5 Things I Loved About Running For Charity

To wrap up my Chicago Marathon recap, I have to devote a post to the awesomeness that was running for Team Ronald McDonald House Charities.

1. Training Support Group

One of the reasons I started blogging was because I saw the opportunity to connect with like-minded people, learn from them, get and give encouragement, and share experiences. With Team RMHC we had that on a smaller scale with people who were also raising money to run Chicago. On our Facebook group, we’d post pics of our runs, lament over bad ones, celebrate good ones, seek/offer advice, and most of all, remind each other what our purpose was–raising money while doing what we love.

The charity organizers also included fun contests to keep us motivated–like the Ronald McDonald Boot Run contest I participated (and shoulda won, dammit! LOL!)

A #TeamRMHC pic on McDonald Drive in front of a McDonald's :D

A #TeamRMHC pic on McDonald Drive in front of a McDonald’s during my Ronald McDonald boot run 😀

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The big red boot.

In addition to the online forum, we received weekly e-mails from a certified coach (who provided us with a free training plan) with tips for our training–loved him! In addition, Team RMHC provided a motivational coach who would also send us weekly e-mails encouraging us to give our best, smartly. I always looked forward to these e-mails.

2. The Challenge and Appreciation for Fundraising

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to meet the fundraising amount but boy, I was completely overwhelmed by the graciousness of my friends, family, and YOU. Blown. Away.

There are so many people that have a connection to the RMH and when they would tell me their stories, it would just add to the meaning and importance of this race. I’m in a local running group and when I posted a link to my charity site in our group’s Facebook page, a woman who wasn’t active but mostly just lurked commented to say thank you to me and donated. She and her family had stayed in an Ronald McDonald House when her child had an extended hospital stay.

My mom, who is fantastic cook, and my husband helped me with a burrito sale I put on one weekend. It meant waking up at 4 in the morning to make chorizo and roll into tortillas, wrap, load, and deliver. We made over 75 burritos and made over $400 that day!

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Fundraising was hard, but it definitely allowed me to get out of my comfort zone–I’m still not all that comfortable asking people for money, lol, but I knew I was asking for a good cause and that everyone’s donation was going to positive place. I wish I cold donate to everyone who asks me, because I know the hard work it takes to raise money and know the passion people have when they’re raising money for a cause they care deeply about.

3. Crowd Support

Wow. So Chicago Marathon is already known for amazing crowd support but it seemed that there were people affiliated with or supporters of RMHC the. entire. way. People would see my shirt and point, “Yeahhhh!!! Go Team RMHC!!” No need for me to write my name on my bib–I had cheerleaders throughout the whole race.

4. Race Day Amenities

I had no idea all the benefits I’d get from running with Team RMHC. I found out that it’s one of the biggest charities involved with the Chicago Marathon and being a part of the team meant I’d get some extra perks.

Before the race, we were provided with a HUGE tent to hang out and keep warm in. There was a DJ; private gear check; a breakfast buffet with coffee, orange juice, gatorade, water; race day miscellaneous like vaseline, tampons, hair ties and bobby pins; and perhaps best of all, private port-a-potties–they seriously thought of everything.

Pre-race

Pre-race

After the race, when you arrived back to the tent, you had to enter walking the red carpet with Ronald McDonald himself congratulating you. Along the velvet ropes were volunteers cheering you as you walked inside

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and once you were in, you were immediately given some bubbly.

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And then you saw food. Lots and lots of food.

I thought I was too tired (and in pain) to eat, but I ended up scarfing down a bit of everything. A DJ played music and everyone just hung out and celebrated. It was one big post race party.

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5. More Than a Medal

Team RMHC Chicago Marathon raised over ONE MILLION DOLLARS. And somehow, knowing the amount of people who will benefit from me deciding to run for this charity means more than the medal I wore for only a few hours.

I Run 4 Graisyn

I Run 4 Graisyn

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Thank you guys again for all of your support as I trained for Chicago and thank you to those who donated to The Ronald McDonald House. If you’re even considering running for charity, just do it!!! ❤ , helly

Shout out to the DC Trifecta–Cynthia, Mar, and Courtney for hosting The Friday Five!!!

 

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Chicago Marathon Fun!

So despite not running how I would’ve liked, everything else about Chicago and the race was absolutely amazing.

We arrived Saturday morning (maybe I should’ve given myself an extra day?) and went straight to the hotel to drop off our luggage. We stayed at The Congress Plaza which was right across the street from the start line! Yes, this was soooo perfect. Kristina was staying here too and somehow, we weren’t able to make a meet up happen 😦 But, through internet convos, we both agreed the hotel was …interesting. It’s an older hotel and I actually liked it because it has a lot of character. So what if it was said there were ghosts around?

Then we headed to the Expo. I don’t do Expos very well and we didn’t hang out long. I realized afterward that I probably should’ve stuck around to buy more Chicago Marathon gear but my husband’s wallet thanked me for keeping the visit short.

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Being silly at the #TeamRMHC booth

After the Expo Team RMHC had their dinner and it was here that I got to meet up with another fellow blogger/Instagram friend, Meg @MaxFitGirl29

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Insta Friends

My husband and I ate our little hearts out and then bolted. I was exhausted from traveling and wanted to get in a good night’s sleep. Surprisingly, I was actually able to sleep and didn’t have any of those pre-race night jitters keeping me awake.

I had made plans with @SuzLyfe for a pre-race meet up and I found her right in front of my hotel. We squeezed.

Love at first sight. <3

Love at first sight. ❤

After the race, Scott@PirateBobcat and I made a meet-up happen–at a bar, naturally.

This dude. Serious coolness.

This dude. Serious coolness.

As soon as we met and exchanged the initial awkward intros of “Yep, I’m Helly,” we started gabbing like we’d known each other for years. Which we kinda have considering we’ve followed each other’s blog for quite some time now. I fell in love with his friends and it was perfect post-race relaxation.

The next day, Monday, I met up with Amber@PbandPrs at The Bean! She nailed a marathon PR in Chicago (3:19!!!) so we took a celebratory pic.

Even more badass in person--she nabbed a 3:19!!

Even more badass in person.

Afterward, my husband and I had to go visit The Greatest Of All Time–aka: Michael Jordan.

 I heart Mike.

I heart Mike.

Then we headed over to Wrigley Field to meet up with Scott and his friends again. We had an absolute blast. Seriously.

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With Scott & Friends….at a bar, again, right in front of Wrigley Field 😀

Tuesday morning we ate breakfast at the famous Lou Mitchell’s

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Route 66 right out front Lou Mitchell’s!!

and afterward, we headed to the airport for home! It was such a whirlwind trip full of fun stuff and fun people and even though I hadn’t raced how I would’ve liked, I left with only great Chicago memories ❤

–Do you tour cities you race in?

–Ever bean to Chicago? (See what I did there, Scott?)

Chicago Marathon {Race Recap}

I finished. 

And it feels so good to be able to type that.

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Things didn’t go as hoped/planned and if you follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook, then you already know what happened.

People have been asking me how I feel and I’ve been saying Fine, Good, Happy (that I finished) but if I’m to be completely honest, and I’m always honest here, I’m angry.

I’m angry that my body just didn’t want to cooperate. My mind and my heart were there, willing to fight, but my legs weren’t.

I stuck to my plan of starting with the 4:25 pace group (about a 10:05/mile) thinking this would be the smartest way to go. My ultimate goal was a sub 4:30 and I wasn’t going to get risky by trying to attempt anything faster than that. My long runs had all been around the 4:25 pace and I felt this was “safest”.

It’s impossible to get comfortable the first mile or so in a race so big and that’s understandable. My watch had gone wonky after passing the first tunnel and mile two told me I’d run a 7 something mile (ja!) way before I reached mile two. I saw that my watch would not be a good go-to for assessing mile splits and there was no way I would be attempting any math. I ended up just turning it off (and then turning it back on at mile 6 figuring I could do math now that I would have an even 20 miles to count from). In retrospect, I should’ve left it on from the beginning to at least have the running time. You live and you learn.

At mile 4 though, my legs began tightening and by mile 8 that turned into full on cramping. I begin cursing and told myself there was no way I was walking now, so early.

I made it to mile 14.

At mile 14 I watched the 4:25 pace group go and I was so angry because I should’ve been there with them, running.

But the cramps had become debilitating and they were everywhere. My quads, my hamstrings, my calves, my shins, the bottoms of my feet, my toes. I’m not kidding when I say my entire legs were cramping.

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I had done everything just as I’d trained. Fueled every 5 miles, salt tabs at miles 4, 11, and 17, water at every station.

I walked for a bit at mile 14 and told myself to shake it out and keep going. I would only walk when the cramps were unbearable.

From then on, it was me running from cramp to cramp. When they became excruciating, when I could feel the balls of crampage against my skin (they left me bruises), I would walk–not for too long, and then keep going.

Not a single tear was shed.

Because it wasn’t sadness that I was feeling. It was anger. I was angry I wasn’t running the race I trained for. I was angry I couldn’t race how I’d like for all those who were cheering me on. I was angry that I wanted to so badly run and my legs wouldn’t let me.

It was this anger that kept me going. It was this anger that kept this race from being a total disaster–because even though I didn’t get the time I wanted, it could’ve been much, much worse. I’m not reflecting on this race as a loss or a let down; in fact, this was a race where I proved my mental strength has grown. I finished in 4:45:08, less than a minute from my marathon PR.

Any other time, I think, I would’ve cried, pulled over to the side, walked a lot more, maybe even given up because of how awful I felt and how upset I was at was happening to me.

But the whole time I kept thinking how this race wasn’t about me, it was about my buddy Graisyn who I Run 4, whose family stay at a Ronald McDonald House when he goes to hospitals. This race was about the people who donated, who helped me get to Chicago in the first place–that without them, I wouldn’t have been able to even get to the start line. This race was about my husband, who was running his very first marathon.

This race wasn’t about me at all.

And the anger I felt inside wasn’t going to let those people down.

So I kept going.

It hurt. A lot. My legs were battling me, testing all my strength. I saw the 4:30 pace group pass me around mile 18. I didn’t cry.

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Mile 20 came and I ran through Pilsen, Chicago’s Latin community, and they all helped me push through the next two miles. I felt a deep sense of comfort being around people like me, whose language I understood, whose cheers I felt were so heartfelt–“Animo!” My legs were trying to stop me from enjoying this neighborhood, but I didn’t let them.

The last 4 miles were awful. I passed through Chinatown and soon after saw mile 24. Two miles left. I knew my husband would be waiting for me and that kept me going. Mile 25 seemed like eternity. I wanted to run the entire last mile, but couldn’t. My legs won that time. I turned a corner and saw a sign that said, 400m left! There was no way I would walk across the finish line. No way.

Limping, dragging my legs (by this point they were shaking), I hobbled across.

Smiling.

And I finished.

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Thank you all SO much for your support throughout this entire training. Wow. I’m completely overwhelmed by your love–it’s part of what keeps me going. And I’m going to keep on going 😀 I’ll be sharing more Chicago marathon memories with you in the next couple of days; I just really wanted to get my race thoughts down first. 

❤ you all,

helly

–Ever experienced insane cramping? 

–How ’bout them race photos, eh? Ever had the camera catch you in pain?