all, and Happy 2017!  It’s going to be an interesting – and busy! – year …

team-awesome-2017-logoMost of you know that I will run the Ottawa Marathon on May 28.  I originally registered for the Half, but thought I would “upsize” my participation in Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend (TORW) 2017 when I was named to Team Awesome, a group of runners who are raising visibility/awareness of, and excitement around, TORW.

So – the old body willing, I’ll run 42.2km on Sunday, May 28.  May the weather gods look upon us favourably that day (they most definitely did NOT in 2016!).

If you know me well, you know that I have a passion about running to help others.  I’ve raised a lot of money in recent years for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, for CHEO (via the Sears Run), for Candlelighters, and most recently, for Imerman Angels.

As part of Team Awesome and TORW 2017, I thought I would dedicate my 2017 marathon to one of the charities supported by the Scotiabank Charity Challenge (hashtag #RunScotia).  I gave the list of charities a look, and one stood out as an obvious choice to me:  the Royal Foundation for Mental Health.

Why the Royal?  There are a few reasons:

  • In today’s crazy, hectic world, more of us than ever struggle – often silently – with mental illness.  It’s one of those things that tends not to get as much attention as it should, due to social stigma … so I thought, why not help out this worthy cause?
  • The Royal does a TON of work to help those who suffer from mental illness, including critical research and advocacy services (it is one of Canada’s leading centres in this regard).  Funds raised for the Royal, as a result, are amplified beyond just the local community.
  • Finally – and most important to me personally – a very dear/close family friend, Helen O’Brien, devoted her entire career to the Royal, spending well over 50 years there helping patients.  Helen passed away in November, and I would like to do something for the Royal as a nod to Helen, and as a gesture of love & support for all that she did and all that she was to me and my family.  We miss you, Murfff.
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Helen O’Brien with me at my brother’s wedding, August, 2010

Run Ottawa and Scotiabank make it very easy for me to support the Royal, and to reach out to my family, friends and colleagues to donate and make a difference to this worthy cause.  So you’ll be hearing from me soon.  Thanks in advance to all of you who will support me.

If you’re still reading this and want to make a difference – here’s the place to go … I’ve set a personal fundraising goal of $2017 for obvious reasons!

Tracy’s Donation Page – Ottawa Marathon 2017 (tax receipts will be issued)

In the meantime – out into the cold winter I go, to start training for May 29!  Hard to imagine now, but the race is just around the corner.

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Twitter event – #runOTTchat – Sun Nov 20 at 8:00pm

Hey people!  A short public service announcement.  On Sunday, Nov 20 at 8:00pm ET, the members of #TeamAwesome, 2017 Edition, will be introduced to the running community on a tweetup.  The hashtag to follow:  #runOTTchat.

The event will introduce the team members and let us tell you a bit about ourselves, our running history and what motivates us to keep going.  I would love anyone planning to run in Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend (TORW) to join in on the fun!  If you are new to running or to racing, you should definitely check in … we will be sharing tips/advice for that first big race next May.

A personal request:  if you are socially-conscious runner, why not dedicate your TORW 2017 run to a charity and raise some money for people who could use a hand?  The Scotiabank Charity Challenge allows you to select an affiliated charity and use your participation in TORW as a vehicle to raise funds for those who could really use some help.  Check out the Scotiabank Charity Challenge page for more information/details – and by all means reach out if you want advice or guidance … through running, I’ve raised over $100,000 for charities in the last six years and I can give you some ideas!

So come one, come all on Sunday!  It’s going to be a blast.  #runOTTchat

Awesome

–Tracy

Team Awesome for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend 2017!

So this happened:  I’ve been selected by the organizers of Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend (TORW) to be part of Team Awesome, 2017 Edition!

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The team is comprised of over 20 runners who are participating in TORW.  Our goal is to generate some energy & enthusiasm for the 2017 TORW event (May 27-28), and to build a sense of community among runners participating in the weekend.

I’m honoured and privileged to be part of this great crew, and you’ll be hearing from me and the rest of the team over the next 7 months.  There will be tweetups, group runs, blog posts, updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and so much more.  Be sure to follow the #RunOttawa2017 hashtag and @RunOttawa Twitter handle!

One of the perks of being part of Team Awesome is that we also get to run in the event of our choice during TORW.  I originally signed up for the half … but given that it will be 2017 and the 150th birthday of Canada, I’ve decided to supersize my participation and run the full!  I ran the Ottawa Marathon in 2014 under way-less-than-ideal conditions (SO.VERY.HOT!), so I want another kick at the beast.

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Ottawa Marathon 2014 – clearly the heat wasn’t affecting my spirits TOO much … #NoSpongeLeftBehind

I’m nursing a couple of injuries right now, but am confident that between now and May I can do some rehab and build up my strength for the full 42.2-km adventure!

Those who know me well, also know that I run for causes.  I currently run for Imerman Angels, a charity that connects cancer fighters & their caregivers, with those who have been through it and come out the other end.  I hope to use my Team Awesome experience to encourage others to run for one or more worth causes during TORW!  It’s such a fulfilling way to match your running passion to making the world a better place for those who need a bit of help.  Contact me if you want some guidance on this front … I would love to engage any runner considering making a difference.

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Chicago Marathon 2015 – for Imerman Angels

The rest of the team will be announced by Run Ottawa on Sunday, November 20 – much, much more to come.  Until then, keep running, stay connected and stay tuned!

–Tracy

 

Chicago Marathon 2015 – 26.2 Miles, But Only One Step

Well – just like that, it’s over.  For now.

I am sitting in the Porter Lounge on Toronto Island, contemplating Chicago Marathon weekend 2015.  So many memories … where to begin?  Probably last fall, when a fellow charity-centric Ottawa runner & triathlete, Brent Smyth, gently challenged a few of his friends to consider running the Chicago Marathon in 2015, to raise awareness/funds for his charity, Imerman Angels.  Imerman Angels (“IA”) is a peer-mentoring service for cancer fighters and their caregivers.  IA offers a free and important service, and it’s a pretty simple model:  call IA; tell them what you are dealing with; and IA will find someone like you in their large & growing database of 7,000+ “Mentor Angels” – someone who knows what you are going through, because they have been through it too, and won.

Pretty good cause, and Brent is a great guy.  He’s setting up an IA chapter in Ottawa.  So, after declaring “never again” after Ottawa Marathon 2014, I signed up … and the journey began for me, as well as for several others from the Ottawa running community, my brother Lee in Toronto, my co-worker Chris from California, and a few transplanted Canadians living in the US.  Collectively we decided to call ourselves “Team Canada.”  Our fundraising goal was modest, by charity-marathon standards:  raise about $1,500 US each.

Team Canada - Group

In the spring, we started training together (at first, relatively short runs … by the end, very long ones!).  This allowed some of us who didn’t know each other well to get a feel for the team vibe.  We learned pretty quickly that we tend to surround ourselves with others like us:  to a person, Team Canada was populated with dedicated and big-hearted runners.

We held a comedy-night fundraiser in May, and did pretty well by it.  We all knew that with a little work & coordination, and we could do some amazing things.

In September, we held a major fundraiser at Fatboys Southern Smokehouse on the Byward Market.  Shawn and Jenny from Fatboys were incredibly kind to us, giving us the run of the place on a Friday night.  Local band Running Naked were super generous, donating an evening of their time to the cause.  We hoped to raise $2,000-$3,000 initially.  The evening of the event, I guessed we might clear $4,000.  Once it was all added up, we ended up making $6,000 for the charity that night.  We are so blessed with family and friends who rally when asked.  You are all AMAZING.

Team Canada at Fatboys

There were definitely some bumps along the way:  one of our runners was sidelined by a knee injury; and another by a broken toe.  A third had family-illness issues that kept her from participating in the run (while missed at the event, she properly put priority on her baby & husband).

So – fast-forward to Chicago Marathon weekend!  I was flying through Toronto via Porter Airlines, so I could meet my brother Lee.  Unfortunately, Porter cancelled our Toronto-Chicago trip and the net-net of it was Lee had to buy an Air Canada flight (from another airport!) whereas Porter bumped me to a convenient flight … 13 hours later.  So I landed in Chicago approximately 19 hours after I woke up on Oct 9 (note:  Ottawa to Chicago is a 2-hour flight).

Not an auspicious start!  But Saturday changed all of that.

On Saturday, we met up with the rest of Team Imerman Angels – over 200 runners who, like us, were training all summer & fall and raising money for the cause.  Collectively Team Canada raised over $25,000 US for IA, and the greater team raised over $300,000 US.  To put that into perspective:  it costs IA approximately $350 per connection between a cancer fighter/caregiver and a peer.  So our work this summer/fall created the possibility for over 850 Mentor Angel connections.

Team IA Photo Pre-Marathon - Oct 11 2015

Further, there was a butterfly effect:  from our fundraiser at Fatboys, we had cancer survivors contact the charity to register on their Mentor Angel database; and a couple of local friends who were unaware of the service, took advantage of it for themselves or for a loved one.

The Marathon itself was tough.  It’s billed as very flat – and for the most part, it is.  But it was VERY warm that day, and the Chicago Marathon is like two different races in one.  The first 14 miles or so are AWESOME … through the downtown streets, with over a million (no joke – organizers estimate 1.7M) spectators screaming you on.  But after mile 15, things change:  suddenly there are few buildings and little shade.  When it’s 23C in full sun (not a cloud in the sky) and you are in the back end of a marathon, that’s not good.  And the spectators peter out as well, until you hit about mile 24.  The last two miles are noisy and hectic, and could be exhilarating … but by that point, the runners were SO exhausted it was eerily like a Walking Dead kind of finish … lots of shuffling runners, a few folks on the ground, and many, MANY walkers.

A further complication:  in the first 10 miles or so of the race, GPS watches do not function properly due to the tall buildings.  This means you run the first 40% of the marathon blind, as far as pacing goes.  As a result, you can run too quickly regardless of your race plan, which is what many of us did.  And you pay the price at the back end of the race for that.

With 800m left in the run, I realized that I was going to be within 10-20 seconds of being under four hours for my time.  I couldn’t let that go (I’m a bit of a Type-A runner) so despite the pain in my legs & feet, I cut loose and booted it.  I came across the finish at 3:59:40 – just squeezing in under the dreaded four-hour marker.

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A few random observations/memories:

  • Listening to an IA participant who was to run with us Sunday, but could not because her cancer had recurred.  And being so inspired by her courage, in the face of her situation.  Which is to say:  count your blessings, everyone.
  • The spectators.  I’ve run some big races in Toronto (spectators:  meh); Ireland (energetic, but not huge numbers); and Ottawa (where I think we hit well above our weight in numbers and enthusiasm).  But nothing compares with the energy that came off the crowd, especially in the first 14 miles and last 2 miles.  They were INSANE.  Thank you, Chicago!
  • Speaking of which:  Mid-Western friendliness and hospitality.  Chicago – you effing ROCK.
  • The beer at the finish line.  Nothing like a cold Goose Island after 42.2km of hell on a hot day.
  • The security guard who, seeing that I was in more than a wee bit of discomfort/pain, offered to carry me down the steps from the finishing area to Michigan Avenue.  With a HUGE smile on his face he said, “Sir – I’ve got all day here, so why don’t you let me help you down those stairs.”  So he put his arm around me and escorted me down the stairs.
  • Being met at the hotel post-race by Jonny Imerman (himself a two-time cancer survivor and founder of Imerman Angels) with a beaming smile and huge hug.  And Jonny then escorting me into a room of screaming Team IA volunteers, welcoming me into the after-party like I had just stepped off the space shuttle.

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  • The Team IA after-party.  An incredible, positive energy-fest unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  Every runner was greeted by a wild crowd of screaming Team IA organizers and other runners.  A must-do-again experience.  But next year, I’d love for Bonnie and Reid come along.
  • Seeing my brother Lee enter the after-party after finishing his first marathon, and shed a few tears.  This is a guy who didn’t even run five years ago.  Bro, I am so proud of you and impressed by your dedication and commitment (here’s a shot of Lee and I flanking Jonny Imerman).

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  • Brent Smyth – who got us all into this – tearing up every time he started to think about what we accomplished as a team this summer/fall.  Brent, you are amazing.
  • My sponsors:  the 17 people who so generously contributed money to the charity, and in doing so supported my cause.  You are the best.
  • My wife and son.  Bonnie and Reid:  you put up with a lot, and yet still indulge my passion for running and charity fundraising.  I am forever grateful.
  • All of the incredible friendships I’ve brokered from this experience.  In particular, the core crew who ran every weekend and did the deed in Chicago:  Brent, Jane, Chris, Cathy, Mel, Sandy and Lee.  You are an amazing crew and I am honoured and privileged to have served this cause with you this year.

And … what about next year?  Had you asked me on race day, the answer would have been NO WAY.  Yet today, only one day later, Brent, Lee and I were talking about ideas for next year, to raise the bar.  So watch out, Chicago – Team Canada is coming again next year!

My Next Epic Marathon Adventure – CHICAGO!

Well, hello again.  It’s been a while since I’ve posted to this blog, and I thought it high time for an update.  The last time I posted, it was the summer of 2014:  the painful afterglow of my first (and, as I thought at the time, only) marathon had dissipated, and I was doing some fundraising for an Ottawa-based charity (Candlelighters) helping local cancer patients and their families.

After the summer running season, I took the fall pretty easy – running some 10k and 5k races, raising some money in the Sears Great Canadian Run (for kids’ cancer research – our team collectively ran 100k in an all-day, drenching rain – that was a hoot), and running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-marathon in late October with my brother, Lee (it was his first half!).

Then, flu season arrived – and my November running fizzled to literally nothing due to illness.  Next, one of the coldest winters in recorded history for Ottawa set in (and folks, THAT says something!).  Fast forward to late January … and I while the 2015 Ottawa Half-Marathon was on the horizon, I had lost some of my passion.  What was missing, of course, was a cause to run for.  It seems I need the motivation.

Enter Brent Smyth, this nut:Brent

Brent, for some time, has been a passionate supporter of many cancer-related causes, including Imerman Angels, a Chicago-based charity whose mission it is to provide free, 1-on-1 support to cancer fighters, survivors and caregivers.  Brent had been talking with me and other Ottawa-based running peeps about sending some runners down to Chicago to run the 2015 Chicago Marathon on October 11.  The Chicago Marathon supports Imerman Angels by providing race bibs to folks willing to raise funds for the charity.

Yeah, but I would never run a marathon again.  EVER.

Until now.

So – in October, seven of us (at current count – INCLUDING my brother Lee, in his first-ever marathon!) will be representing as Team Canada for Imerman Angels, in the Chicago Marathon.  Here’s a recent team pic:

Team Canada - Group

A better-looking bunch of Canucks, you’ll never find.

If you’re still with me, you might be thinking something like, “wow – that’s so great” or, “gee, what a nice story.”  But you might also be thinking, “for the love of all things holy – is he NUTS?!?

Either way, you’re still with me, good people – and for that, I’m truly grateful.

As has been the case in the past, I’d like to ask you to consider sponsoring my marathon in Chicago, and helping out the good folks at Imerman Angels with their mission.  I have committed to raise $1,250 (US dollars) for the charity.

I do the hard part – training for and running the 42.2km (trust me – it ain’t easy!).  Where you can help, is by providing me with an emotional tailwind – by pledging some financial support to folks who could truly use it.

If you can find it in your heart to sponsor my marathon, I’ll be forever grateful .. as will be the cancer fighters who will benefit directly from your kindness.  To sponsor my journey and make a donation, click here:

http://imermanangels.donordrive.com/participant/TracyRaces

I promise to keep this blog up-to-date as I train toward the fall.  In the meantime – thank you, as always, for your friendship, your encouragement, and your support.

THANK YOU on behalf of Imerman Angels and Team Canada!!!

Team IA Team Canada

What’s next …

Hi all,

I just realized that I hadn’t posted on my blog since the day after my marathon in May.  I have kept running, but have taken a wee hiatus from fundraising for a few months as I took some time to spend with the family … including a trip to Ireland and running in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half-Marathon in August.  It was a great run, on a near-perfect day:

IMG_1912But now – back to helping others!  This fall I am going to raise funds in two ways, to help kids with cancer.

In August, I’ll be collaborating with my colleagues at Trend Micro to raise funds for Candlelighters – an Ottawa-based charity that provides much-needed support for children with cancer, and their families.  For example, Candlelighters provides parents with mattresses to sleep on, so they can overnight with their kids at the hospital.  They also pay parking fees for hospital visits, which quickly add up into the hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars for families already going through enough of a challenge.

We are conducting two fundraisers in August:

  1. An Evening of Inspiration and Hope – Thu, Aug 21 6-9pm at Juniper in Westboro.  At this event, enjoy hors d’oeuvres and a buffet meal, listen to three inspirational guest speakers, and participate in a silent auction with some VERY cool swag in play!  $50 per person or $100 per couple.
  2. The LEGO Movie – Sun, Aug 24 1-3pm at the Mayfair Theatre on Bank Street.  This movie is a hit for both young & old.  If you’ve ever played with LEGO (and who hasn’t?!?) you’ll love this flick.  $15 per person or $50 for a family of four.

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For tickets to either or both events, or simply to make a donation, visit http://www.helpkidswithcancer.ca.  Thanks!

 

 

After August, I’ll be running for a cause again!  This time, it will be with Cole’s Cancer Crusaders in the Sears Great Canadian Run to End Kids’ Cancers.  I am part of a team of 15 people who will run a 100-km relay from Ottawa to Montebello on Oct 4.  Our goal is to raise $10,000 for the cause, and I’ll be reaching out to my friends/family in September for support – so stay tuned!

Thanks as always for your support & encouragement.  Keep doing good things, folks!  And please consider joining us at Juniper on Aug 21, or at the Mayfair on Aug 24.

–Tracy