Yesterday I ran the Fontana Half-Marathon …

Lisa finishing Fontana Half-Marathon

… and I’m feeling a wonderful post-race confidence and well being that running always brings me. Back in March, I wrote the below article to be published in the Chino Hills Life Magazine. But before it went to print, they went out of business! Since running is my favorite wellness activity, what better place to post it than on beingwellstayingwell.com ? This story is dedicated to my amazing running friends at the Inland Empire Running Club.

 

Nobody Walks in LA -They RUN! 

IERC Members Conquer the LA Marathon

March 8 was a big day for running in Los Angeles. Twenty-five thousand people ran the 29th Annual Los Angeles Marathon. The Inland Empire Running Club (IERC) had a strong showing with 190 members finishing. The following Saturday the club met at Butterfield Ranch Park in Chino Hills for a short “victory run” and post race celebration. They ate, laughed, showed off their medals, and shared some astounding stories.

Jim, an experienced runner, describes how he stood at the starting line filled with adrenaline and determination. He was boxed in among 25,000 runners – each psyching themselves up to accomplish one of the great challenges of life: running a 26.2 mile marathon.

The song “I love LA” boomed from gargantuan speakers as the announcer began the countdown. The crowd emitted an unquenchable energy to conquer the goal for which they had each spent long months preparing.

Like every other runner, Jim would fight battles of both body and mind. Like every successful runner, he would rely on his inner resources to overcome them.

That day, every runner contended with fatigue, muscle soreness, cramps, and lactic acid build-up, not to mention the effects of the temperature soaring to 85 degrees. The mental battlefield was equally grueling: self-doubt, negative thoughts, and what-ifs.

Perhaps the most heinous obstacle of all is what the marathon is famous for: “the wall.” Runners hit the wall, (or “bonk”) when around mile 20, the mind and body challenges converge … all the body’s reserves have been used up, and the runner continues by sheer force of will.

For Jim, mile 9 started to feel like the wall as he forged up the hill near Veteran’s Hospital under the blazing sun.

Suddenly he saw a giant screen flashing a larger-than-life photo of him with the words, “Run like Jim!” He laughed, recognizing it as a pre-planned loving gesture by his sister-in-law and fellow runner, Angela.

Jim and Angela pic

Angela and Jim

“Going up that hill, I was struggling and in pain; that sign kept me going. It motivated me.”

Michelle, another IERC member, beams with a mother’s pride as she tells her story of running the LA Marathon with her entire family. For six months, Michelle, her husband Scott, their 21 year-old son Zac, and their 20 year-old daughter Amanda trained for this event. She explains – with a spunky joy – what running together has meant to her family.

Applegate pic

The Applegate family

Parents often find it hard to get kids to commit to anything for more than a day. But my kids showed up every week to complete the long training run. They did the weekday sessions too. We’ve always been a close family. Now we have so many great running stories to share.”

Jackie, another IERC member, relates how running has been a means of transforming her life and health. She posts pictures of her three LA Marathons on Facebook to illustrate the emergence of her healthiest self.

Sometimes you get so busy thinking about how far you have to go, that you forget about how far you have come. It was not until I compared my photos and race times that I recognized my success.”

For this race, her third LA Marathon, she was 20 pounds lighter and one hour faster than she was for her first.

Jacky pic

Jacky as IERC pace leader

“The most I did in high school was marching band. I weighed 210 pounds. Then I heard I could run through Disneyland and get a medal! I decided at that point to run a half-marathon. My mom brought me to IERC three years ago, and I’m still making progress.”

Jackie looks fit and fantastic, and more importantly, she feels unstoppable. She now volunteers as a pace leader in the club, assisting other runners in accomplishing their goals.

With plucky conviction, Jackie shares what she has learned along her running journey. “Losing weight makes me go faster … and going faster makes me lose weight. Running helps me eat healthy because food is my fuel, and I want to feel good on my runs. Food is not the reward – the finish line is the reward.” Lowering her voice, she confesses, “But after the LA Marathon, I let myself have a burger and fries.”

“One more thing,” she says, eager to be an effective role model, “If you don’t change your habits you will never see changes in your body.”

Perhaps IERC member Victoria’s comments best sum it up: “This was my first marathon. It was so hard and it hurt. But my confidence was through the roof this week. I plan to do it again.”

Julesha, another IERC member adds, “Pain is temporary … pride is forever.”

Standing before the diverse and invigorated group – who have become like family to each other – IERC President David concludes the storytelling session with a probing question, “So … what’s next?”

IERC LA Marathon Logo

Jeannine and Reggie

Jeannine and Reggie

Starting at the Finish Line:

One woman’s triumphant journey from disabling illness to half-marathon runner

If you met my friend Jeannine, you would like her. She is one of those gracious people that seems naturally friendly, naturally smart, naturally kind, naturally strong. If you met her at the Inland Empire Running Club (IERC), you would also guess that she was a natural born runner. During the workweek, she fastidiously follows the training plan set forth by Reggie, her Boston Marathon runner-husband. This is after teaching science to junior high students all day.

In the last two years she has run seven half-marathons and has achieved a “PR” (personal record) every time. You may be starting to think, “Well, it’s easy for people like that.” Well, let me tell you something about Jeannine you would never guess if you met her. Just three years ago, she suffered from an illness that nearly destroyed her life.

What started as sore muscles and joint pain soon turned into an illness that left her bedridden, burning with fever, unable to eat, frightfully thin, dehydrated, with barely the energy to speak. In her words, “I was literally molting; my hair fell out and my skin fell off!”

She had to take a leave from her teaching job, let her husband take care of the kids and the house, and allow her mother to move in to care for her. At one point, her daughter asked, “Is Mama going to die?” Day after day, leaning on her husband’s arm, she hobbled into dozens of doctor’s appointments seeking a diagnosis for her ailment. It took months for the team of specialists to determine that it was “Stills Disease,” an autoimmune disorder that is often life-long and permanently disabling.

When the mysterious malady was finally labeled, the proper treatment could be administered.  This led to slow but steady progress. Before long Jeannine could leave the house and do short errands. Mustering up her strength, she pushed herself toward a small goal: to greet Reggie at the finish line when he ran the San Diego Marathon.

She explains, “I was in so much pain that day – as I approached him, I nearly stumbled. I had only left the hospital two weeks prior.”

Then she saw something that changed her life: the San Diego sun beaming on a throng of people: black, brown, yellow, white; they were young and old, thick and thin, male and female, perfect form and pitiable form – every one of them finishing the race. As she moved through the dizzying mob of fatigued but ebullient runners, each drenched in sweat and smiles as they approached the finish … Jeannine had an epiphany:

“In one year I will complete the half-marathon race – running, walking, or crawling … I will cross this finish line.”

Preparing for that half-marathon became the cornerstone of her recovery. It took five months for her to be able to walk even a mile. But, one step at a time, she worked her way up to several miles. It hurt and she was tired, but she kept on going. She was determined to get healthy enough to accomplish her goal. Over a period of months she strengthened, eventually able to walk 5, then 7, and finally 9 miles through her Chino Hills community.

Jeannine explains, “Pretty soon walking 9 miles got boring, so I started jogging – just a little bit.” It was February – the race was only four months away. She had never entered races before, and certainly never considered herself “a runner.” Her husband asked her repeatedly to come join him at IERC. When he explained that they have walkers who complete races, Jeannine reluctantly agreed.

Reggie reports, “I knew she would finish the race. And I also knew she would not walk; she would run.”

Jeannine showed up at IERC the next Saturday morning and found herself amongst kind and helpful people, all eager to support her success. She was embraced by her walk/run pace leader, Lizette, now a dear friend. With her new group of allies, Jeannine painstakingly prepared for victory – over the wretched illness and over the 13.1 mile race.

On race day there was no surprise. Jeannine completed the distance, finishing strong. She not only ran it, she crossed the finish line hand-in-hand with Reggie.

Two years later Jeannine and I are sipping coffee at Starbucks. We discuss the pain and the pleasure of running and what it has done to enhance our lives. Her smile is wide and she radiates health. Looking gorgeously fit, she may be in the best shape of her life (certainly the best shape of anyone in that Starbucks). Grasping for the right words to describe her process, she makes a teacherly gesture with her thumb and forefinger. Thoughtfully, she tells me,

“When I first start each run, I don’t want to move – my muscles are tight and my knees ache. Eventually my legs warm up, the pain is gone, and I can pick up my speed. What keeps me going? Knowing the pain is temporary. It won’t keep feeling like this. Even though it is intense and you don’t think you can endure, if you keep going, you get through it. And then somehow, it’s an important and meaningful part of you.  I guess now, I can call myself a runner. That’s how life is.”

If you like the support of a group, you can visit IERC on a Saturday morning in Chino Hills at Butterfield Ranch Elementary School at 7:00 am. For more information regarding IERC, check out our website at ierunningclub.com , visit our Facebook page, or write to us at info@ierunningclub.com .

*This article was first published in Chino Hills Life Magazine (Hibu company).

Lisa & Jeannine

Jeannine and Lisa after the Surf-City Half-Marathon

Reggie, Jeannine, Lisa

Lisa, Reggie, and Jeannine after running the Surf City Half-Marathon