we got up at 7:15 to get ready for our group run. we met downstairs at 7:50, and despite the cold, we were all...well...giddy. i personally hadn’t run in about a week, and i could tell it was making me a little bit spastic. charlotte, demps, drew and i took a few pictures (that all came out blurry unfortunately) and we stood around chatting with the people we hadn’t yet seen. i was talking to our rookie coach, who told me he liked my website. ramon over heard and called him out (to be read with a spanish accent): “you don’t like her website, you like the picture on her website! ees okay, i told her if i wasn’t the coach i would give her 500 and 1 dollars!” we busted up laughing and headed out.
we were leading the pack, chatting with ramon & the rookie. everyone chatted excitedly away, we must have sounded like a flock of strange birds. we were only going to run 20 minutes, ten out and back. it was easy of course, because of the short distance but also because we were craving a run, as the coaches said we would. when we got back, we gathered in an open space across from our hotel for a group stretch. ramon & christine talked a bit about tomorrow - what the weather was going to be like, what we should wear, and a little pep-talkin’. when that was through, we were going to go around the circle and tell everyone our name, where we’re from, which event we were doing and why. after the coaches spoke, ramon scanned around the circle and said “and let’s start with miss butt.”
i am quite certain that in the world of team in training, i am never going to live that nick-name down.
we went around the circle, which was huge - we were about 80 people i believe. it was a perfect cross-section of new york...people from all over: down south, new england, born-and-bred-in-brooklyners, californians and a few europeans of course. there were definitely folks there that i was sure i had never seen before, and i wondered how they were going to fair in their respective runs.
after the run, we got my sister and headed out for brunch. we found a place that had all-you-can-stuff-in-your-face and did so. nothing like the instruction to carbo-load! after we ate, my parents had arrived and drew and charlotte needed to get their numbers. i was highly indecisive about what to wear so we all headed over to the expo together. we waved to the coaches and i shouted “this is mom & dad bum!”
drew and char took off to get their numbers and my parents, sister and i headed into the madness of the expo. it was even more crowded than yesterday, and i was having a bout of indecision about weather or not to wear a long sleeve under my singlet. the weather was supposed to start in the 40’s and get on up into the high 50’s, maybe even the low 60’s. my long sleeved was a little heavier than what the coaches recommended, but i was having trouble finding a thin long-sleeved or a tee shirt that would work. argh. my parents were adorably trying to buy me all sorts of memorabilia - i finally settled for a long-sleeved that said “26.2 miles and still smiling.” i thought twice - was i jinxing myself? - but bought it anyway.
my family and drew headed back to their respective hotels, while charolotte and i continued to look around the expo. she wanted power-jelly beans (yes, they do make such thing), and i was still wavering on the shirt. eventually, i found my favorite running shirt for about 1/2 of what i paid for it and the decision was made. i would wear the old shirt under the singlet, and if i got too hot, i would simply take it off. voila!
by the time we left, there wasn’t much time before it was time to go to our pasta party. our chapter had ended up with the lunch seating. the nyc chapter has a tradition of donning i [heart] nyc tee-shirts, so don we did and got ready to go. demps was meeting us there, so drew, charlotte and i headed to the building right across from the hotel.
as we got off the elevator, we could hear the beginnings of a commotion. turning the corner we were greeted with screems, shout and cheers. lining both sides of the hallway were all the tnt coaches, staff and even cheering squads clapping and hollering us into the ballroom. i had the dumbest grin on my face, and was distracted enough that i didn’t even think to video the chaos. i realized that this was what pep-rallies were supposed to be like. it was so cool.
we dumped our stuff at a table right up towards the front, and went to pile our plates with pasta and bread. we sat with a fellow tnt-er and her family until the speakers begain. first was john “the penguin” (i can’t remember his last name). he writes for runners world, and was basically up there to bust us up laughing. he did a good job. he called for the first timers to stand, and quipped “enjoy it because it’s the last time you will stand up normally in about 6 weeks”. he warned the families “look out, because tomorrow morning your marathoner is going to get up with the emotional stability of a two year old.” he cautioned that we were not going to sleep that night, so we might as well not waste energy thrashing around trying to. he advised us not to worry about what time we were going to finish in because we were going to lie about it anyway! “well, it was 4 hours and 50 minutes, but i stopped 3 times to use the bathroom, and then john and betty were at mile 10 and...so yeah, like i said, it was more like 4 hours and 30 minutes by my watch!”
next on the floor was another writer and running expert who works with the lls. he talked about what a difference our fundraising makes in the advancement of research. since it’s humble beginnings, team in training has raised (i need to check this number) but in the neighborhood over $720 million dollars for the leukemia & lymphoma society. that is *real* money. i had no idea it was that much. it mad e me proud to be a part of it.
and then he began to announced the top 10 fundraisers. i held my breath for a moment...and wished a little wish that i would be in the top ten. my teammate emily was announced and i knew with a twinge of disappointment that i would not be. what was amazing though was the highest fundraiser - she raised over $54,000!! craziness!! i wonder if she auctioned any body-parts.
the final portion of the lunch, a woman got up and spoke about her granddaughter. little alison was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer far too early in life at just a few months old, and died around 9 months old. she talked for a little while about allison and how the treatments that kept her alive for as long as she was were a direct result of research funded by the lls. and then we watched a video/photo montage. it was so sad. we saw this adorable bundle of baby from the time she was born, to the hospital visits towards the end. pictures of the family; baby, momma & pup sleeping on the couch, the first time she said daddy. everyone was in tears. babies should simply not get sick. of course, it made me think of bouv, which made me cry a little harder. no one should get sick like that.
it was a full day. after we dried our eyes, it was back to the hyatt for a team meeting and to decorate our singlets. we were stocked with markers and white-out, we arts-and-crafted away while the staff took pictures. when we were mostly done, we all sat down in a circle, and the staff gave us another chance to talk about why we were running. if you’ve been reading, you know about mission moments. basically at practice every wednesday and saturday, someone would get up and talk about why they were running with team in training. because not everyone was at every practice, people were invited to speak.
i can’t remember if demps went first, but if he didn’t it was really early on. i got ready to be embarrassed. he started by saying that he was running for someone he had never met. “you might know my friend jen. she’s the one auctioning off her butt.” knew that was coming. and then he proceeded to get me, and bunches of other people teary-eyed. he talked about how i had asked him if he wanted to run a marathon, and how i was running for bouv and so he had decided to do the same. he talked a little bit about bouv, some of the things i had told him, like his love for the red sox. and so, he ran because he knew how much bouv would want to run if he could.
one after one, almost everyone in the room talked about why they were running. some had lost parents. some had siblings who were fighting a blood cancer. some joined simply to run a marathon but now were personally connected to someone affected by the cancers. childhood friends lost too early to leukemia. charlotte spoke about her best friend who died when they were little. college friends who seemed invincible lost to hodgkins. colleen spoke about how she was a terrible fundraiser, but was so inspired and impressed by us all...”i mean look at jen - she’s auctioning off a tattoo on her ass! that’s permanent! and it’s not like she’s short a thousand dollars - she’s already raised a ton of money!” and one girl who got up and spoke was a riot. she talked about how she started running to quit smoking. i will try to paraphrase here...
“i’m a smoker. i’m a proud smoker, and not only that, i’m *good* at it. i started running partially to quit smoking, which hasn’t really worked. because ironically, since i started running, i’m an even *better* smoker because of my super strong lungs. when we were out on the trails, i snuck off and smoked three cigarettes in the woods, and in fact, this morning i was smoking outside the coffee shop while the coaches were inside getting bagels. i love to smoke. but listening to you all here, after being a part of this, after not being able to quit all season, i’m actually going to quit at the end of the month. because i realize after sitting here that it would be an insult to all of you to continue to do something that pretty much is voluntarily killing myself. so my promise to you is that i am quittig.” i believed her.
i knew it was time for me to get up and speak, and i did. but i’m going to have to save that for the next post...because it’s late and this part of my story needs time to be written.