One of Campaign Consultation’s Project Managers, Michelle Bond, recently ran the Baltimore Marathon. Learn more about her experience in this post.
What inspired you to run the marathon?
Running a marathon had always been a life-long goal. It was something that I thought might be possible “someday,” but up until recently the most I had ever run at a time was 5-10 miles, and that was when I was in the Peace Corps with nothing but time on my hands!
A few years ago, a friend of mine ran the Baltimore Marathon with Team in Training, a program that provided coaching in exchange for fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She took on the challenge with such voracity; I really envied her, and thought, “I can do that.” The next year came and went and I just couldn’t bring myself to commit to the training. Before I knew it, it was two months until the marathon, which would never be enough time to train properly. I did realize however, that the marathon was only one of a series of events that comprise the Baltimore Running Festival, and so I registered for the 5k.
At that time, being competitive in a 5k was still a huge accomplishment for me, I hadn’t run a race since before college, and the electricity of the event in Baltimore completely sucked me in. Since I had participated in the 5k in 2008, I continued to receive emails and updates about the Baltimore Running Festival for the following year. I would browse the website now and then, trying to find the nerve to register for the big marathon, and seeing if I could commit to fundraising with a charity team as well.
Simultaneously, this was the fall when my dad’s Alzheimer’s began to go downhill very fast. He had been suffering for a decade and when he passed early in 2009 it was a strange and difficult experience to say the least. When I checked the running festival website again that spring and looked under charity teams, I saw one that I had not noticed before, Team Unforgettable, running and raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Association, to support care and research.
It seemed the perfect way to honor my dad, work through his loss, and challenge myself in a way I hadn’t been able to before then. I crossed the finished line with Team Unforgettable last year, raising over $3,600 and achieving a major personal milestone. The entire experience was so positive, and impacted so many people, that I literally felt I had to do it again.
Briefly explain training: you mentioned that you run several days a week and work up your distance over time and after you do a long run you race and a week before the race you take it easy, right?
One thing that made this goal attainable to me was the fantastic coaching and support of the Alzheimer’s Association training team (now the AlzStars). While you don’t run with the team all the time, the group is always available to you. Coaching tips, weekly inspiration, and a group of individuals who has each been personally impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, makes a remarkable network of resources.
The actual running schedule largely consists of running 3-4 days a week with some cross-training in between, and one of those runs being a long run on the weekend. The weekday runs remain fairly consistent, getting slightly longer over the course of the season, but it’s the weekend run that grows by 1-2 miles every week. We were fortunate enough to have a long enough training season (about 4 months) that it also built in s few “drop back” weeks to allow for recovery once the miles really start adding up. And yes, you are right, we ran the longest amount of miles about 3 weeks before the marathon, and then dropped down dramatically each week in order to store energy and optimize performance on race day.
Also, what does crossing the finish line feel like?
Wow. It’s hard to explain… last year; I had an incredible sense of accomplishment. I had envisioned the moment so many times, and even got overwhelmed while I was running whenever I thought about that feeling. I was excited, and reminded that sometimes you can really do anything you set your mind to.
This year, well, to be honest I think I’m still on a post-race high. I really had no idea how I would feel, and I think in some ways I was afraid the experience would be anticlimactic. But of course it wasn’t. I had an incredible sense of pride this time around. The benefit of having set new goals, and achieving them, all while raising funds and awareness for a cause so close to me was abundant. I also had a really keen sense of purpose this year.
Last year this was a very personal journey for me. It was a way of healing and of finding something inside myself I hadn’t discovered before. One thing I realized throughout the process last year too was how many people in my life (that I hadn’t realized before) are affected by this disease. I distinctly remember sitting around the table with a group of friends who all hadn’t been together in a while and talking about my training. All eight people sitting there had either lost a loved one or currently had family members caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s. This year I truly felt that I had to run this race for them. That if I am blessed enough to have my dad’s running genes, then this is a way I can give back – by using the gift to raise hope for others who aren’t in a position to do so.
I really felt triumphant last weekend, largely in part because I was having a blast the whole time. The city was out in force and people were so gracious. Knowing what to expect on race day also really helped me to relax and be in the moment. I wasn’t focusing on, “oh God, how many more miles?” I just loved every second of the experience, and didn’t feel like there was any reason to hold back.
Do you think you’ll do it again?
It’s so funny because I always thought of this as a once in a lifetime experience, and then you get into it, and realize, “Wow, I can do it. What else can I do?” I didn’t know that I would do it again this year until the pasta dinner before last year’s marathon. The team shared a meal and acknowledged everyone’s efforts. We realized the impact we collectively were having on Alzheimer’s (on research, programs and services). Running the marathon was painful, but I knew that it was worth it, and if I could finish, I would most likely do it again.
By contrast, I spent much of this season struggling to stay motivated. It was a super hot summer, I had a couple of setbacks personally, and I really wondered at times why I had made this commitment. It was also tough fundraising. While I raised an additional $2,700 this year – again way more than my personal goal thanks to everyone’s generosity in hard times – it was a lot harder. I’m uncomfortable asking people for money, even if it’s for a worthy cause, and so I had to be creative about the messaging and requests I made. I have been incredibly supported (in all ways) throughout this experience and I would never want that to appear as something taken for granted.
As the season went on though, and I began to tackle 17, 18, 21 miles at a time, I was reminded again of that feeling of accomplishment and purpose. Eating pasta this year also brought the same feelings as last year – “How could I NOT do it again?!” Running the race last weekend definitely solidified the feeling.
The Alzheimer’s training program has raised over $175,000 in the past three years. People who could not receive support and services before, can now because of these efforts. Having been partially responsible for taking care of my father, I know what a HUGE resource this organization is to families and caregivers in really tumultuous times.
So, while I’m not exactly sure it will always be this marathon in this way, I know I will remain a distance runner, set some new goals and continue to champion this vital cause.
Posted by Michelle Bond, Project Manager