Thankful for you!

 

Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

I hope this post finds you well, perhaps defrosting your turkey or doing some last minute grocery shopping. Wherever you are today, I hope you’re already with your special people or will be very soon.

This Thanksgiving Eve, I am so excited to write this final (for now) post of the Running for Nana adventure. One year ago this week, I told my family that I wanted to run a marathon. It was our first Thanksgiving without our Nana at the head of the table, and I knew I wanted to run to support research for treatment of C. difficile – the infection against which she fought so hard.

During the next several months, you helped to make that dream a reality through your kind words, training tips, encouragement, and donations to the Microbiota Therapeutics Program (MTP) at the University of Minnesota, one of the leading C. diff research programs in the country. Your giving continued even beyond the marathon, throughout the summer and into the early fall.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am to each of you for being a part of this adventure and today, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share the final numbers with you:

  • Thanks to 77 incredibly generous individual/family donations, together we REACHED the goal of raising $10,000 for the MTP!!
  • Then, thanks to a very generous family donation, each gift was MATCHED, bringing the total to $20,000 raised for the fight against C. difficile!!

 

But wait – it gets even better. Your donations have already made a difference.

Last month, I had a chance to correspond with Dr. Alexander Khoruts, Associate Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Minnesota and a faculty member in the MTP, and I want to share a few things with you:

  • With the help of philanthropic support, the MTP was able to bring Dr. Matthew Hamilton, PhD, back to their team. Dr. Hamilton previously worked with the MTP to develop capsules of the freeze-dried microbiota. Like the fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) procedure delivered through a colonoscopy, these capsules are used to fight C. difficile. The capsules are even more simple though, as they can be taken in one session without the need for any special prep.
  • Dr. Khoruts said that with your help, the MTP developed this encapsulated preparation that has already helped to cure ~60 people from otherwise refractory, recurrent C. difficile infection.
  • The team at the MTP believes that this will be critical as they continue to advance therapies for C. difficile and other conditions. Moving forward, they aim to increase the production of these capsules at the University of Minnesota and across the country to be able to cure patients with C. difficile, ideally free of charge.

 

 

 

As we close this chapter of Running for Nana, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for your encouragement, your love, and your support in the fight against C. diff. Thank you for helping me to celebrate and reflect on the good things at a time in my life when everything seemed to turn upside down.

And finally, thank you for loving my Nana and our family like part of your own. From all of us – Happy Thanksgiving to you!

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Marathon…complete!

It’s been almost two weeks since Grandma’s Marathon, and it’s still a little hard to believe…I’m so thrilled to share that we officially finished Grandma’s Marathon! And, I do mean we, because I wouldn’t have crossed that finish line without each and every one of you – it has been such an joy to go on this adventure with you.

Because of your immense generosity, through both the Crowdfunding Page and additional donations, we have raised over $7,000 so far for the Microbiota Therapeutics Program and the fight against the  C. difficile infection! I am blown away and am so, so grateful to you. The fund is still open, and I know of a few donations still on the way. I will give another update of our fundraising total at the end of July.

Until then, I want to share some highlights about the marathon with you! First of all, to the day before. Through the emails, messages, and photos of folks wearing “Running for Nana” bibs, I felt completely surrounded by your love, encouragement, and support. Huge thank you to my family for orchestrating those bibs – you are just incredible.

I felt honored to take you along “with” me on race day through this bracelet wrapped around my belt – initials for everyone who supported the fight against C. diff!

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Everything started out well. My parents dropped me off at the line of school buses that shuttled to the starting line (a whole new kind of “first day of school”). On the ride, I met a really kind woman who was running her third marathon. She gave me some good advice – she said to treat it like a job: stand up straight and pull your shoulders back, even at the end of the day when you’re tired.

When we arrived at the starting line, there were more people than I’d ever seen in my life (more port-a-potties, too…). Here’s what I mean:

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As I walked through the crowds, I was amazed. I’ve shared before that athletic aptitude was never a strength of mine, and I had often assumed there was a particular “type” of person that could do a marathon – I never felt like I was a part of that “type”. But when I looked around, my preconceptions were proved completely wrong. There were people of all ages, shapes, sizes, genders, and walks of life, and we had all signed up to run 26.2 miles that day. It was incredible.

When we approached the starting line and I saw the big “Grandma’s Marathon” logo, I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe that after all the months of training, preparing and sharing this adventure, the day was finally here. I made a mental note to enjoy every minute.

The race started out great, and I ran straight for the first 14 miles. The course runs along the coast of Lake Superior from Two Harbors, MN to Duluth, MN, but for the first several miles, you’re surrounded by huge trees – it felt more like we were running in the middle of a forest than along a coastline. The shade was nice though – we learned later that this was the hottest Grandma’s Marathon in 6 years.

I felt like Nan was there the whole time. At moments when I was starting to get a little tired or was about to hit a long patch of shade-less road, there were little “signs” from her – a particular song on my iPod, or someone shouting from behind “Love You More”. Call it what you’d like, but I know she was there.

At mile 14, I decided to walk for a mile and have something to eat. It also gave me a moment to listen to the “symphony” of sounds around me – feet hitting the pavement, water sloshing around, motivational words from one runner to another, and cheers of encouragement from tireless spectators. I alternated running and walking for the next few miles.

When they talk about “hitting a wall” – they aren’t kidding. Somewhere between mile 18 and 19, things were getting really tough. I mean, really tough. I couldn’t believe how long 26.2 miles was. By this point, the shade was scarce and the heat and humidity were really getting the best of me. I said out loud, “Nan, I really need you, but I don’t know how.”

I kept running/walking/hobbling along, and around mile 20 or so, I passed a band on the left hand side that was packing up their instruments (I never said I was a fast runner…). Someone running next to me said, “Looks like we’re too late for the band!”

She and I were running at a similar pace and started talking. Her name was Janet, and she was running her first marathon too – a bucket list item for her as well after quitting smoking several years ago. Janet told me that her father-in-law had been taken to the hospital, but that he wanted her to still do the race, so she was running for him.

I told Janet about Nana, and her battle with C. diff. I showed her the string of beads on my belt and our efforts to fight C. diff as well. At mile 21 was the nursing home where my Gram and Gramps (my Dad’s amazing parents) had lived for a number of years, and where I remember visiting them. When I told Janet this, she told me that her mom had stayed at the same nursing home and had contracted C. diff there – what a small world it really is.

As soon as she said that, I just knew that Janet was the angel Nan sent to keep me going. And keep going, we did. We ran/walked the rest of the way together, and chatted every chance we had.

My family told me that they were going to be at Mile 25, and I couldn’t wait to see them. As we approached Mile 25 in downtown Duluth, I heard my Dad call out my name and I looked over. Standing on the corner was my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, uncle, and two friends from St. Olaf who had come up to surprise me. They were all clad in blue (Nan’s favorite color) t-shirts, with “Running for Nana” bibs and pictures pinned on the front and back.

Now, if you know me, you know that I cry at a good Hallmark card. So, you can imagine that there may have been a little crying when Janet and I ran up. Here are a few photos:

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After that, I felt like I had already won. The last mile was so full of joy, and I knew we were really going to finish. My “entourage” scurried quickly to see us again near the finish line, and called out to us from atop bridges and on the side. Coming in to the final stretch to the finish line, my brother-in-law even ran along the side with me for a little bit!

And then, 26.2 miles later…

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It was done.

There are million other little things I could tell you about this day, but I’ll stop there. To each of you, thank you. You made this dream of mine a reality, made me feel like anything was possible, and made a huge difference in the fight against C. diff. I will write again with an update on our funding progress at the end of the month.

To Janet – thank you for being my running angel, and for making it possible to get to the end.

To my family, I love you more than you could ever know. To Nan, I love you more, and I know you were there the whole way – and as always, you knew how to help me when I didn’t know how to help myself.

 

Until the next time – all my love and hugs to you!

Love, Emily

PS – here are a few more pictures from the finish line! A huge thank you to my mom for this awesome pictures. She’s been capturing our special moments for our whole lives, and I am so thankful to her. Love you, mom!

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WE’RE (almost) THERE!

Register for marathon…check.
Train for marathon…check.
Eat some pasta (and then some more)…check.
Feel overcome with gratitude from the outpouring of kindness, generosity, BIBS, love, well wishes, support, tips, and encouragement that you’ve thrown my way…check, check, check, check, check, check, check (for a long time to come).

Run a marathon…tomorrow morning, here we come.

This will be a very short post, as it’s getting late here and I hear you’re supposed to get some sleep before a big day. There are so many things I would like to write and would like to say, but as I sit here on marathon eve, I’m at a loss for how to adequately say thank you. You helped to turn an item on my bucket list into some of the most meaningful, special, and healing months I’ve ever spent. You filled my life with joy in ways I never could have imagined, at a time when I wasn’t sure the joy would come back.

And, you made (and continue to make) a difference in the fight against C. diff, and that will continue far beyond today. If you’d like to see where we’re at or would like to support that fight, just click this link: https://crowdfund.umn.edu/civicrm/pcp/info?reset=1&id=527&ap=0 The fund will continue to stay open after the marathon is complete.

It has been such an honor to share this adventure with you through this blog and I hope you know how grateful I am to each and every one of you. I can’t wait to write more this weekend to tell you about the race, but until then I’m going to end this post where it all started – with my Nana, and a note for her.

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Hi, Nan! I know you’ve been watching (and reading) all along, sending signs and little reminders when you knew I needed them the most. I wish more than anything I could see you at the finish line tomorrow, and give you a great big (albeit very smelly) hug. But, I know you’re going to be watching. I know you’re going to see it all! And, I know you’ve sent your other angels to be there cheering with open arms and cameras blazing. It’s such a gift to have the whole family here, Nan, and I know you’d be so thrilled that we were all together. Right now it’s getting late and (as Mom reminded me) you’d probably say, “It’s just time for bed.”  So, I’m going to take your advice once again. I love you more, Nan. I’ll see you tomorrow somehow – let’s go get that marathon together!

 

THIS week.

It is an exciting week for the race to Grandma’s Marathon, but I just can’t kick off this post without first acknowledging this weekend.

My Nana would have been devastated by what happened in Orlando on Sunday. She was always very informed about current events, and she would have watched the coverage for hours, until she just couldn’t watch anymore. Her heart would have ached for each the beautiful lives lost, their grieving families and friends, the survivors, and all of the people reeling from such violence, especially the LGBT community.

She would have held each of us a little tighter, and would have been grateful for all of the “helpers” and the stories of heroism, love, and genuine kindness that will no doubt surface over the next few days. Honestly, in the wake of such heroism and bravery, running a marathon seems like a much smaller feat. As this countdown week begins, my heart is with the people of Orlando.

It is an honor to be able to celebrate the beginning of this final week. In just 5 short days, I’ll be lining up at the starting line for Grandma’s Marathon. I have to pinch myself a little while typing that, as I can’t really believe that it’s almost here.

As far as training goes, I’m excited to share that I’ve officially completed my last long training run – 20 miles. From here on out, I’m going to be tapering down and trying not to be too clumsy before the big day. I can’t wait to add up the miles after the marathon is over and make my second donation to the MTP. Also, I’m excited to share that I’ve completed 12 miles on my Marathon of Joy, and I can’t wait to finish it out.

And, I won’t be lining up on race day alone. In addition to the 9,099 other runners (a sold-out celebration of the 40th running of the marathon), I will be lining up with each of you. The starting line will be filled by the words of encouragement, love, hope, support, and humor that you’ve filled my life with over the past several months. It’ll be filled by a deep desire to not trip over my own two feet (at least not before the race even starts…).

Most of all, it’ll be filled by your generosity. Over 50 families, friends, and loved ones have made a commitment to support the Microbiota Therapeutics Program and the fight against C. difficile. I’m absolutely blown away. And, you’re coming along with me – let me show you what I mean:

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This is a photo of the “bracelet” I’m going to be taking with me on race day. (It’s expanded a little bit, and will now be worn on my belt). It has the initials (or a heart symbol if your initial contains an “r”, as my bead set has no “r’s”…) of each person or family who has donated to the Microbiota Therapeutics Program as part of this journey. I know it is going to be a challenging race, but whenever I need to, I will be able to look down at each bead and remember that I’m not running alone.

You have given me and the the Microbiota Therapeutics Program an immense gift. Because of your generosity, we are over 56% of the way to the $10,000 goal as we enter this homestretch. Just think about what a difference that will make to the fight against C. diff! There is plenty of room left on that string, and it would be an honor to keep adding initials all the way to race day.

If you haven’t already done so, I’d like to invite you to make a donation to the Microbiota Therapeutics Program that is meaningful to you. Please know that every donation matters, and no amount is too small. To join this fight against C. diff, please click here to make a donation to the Microbiota Therapeutics Program. Thank you so, so very much!!

To wrap up this post and to kick start a Monday morning, I think it’s only fitting that we have a few smile-inducing videos to celebrate together.

[Spoiler alert: They’re all from the Ellen Degeneres show because she’s the best and watching her videos/show has been a wonderful part of this training adventure. Also, her movie, “Finding Dory,” comes out the day before the marathon, so there’s got to be some good mojo there]. 

  1. A mood booster just for Monday: http://ellentube.com/videos/0-68qknfb5/
  2. Here’s what I hope to not do on race day…
  3. Here’s what made me cry like a child. Ellen’s generosity knows no bounds.

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Two. Weeks. TWO WEEKS.

 

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: we’re in the home stretch. Just two weeks from tomorrow, I will be standing at the starting line for Grandma’s Marathon. WHAT??

I have no idea how the time has flown so fast, but as we zero in on the big day, I have three exciting things I want to share with you.

#1: My sister is incredible.

For those of you who know her, the above statement likely won’t surprise you. So, what makes her particularly incredible today? Well, I’m so happy to announce that Abbe is the first person to finish her Marathon of Joy! [As a reminder, the Marathon of Joy is an invitation to give to 26 others – by sending a card, letter, postcard, phone call, skype date, email, etc., one for every mile of the marathon. Click the link for more information.]

Not only did she reach out to 26 lovely people in her life, she also created an opportunity to share a bit about the fight against C. diff. She crafted the note below and included it in each of her letters. Pretty amazing, huh? She invited me to share this card with others, in case you’d like to adapt her idea to share more about C. diff with your special people, too.

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I am inspired by Abbe to keep working on my own Marathon of Joy, and I hope you’ll consider doing the same!

#2: YOU are incredible.

Over the last month and a half, well over a dozen families, friends, and loved ones have made a difference in the fight against C. diff by donating to the Microbiota Therapeutics Program (MTP) at the University of Minnesota. Because of your generous donations, we are over 33% of the way to the fundraising goal of $10,000. If that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is. Thank you so much to everyone who has made this possible!

If you haven’t done so already, I want to invite you to make a donation that is meaningful to you – no amount is too small. Every donation makes a difference in the fight against C. diff, supporting outreach and education to recruit microbiota donors, as well as training for young research scientists and physicians interested in microbiota-host interactions.

We’re well on our way to hitting the $10,000 goal, but we can’t get there without you. If you’d like to support the fight against C. diff, please click here to be directed to the funding page. Thank you so, so much!

#3: The Colfax Half Marathon was incredible.

If you read the last post, you know that I decided (last minute) to run the Colfax Half Marathon as a training run for Grandma’s Marathon. Honestly, it was one of the best experiences in my life to date, and I’d love to share a couple of highlights!

  1. The miles went by fast. The first 1-3 miles of any run is always my toughest time, and when I feel like quitting the most. At the race though, I was enjoying the experience so much that I couldn’t believe it when I saw the first mile marker on the ground. Naturally, I had to stomp on that mile number (and all subsequent miles) to make sure it really counted.
  2. Running won out over walking (this time). I surprised myself by running the whole race. I don’t anticipate doing this for Grandma’s Marathon, but it was really empowering to feel like I could run this distance straight through.
  3. People are awesome. There were so many supporters and volunteers who came out to cheer on loved ones and strangers, and that made such a difference. Some even brought signs – my particular favorite was near the end of the race and it read: “Trump is still running, so can you.” Regardless of political persuasion, this sign made me laugh hard enough to power through to the next mile.
  4. Smiling was inevitable. Honestly, my face hurt almost as much as my legs at the end because I couldn’t wipe a smile off my face. I think running (and many other things in life) should just be joyful (otherwise, why do it?), and it sure felt that way on the race day. Here’s a photo snapped by the race folks!
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I could share many more things about this day, but there’s just one more highlight I will share for now – it’s also my favorite.

When I was making my music playlist (at 4:30 am the morning of the race…), I added roughly 6 hours worth of music – about twice as long as I thought it would take me to run the race. On a whim, I added Nana’s favorite song, “Moon River,” to the list. It’s certainly not a “running” song, but I couldn’t not include it. With so many songs shuffling on the playlist, I figured it was pretty unlikely that it would come up.

As I neared mile 5, my music got really quiet and I thought it had turned off. As I was just about to reach for my iPod, I heard the soft beginning notes of – you guessed it – Moon River. I couldn’t believe my ears.

During the song – I kid you not – the sun came out from behind the clouds for the first time all morning (it had been a very chilly, cloudy day). Then, shortly after the song ended, the clouds covered the sun once again.

It was unreal. I know that she was right there, cheering me on like always, just with a different view this time. I don’t have the vocabulary to express what this meant to me, but suffice it to say it was a moment I will never forget.

And with that, it’s time to power through these last two weeks. You ready?!

PS – it was an amazing experience to race alongside Matthew and Andrew. That’s a whole other post, but I wouldn’t have done it without them (and Janet too, of course!). Here are a couple other photos!

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An addition to the plan!

So, it’s Saturday night. Maybe this post finds you out with good friends, spending time with your family, or enjoying some time with your feet up on a comfy couch. That last one perfectly describes my current situation, and it’s really quite great. This weekend, I got to see my beautiful sister graduate with her Masters Degree! It was just perfect to have our whole family together.

I almost didn’t write this post because I didn’t want to jinx anything ahead of time, but I wanted to share with you that tomorrow I’m going to be running the Colfax Half Marathon in Denver!

No, this wasn’t part of the original plan and yes, Grandma’s Marathon is still the anticipated end point of this journey! However, part of the original training plan was to run a “training” race, just to get the feel of what it will actually be like on race day, since I’ve only participated in one race that was several years ago. We had planned to run a 10K in April but were unable to due to a snowstorm (thanks, Colorado). So, after a lot of encouragement from my “second” dad (who will be handcycling the half marathon!) and several others, I registered on Monday and will hit the road tomorrow to do that training run*.

[*To be clear, had anyone told me a year ago that I’d be running a half marathon as a “training” run for something else, I would laughed out loud, then likely fainted, then been convinced I must have an athletic doppelgänger out there somewhere in the universe.] 

I tend to get pretty nervous before big events, so I tried to think of what might calm me down this evening. After a perfect dinner with my second parents, I decided I would watch some old home videos. More often than not, our Nana was the videographer in our family, and I knew I’d get to hear her narration behind the camera.

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Ironically, the first video I found chronicles when I was just learning to walk. In the way I’m sure all parents and grandparents do for their little ones, Nana and my parents celebrated each time I bumbled around the big red/pink couch (yes, we had one), and laughed with encouragement each time I fell to crawl.

In an odd way, this little video is giving me a lot of encouragement for tomorrow. Whether I fell down or actually stood up and took a few steps, I heard Nana’s voice of encouragement behind the camera. Tomorrow, whether I’m running strong or just barely moving my feet, I will try to remember her words in the back of my head. I have to believe she’s going to be watching from wherever she is, too.

It’s getting pretty late here (aka past 9:00 pm), so I’m going to wrap up this post. I look forward to writing about the adventure afterwards (once I’ve regained feeling in my knees). If you’d like to get an email when the next post drops, feel free to enter your email in the box at the right.

PS – Two other gems from this video:

  1. Evidently, Abbe and I were having “shared sister talk over Froot Loops”. This consisted of us actually just screaming to one another and looking quite pleased with ourselves.
  2. According to Nana’s narration, I loved to carry around a sock as a little kid, regardless of whether I was walking or crawling. So, if you happen to be in Denver tomorrow along the race route and see me carrying a sock, it’s evidently nothing to be worried about.

 

More smiles are always good.

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It really is crazy what a difference a year makes.

One year ago today, my Nana was diagnosed with C. diff. By this time, she was on her fourth day in the hospital and was feeling pretty miserable, so it almost seemed like a relief that they had found something with a treatment. At the time, we really didn’t know much about C. diff at all.

It’s tough to think about that day and the fight that followed for Nana. At the same time though, thinking about that fight reminds me how determinedly brave she was to face C. diff head on with a courage all her own.

I’ve been thinking about this day all week, and I find it hard to believe that it’s already been a year. If she were here today, I know she wouldn’t want to talk or even think about C. diff – she would have wanted to talk about something that made her happy instead. And, I think in some way, she was helping me to want to do the same. It seemed like just a bit more than a coincidence that this email appeared in my inbox yesterday from Grandma’s Marathon:

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After the initial flood of anxiety I felt when I realized that there are less than 7 weeks left of training, this felt like a reminder from Nan to keep my chin up and my feet moving. (Also, perhaps a gentle reminder that not every day can be a “rest” day…).

As I write this, it’s Thursday evening and we’re all zeroing in on that elusive weekend. In case you could use a few smiles to slide through the last weekday, I’m going to take Nan’s lead and share a few things that are keeping my chin up today:

  1. Mr. Bill. Our family has always really lucked out on neighbors, especially those like Mr. Bill and Jeanne. When Nana got sick, they always went out of their way to send her a card or stop at the mailbox to ask how she was doing. They are two of a kind, and a local newspaper recently recognized that, too. Click on the link to be inspired by one of the best people I’ve ever known. (A big thanks to Mr. Bill for letting me celebrate him through this blog!)
  2. This adorable story. Nana and I always loved to watch the evening news together when we could, and her favorite part was when they’d have happy stories in the last news slot – this was one of the best stories we saw. A bonus too, because it’s a story from Minnesota!
  3. THIS. Because of your immense generosity, we’re already over 20% of the way to reaching the $10,000 funding goal for C. diff and the Microbiota Therapeutics Program (MTP). I am so very grateful to everyone that has donated so far as well as to anyone considering donating in the future. The MTP is doing incredible work for patients fighting C. diff, and I’m so honored that you’d support them in this way.

Happy Friday eve to you!

PS – The training is still rolling! I’ll write more about that (and my newly begun “Marathon of Joy“) in the next post.

PPS – A bonus smile-inducer because I can’t not share this.

Running, huh?

 

Simply put, I am overwhelmed (…in the best way possible).

In the week and a half since this blog launched, you have flooded my little corner of the world with nothing but kindness, generosity, celebrations of Nana, encouragement, support, and love. I tried to think of a way to sufficiently thank you – i.e. sending year-round girl scout cookies or granting an extra hour of sleep every Monday – but until I figure out the logistics of this distribution, please know I am so grateful for each and every one of you.

And, we’re just a little over a week in and we’re already nearing 10% of the fundraising goal for C. difficile. WHAT?? I’m over the moon. Thank you so much to everyone who has given so far – to C. diff and/or to others by starting your “marathon of joy” – and to everyone who is considering giving in the future. We are well on our way to making a difference for patients fighting C. diff! I can’t believe this is all happening.

I would love to share a little bit about the training so far, but before we get too much further I do have something I need to confess: I’ve never liked running.

In middle school, I dreaded the day in P.E. class when they’d make you run a mile, and I barely made it through the (less than) 5 minute “running block” in high school marching band rehearsals. The Colorado altitude, plus a mild case of exercise-induced asthma, plus a general avoidance of anything athletic placed running pretty low on my list of priorities.

So, when I added “Run a Marathon” to my mental bucket list, it was with a bit of irony and a healthy amount of skepticism. It was something that I thought I’d do in the (very far off) future after my running superpowers kicked in…that happens, right?

In a conversation last fall with Tony – the awesome author of my training plan – he said that so many people automatically count themselves out of doing something like a marathon, and just assume that they can’t without giving it a shot. I realized that I had been counting myself out, too.

Running for the sake of running has just never appealed to me, but running to celebrate Nana and to fight C. diff was something I could get behind. After sharing the idea with my family at Thanksgiving, I officially registered for Grandma’s Marathon. Despite the fact that I pushed the “submit” button myself, it was still pretty hard to believe when this showed up on my computer screen.

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When I think about what it would have been like to show this to Nana, I can’t help but smile. She knew me better than anyone, and I think our conversation would have gone a little something like this…

Emily: Nan, look! I registered for a marathon!
Nana: (head tilted, concerned look on her face) Now, why in the world would you want to do that?

Though likely puzzled at first, I know that after a sufficient evaluation of my judgment she’d be there every step of the way. She would have come with me to find my running shoes, would have read all about marathons through Google searches (at which she was quite adept) and would have wanted regular updates on the training. As I share this adventure with you through this blog, I imagine that I’m sharing it with Nana, too.

So, a bit of a recap on the training so far. (Spoiler alert: no running superpowers have kicked in yet, but I’m ever hopeful.) When I first got the idea back in October, I could run slightly more than one mile, with quite a bit of huffing and puffing throughout. When I did the first weight training day of the training plan, I genuinely thought my body was going to snap in two – I was sore in muscles I didn’t even know I had. But, with each passing week, the mileage has increased and the soreness has become (for the most part) a reminder that I did something that day I never knew I could do. Each new distance has been a celebration itself and I find myself actually enjoying running. Who knew?!

Yesterday, I ran* 13 miles, which was the first time I’d run that distance outside and not on a treadmill. [*When I say “run,” I mean running and walking, which is how I plan to do the marathon. I’m not too concerned about getting a good time, I just want to finish!]

I’m not going to sugarcoat – it was really hard. The roads I drive on all the time suddenly seemed to be 8x more hilly and also, did you know that concrete is super hard? I seriously considered quitting at mile 11, and then again at 12, but I just had to make it to the full 13 (I won’t lie, there were some tears). Though I haven’t yet found those running superpowers, I felt like I had my own “super” support team behind me through all the encouragement you’ve sent my way. With all that positive energy, I hit 13.0.

As I head off to ice my knees, I want to thank you again for all of your motivation – you’re truly making all of this possible. Cheers to you, cheers to Nana, and cheers to having a few more weeks to train for the big day. Happy Sunday!

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PS – A big shoutout to this supremely well-placed sign atop one of yesterday’s bigger hills.

To Grandma’s [Marathon] We Go!

After a few months of planning, learning, and training, I’m thrilled to launch this blog! First of all, thank you so much for reading. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take a look through the tabs at the top to learn a little more about Nana’s story and this adventure, learn more about C. difficile, and learn how you can help. In short, I’m training to run Grandma’s Marathon (Duluth, MN) in June to support C. difficile research in celebration of my best friend, my Nana.

Through this blog, I’ll celebrate our efforts to support C. difficile and each other, share stories from Nana and others that inspire me, and bring you along on the challenging, rewarding, and often comical training path to the marathon. (Hint: I have never been a runner, so this has been a trip). If you’d like to stay connected, please add your email to the “Follow” box to the right, and you’ll be notified when there’s a new post.

For today, I really just want to kick off this adventure by saying thank you. There are many miles to go (pun very much intended) before this marathon, but without some very special people (including you, reading right now!), none of this would be possible.

Thanks to all of the doctors and nurses that cared for Nana throughout the years, and granted us so many incredible years together. She was our most special person, and it meant so much that others would treat her that way, too.

Thanks to Tony Barkey, a stellar colleague and friend, who so graciously crafted my marathon training plan and has been a very influential mentor and motivator. Without his support and encouragement, I don’t know that I ever would have started in the first place.

Thanks to Dr. Alexander Khoruts, an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Minnesota and faculty member of the Microbiota Therapeutics Program (MTP). Dr. Khoruts generously provided his time and guidance to help me understand C. diff and the work of the MTP.

Thanks to Russell Betts, Development Officer for the Department of Medicine/University of Minnesota Foundation who oversees the Microbiota Therapeutics Program (MTP) Fund. Russell has been so helpful determining what specific needs the funds we raise will be used to support. As a runner himself, Russell has also provided great advice for the marathon!

Thanks to Peter Westerhaus for sharing his courageous and inspiring story with me. Peter was playing Division I football at the University of Minnesota when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. While fighting this disease, he developed the C. difficile infection, and it recurred several times, making a challenging fight that much tougher. He received the Fecal Microbiota Transplantation treatment from the University of Minnesota, and has not had a relapse of C. diff since. Peter recently founded his own nonprofit organization, Achieving Cures Together, and is sharing his incredible story to find a cure for C. diff and other microbiota-related infections.

Thanks to Andrew Castillo, a good friend and stellar fundraiser, for frequently brainstorming with me about how to make this work. Andrew is also a marathon runner and has been a great source of support, comic relief, and encouragement.

Thank you to the countless friends, neighbors, loved ones, and strangers who loved our Nana and were a part of her life. And, thank you for encouraging me to take on this marathon to celebrate her – thanks for never telling me that I couldn’t or shouldn’t run a marathon, and for helping me to believe it too. Whether this is the first time you’re hearing about this adventure or we’ve talking about it for a while, thank you! I appreciate you more than you know.

And last, but certainly not least, thanks to my family. From making the initial connection to the U of M, to advising that a marathon not at high altitude might be a little more fun, to volunteering to join in a race that weekend, to endlessly brainstorming and editing, to listening to me whine after falling on ice (more to come on that later), to all the comic relief and endless love. I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have a family like you.

And to Nana, from wherever you are, I know you’re watching and sending love all the time, but just know that I love you more!

And with that, it’s time to get going – to Grandma’s Marathon we go!

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