The whole reason I’m running again is because I’ve accepted a challenge to run the Fred, a 200 mile relay on the White Pine Trail, while raising money for West Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition.
So let’s talk about the fundraising. Let’s talk about money.
Are you scared? Oh, c’mon, you’re at least a little scared. I mean, what if I ask you for money right here and now? Ah!!
I can tell you there are people who are scared to death to be on the other side, to be the one asking. We’ve had more than one person interested in this team but who will not commit because of the fundraising. In fact there are really good runners who wouldn’t hesitate to run this thing back and forth but who could not bring themselves to print off an ask letter and pop it in the mail. That is just the richest irony for a middle aged, slow, rectal cancer survivor who is considerably anxious about letting my team down by failing to do the miles or the pace or both or worse. The running is the scary part, sillies!
What is it about money, though? I have some thoughts.
First of all) The Money’s not For Me
It’s for the West Michigan Trails & Greenways Coalition (check them out at: www.wmtrails.org), a nonprofit organization that has been around for over fifteen years and supports folks financially and otherwise who are planning, building, improving or maintaining local trails. They have raised over nine million dollars, helped to leverage nearly twenty one million in government funding and advanced work at twenty five local trails throughout their existence.
I’ve been riding my bike and running on these trails for several years now and I love them. I have so many good memories of crossing the bridge into Rockford on my bike, or hitting new running distances at some intersection on the White Pine, or having a stranger spontaneously call out encouragement or stopping for an ice cream cone or even a picnic with John.
It has actually occurred to me more than once on those lovely days when I have time for the trail and the trail has an experience for me, to send a grateful thought to whoever put that there. Thanks, Person who walked out there and had the idea and made a bunch of calls and talked to the bank people and hauled in the heavy equipment, you did that for me and you don’t even know me and I am having a ball.
And Person who walked out there and had the idea (etc.) put that there for you too. So I’m not even a little embarrassed to ask you for money to support the trails because I want you to have that experience where time has disappeared and there’s a creek you can stick your feet in around the next corner and you might see a baby cow (oh yeah, that’s a calf) or a butterfly and you can have a scoop of Moose Tracks in a waffle cone and watch fish jump at the Rockford dam, too. I want us all to have that, always and more and more.
Second of All) Yes it is Too (Kindof) (Really) for Me
I’ve been afraid to run since cancer. See – some of you have heard this before and if you have, skip this paragraph; but if you haven’t, this paragraph is important – I went through six weeks of radiation, six months of chemotherapy, two surgeries, three hospital stays, multiple colonoscopies, MRIs and cat scans and one barium enema, thank you very much. And when it was all over, I was sent back to my life without cancer (that part is wonderful) but also without a working rectum. And that was bad. I was afraid to leave my house. I was afraid to go to work. I was afraid to go to parties or performances or out to dinner.
One day, before I returned to work, I was miserable and enslaved to my bathroom and I had the thought that maybe what I really needed was to take a walk because maybe that would ironically help. It was a nasty, icy, wintery stretch and I had to suit all up, but once outside, I couldn’t make it past my driveway before I had to run back inside.
And I did the ugly screech at John, something to the affect that this was how it was going to be now, the doctors were done with me and the cancer was gone but I would never be the same. I wouldn’t be able to do outdoorsy things and my fitness would decline and his life would become limited by me. You know those times when you can just see forward to exactly where the dominoes are all going to land?
I remember John refuting my predictions but I couldn’t imagine why. This was the fork in the road. Was he just saying that because you would have to just say that?
And I am really still getting over that. My body is improving, my strategies are improving, my confidence is improving, but sometimes I’ll be out someplace and I get to a point where I have to go home. People don’t always get it. They see me as recovered. So they ask me if I’m ‘tired’, they seem to think I’ve had some unexpected relapse, or they assume I have a new commitment to being a general health freak. But the thing is, I don’t have a rectum anymore; let’s not get into details, I have to go home.
So I’ve been afraid to run. And this relay has nudged me past that fear. And two days ago, I got home from work, grabbed a bottle of water, drove out to Millenium Park and ran five miles.
(Except I have more things to say so I’m going to need to just pick that mike back up for a minute.)
Third of All) You Can Support This Cause
The West Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition is helping me to run the Fred (which is in August, people have asked). They have provided me with a professional trainer, which I think is making a huge difference in my running. Well, and she is the one who patiently showed me how to run on a treadmill without falling down. WMTGC is also going to make the whole “race” (I never feel like I am racing, I’m in it to finish, thus the quotes) “day” (yeah, it’s more than a day, I wish it was a day) so much less of a hassle.
In return, WMTGC wants me to raise two thousand dollars for them. And I just feel like WMTGC should be coming out ahead in this deal.
So I sent a bunch of ask letters and I have been getting excellent response. Some of those folks are giving for the sake of the trails. They love them too, they have seen that same butterfly or something. Some of them are doing it for me, or for the whole idea of cancer recovery. They love me or they love cancer recovery. What’s not to love? Some have specifically been touched by colon cancer. Some are fellow runners, they love running (weirdos!).
Folks have told me they are “thrilled” to give to this cause. They’ve sent me stickers and happy, encouraging notes. I’ve kept all those notes (even the one that said “please don’t start sending me mailings” because that’s funny) (but seriously, we promise not to send anyone any mailings).
So I wanted you to have that same thrill. I wanted to open this up to all my Facebook friends. If any of this resonates strongly with you, go to www.wmtrails.org, click “Make a Donation” in the upper right corner of the webpage and mention my name. You can also write a check to their address which appears on the bottom of the webpage.
If you do this, I will dedicate a training run to you, take a picture of myself rising to the challenge, and put it on Facebook tagging you. All the (Facebook) world will see the nice thing you did for me and a bunch of great trails. I mean, you could be famous. And that, if you didn’t know before, is why I have been posting those pictures of myself.
Give if this story inspires you or makes you laugh, or if it makes you grateful that you’re a way better runner or that you don’t have to run a damn 200 mile relay yourself.
Fourth of All) Thank you, by the way, if you have already done this. It really gives me a boost. Sometimes I think of you out there standing beside the trail and hollering something loud and embarrassing to encourage me when I feel like ‘I think I might just quit for now and go watch television with a chardonnay and a pop-tart’. I haven’t yet!