19 Reasons Why: Why I Run, Why I Run for, and Why I Run for Taller de Jose

Saturday, I ran my 19-miler in training for the Chicago marathon. I took the bus up to the start of the Chicago Lakefront Trail, an 18-mile trail that runs 5800 N Sheridan to 7100 S. South Shore (Edgewater to South Shore!!). I added on a mile at the start of the run so it would total 19 miles, which was what my training plan calls for this week. Running Buddy parked at the end of the path and ran 5 miles north to meet me for the last 5 miles of my run, which was a lifesaver to have a buddy for those final miles, but also to have a CAR at the end so I didn’t stink up the bus for an hour bus ride home (THANK YOU, RUNNING BUDDY!). To occupy myself on the run before I had Running Buddy the last 5 miles, I decided to work on this list of why I run, why I run for, and why I run for Taller de José. 

19 mile sunrise
The view on the bus ride north to the start of my 19-miler

Why I run:

  1. I run because it’s a healthy habit to have. Yes, it could potentially be bad for my knees, but so is not exercising. I’ll risk the knee problems for now.  Running is something I can do without a gym membership, it is an “easy” way to exercise anywhere, and it’s a generally accessible way to create an active lifestyle.
  2. I run because running taught/is teaching me discipline. It’s hard to fashion a life that includes all the areas you want it to–relationships, fun, exercise, learning, working, spirituality, etc. The practice of running, and especially of training for races, continues to teach me how to work toward a goal and how to be intentional about how I spend my time, and also to have fun while doing it!
  3. I run because running is a metaphor for life! I learn so much from running, and I find these learnings to be applicable lessons not just to the details of running, but to the larger themes of life, often most applicable to my spiritual life, that is, my relationships with God and neighbor.
  4. I run because running is actually communal. A lot of the time, I run with Running Buddy, so it is a time for us to catch up and connect. But being a runner also connects me to the larger community of people with this same weird habit/passion. It’s a conversation topic and a bridge when meeting new people. It’s one way of being part of something bigger than myself.
  5. I run because running is meditative or at least, good thinking time. Occasionally, when I run by myself, it can almost be meditative, calming, and good for the soul. The other times when I run by myself, it is at least good time to sort through my thoughts. I’m on the introvert side of things, so having time to sort through my thoughts in my head before speaking them aloud is particularly helpful.
  6. I run because I get to. Running is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to run for health reasons or otherwise.
  7. I run because it’s fun! Okay, I admit, not always. But between the occasional runner’s high, the time with friends, the joy of a PR, the satisfaction of improvement, the feeling of accomplishment after a long run, the thrill of running in all sorts of weather, the gift of running on beautiful days in this beautiful city, running is not just pain/drudgery/discipline, but actually joy and gift!

Why I run for:

  1. Full stop, this reason is “this category does not have to exist” because the first seven reasons for running would be enough. “Helpers” like myself need to remember that self-care is not selfish and that something that is good exercise and fun and a challenge is enough of a reason to do something. Occasionally spending time and energy on good things for myself helps me be more available to love others well. Remember, we are called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. That being said…
  2. I run for because I am grateful. Running for something else is a way of stewarding this gift I have been given of a two legs that can run (See #6 above). To whom much is given, much is expected (See Luke 12:48)
  3. I run for because it’s a good way to raise funds/awareness on a macro level. Marathons are huge logistical endeavors that require a lot of resources. On a macro level, running for causes takes an event requiring a lot of resources (money, water, volunteers), and makes it dual purpose: a fun/challenging race AND an awareness/fundraiser for many causes. Win-win!
  4. I run for because it’s a good way to raise funds/awareness on a micro level.  I figure I may as well use that huge amount of input on an individual level (money, time, sweat) to further a cause bigger than myself. It’s not that much additional blood/sweat/tears to run for something else too.
  5. I run for because it connects me to non-runners and helps me share this love with people in another avenue that they can appreciate, even if they don’t love running. People (like you, my readers and supporters!) can relate to helping people even if they can’t relate to the crazy world of long-distance running;)
18 mile rainy
A few weeks ago post 18-miler, repping my Taller de Jose shirt and looking like a drowned rat (running in the rain sounds hardcore but it’s pretty darn fun)

Why I run for Taller de José:

  1. I run for Taller de José because I love their model of ministry. They embody the ministry of accompaniment, which is to walk with people in their time of need. Their compañeras “help” connect people to social services through the relational model of being with people in their time of need, not extending a lifeline from on high, not walking ahead as someone “in charge,” but walking with as fellow companions on the shared journey of life.
  2. I run for Taller de José because they are unique. They connect people to services and services to people, trying not to replicate other social services that already exist, but filling the gap between those who need help with the help that is available.
  3. I run for Taller de José  because I personally know many of the people who work or have worked at Taller. They get it. See Megan’s reflection. Or Hillary’s.  They embody mutuality, hospitality, and accompaniment. They don’t just talk the talk!
  4. I run for Taller de José  because I personally know the (newly minted) Executive Director (eek!!!). She is Running Buddy. I hear the stories. I saw her go to school for her Masters in Non-profit Management while working full time so she could put that learning at the service of Taller de José. Basically, I have a front row seat to the behind-the-scenes of Taller, and I still trust Taller. I don’t think everyone could claim that after seeing the behind-the-scenes of a lot of places.
  5. I run for Taller de José  because of the clients they accompany. Two years ago, when Running  Buddy was also running for Taller, she shared many of their stories here.
  6. I run for Taller de José because they are located in Little Village, where I lived during my Amate House year. I love the community and they will always have a place in my heart. The neighborhood is listed 3rd highest on the hardship index for the city, so they face many struggles of course, but it is also a vibrant community full of generous, hard-working people.  (And while Taller serves many people from the neighborhood, they also will accompany anyone from anywhere in the area, at no cost to the client. In-cre-ible!!)
  7. I run for  Taller de José because countless dear people have accompanied me during hard times in my life. I love that Taller de José ensures other people don’t have to go through hard times alone.

7 reason why I run 

+ 5 reason why I run for 

+ 7 reasons why I run for Taller de José

 = 19 reasons why

19 18 mile start
For Saturday’s 19-miler, I ran one mile to the start of the 18-mile trail. So this sign may read “0” but please read, “1” 😉
19 mile endish
18 miles later and… I haven’t moved?
19 mile end
Phew! The other side of the sign shows I did actually run 18 miles since the “0”/”1″ sign 😉

Do you like the sound of Taller de José too? Do you have people who have accompanied you in hard times? Or maybe you just want to wish this crazy runner a happy birthday? 😉 You can support Taller de José through my running efforts here! Thank you SO MUCH, dear friends!

 

Advertisements

Who’s going to catch me when I fall?

And we’re back! After a blogging hiatus, I’m back to blogging, starting first with a “running is a metaphor for life” post which is also a “Yes, I’m running for Team Taller de José again” post. And in case you need a reminder, or you didn’t know me in 2012 or 2014, here’s an update on what Taller de José is.

Who’s going to catch me when I fall?

I asked myself this question in a sudden panic a few weeks ago when I realized this would be the first finish line I would cross without Running Buddy (since I started long distance running).My body has developed this annoying habit of getting really.nauseous. at the end of every race when I try to kick it into high gear. Without getting too graphic, because there is nothing to be graphic about, at the end of every race, I double over like I’m going to throw up, I grab for Running Buddy to steady me, and I have never (yet?) actually thrown up. Woohoo!

illinois half 2013 melissa
About a half second before the first time this ever happened. Running Buddy was blissfully unaware.

But this race, my 3rd marathon, will be the first race without Running Buddy. She will of course jump in for about 5 miles near the end, but she won’t be with me at the actual end. And thus I may fall over at the finish line. Don’t panic, I’m always fine. (Though maybe if I do fall over, the magical golf cart will take me to my belongings so I won’t have to walk? Hmmm… 😉 ).

I think that might just be it, actually. “Don’t panic, I’m always fine.”

Sure, there are many ups and downs to running, as there is with life.

Sure, I may legit fall over at the finish line because my stomach decides to overreact to kicking it up a notch. Every. time.

Sure, I will be wishing I had my Running Buddy to catch me because she not only catches me, but realizes that I’m not dying and I’ll just gag a little and move on.

But also as sure, falling over is not failure. Some people even win gold medals while falling over the finish line. Okay, okay. Diving over the finish line.

Rockstar  Bahamian diver/runner, Shaunae Miller, followed closely by USA running legend, Allyson Felix

Also sure, the ups and downs of running-and life-are just that…ups and downs. Specifically, if I literally fall down at the end of the race, if I puke, if I cramp up and walk, or whatever the case may be, the “down” is not the end of the story. Life goes on. The race, the journey, continues. Resurrection is ALWAYS the end of the story. Love wins.

And most sure, I know I have many people to metaphorically catch me when I fall:

  • Running Buddy will run miles 21-25 or so with me. That’s a way of catching me when I’m at risk of falling (e.g., hitting THE wall)
  • Numerous supporters will cheer me on throughout the race. That’s catching me when I’m choosing to do hard things for fun 😉
  • Many of you may choose to support me financially as I accompany Taller de José with my fundraising efforts. That’s catching many people when they’re falling and in need of someone to help them.
  • Most importantly, if I fall at the finish line on race day, it doesn’t matter. I have amazing pillars in my life who catch me when I fall and truly need the support. Thank you for accompanying me. I try to pass it on.

So who’s going to catch me when I fall? All of you. Metaphorically, of course.

P.S. If you want to help metaphorically catch me by supporting my running for Team Taller de José, please click here. Taller and I appreciate any amount…and your prayers! Thank you! 

“I’m so thankful for my injury”

Yes, it is another ‘Running is a metaphor for life’ post. 🙂 

“I’m so  thankful for my injury.”

That’s not exactly something you hear everyday, but Running Buddy definitely said it around mile 22 of our marathon together. But I didn’t flinch, because I knew exactly what she meant.

She’s been battling some IT-band issues for a good chunk of training but after the 20-miler, it was so bad, she wasn’t sure she’d even be able to run the marathon. We were pretty worried. And I’d been there too. Two years ago, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to run our first marathon because of a dropped metatarsal. I actually have a draft saved on this blog of a post I wrote updating and processing the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to run the marathon. (I got the okay to run it but turns out I probably shouldn’t have—I was still injured and got more injured in the process). I was thankful to have finished that one, and after each setback since then, coming back to running is all that much sweeter.

In my 2.5 years of running so far, I was sidelined with that injury, then with undiagnosed anemia, and then with mono, in addition to some busy seasons of school when running got sidelined, each time, coming back to running felt more and more like a gift. So when Running Buddy said, “I’m so thankful for my injury” in the midst of the best run we’d ever had (I think collectively for us both and individually for sure for me), on the most beautiful Fall day, with our family and friends and one million other fans cheering us on, I knew exactly what she meant.

The setbacks make the successes all that much sweeter.

I may have wept tears of pain and frustration during my first marathon but I smiled for 26.2 miles in my second.

I may been diagnosed with mono the day after winning the lottery to sign up for the Chicago marathon, but I rocked training as soon as I was fully recovered six weeks later.

I may have been frustrated by being in shape yet out-of-breath, but with iron supplements in hand, I came back stronger than ever.

I may have had seasons where my 5 hours of sleep was more important than running, but guarding those 8 hours of nightly sleep this time around felt right.

I may have struggled in the 20-miler with cramps, dehydration and nausea, but 26.2 went uncharacteristically smooth.

I may have crossed the finish line alone two years ago, but I crossed it with Running Buddy this time around.

I may have not written my goal for this marathon too boldly because of fear of not succeeding—I wrote, “Finish strong, preferably under 5:00”—but I crushed my goal—finishing strong at 4:45.

I may have not felt like a strong, real runner for 2+ years because of all the various setbacks, and because my dear Running Buddy often was able to run with a tad more oomph than me, but on marathon day this year, I knew I was a real runner.

I may not have blogged about running after my first marathon because I had so many unresolved feelings I didn’t know how to express, but today, I can blog about the journey, the setbacks and the successes.

In running and in life, we of course learn the most from our setbacks and failures. But in running and in life, those fleeting moments of success are great motivation to keep going because the journey includes ups AND downs, not just downs. And they feel pretty damn great. (Or maybe those are some lingering endorphins). 😉

Peace,
Melissa

FF DID

And just to clarify, because sometimes I can’t resist qualifications, none of this is meant to toot my own horn. It’s all to say that basically I’m grateful for a good running day, made all that more poignant by Running Buddy’s sort-of injury. It could very easily have gone the other way, as it often has. A good or bad running day is rather arbitrary at times. I’m just saying “thank you” for the gift of a good race, just as I try to say thank you for the not-so-good runs that teach me a lot too. 

Life’s Better When We’re Connected

Another “running is a metaphor for life” post 🙂 

Life’s better when we’re connected.

Darn Corporate America tugging at my heart in their advertising. They got me. “Life’s better when we’re connected” was the theme of this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon. And it couldn’t me more true.

This is going to sound ridiculous but I have to say it because it’s true: the marathon passed quickly for me this year because we spent almost every few miles looking for fans. At 20 points along the way, we saw someone or a group of people that Running Buddy or I knew! We were at Mile 17 when I was like, “How are we already here? I’m not getting ahead of myself or anything, but…. This is going by so fast!” Two years ago, I was all like, “Baahhh… if we don’t see our fans like we’re supposed to at mile 16, I don’t think I’m going to make it.” (Needless to say, Running Buddy was getting worried about me at that point two years ago).

But what I notice about both of my experiences is how important our spectators were to me. Seriously, they kept me going! With our names plastered on our shirts, even strangers were cheering for us, the whole way!! And then we saw our families at SEVEN spots along the way. They win at “Competitive Spectating” for sure. And despite a bunch of friends not being able to make it who were originally planning to (I was getting worried the week of), a bunch of other friends came out of the woodwork and told me where they were going to be along the route. Amazing!

I am bursting with gratitude for all those who cheered us on on marathon day, for all those who supported me with encouraging words before and after the race, and for all who donated to our Taller de Jose running team.  I’m one lucky marathon runner.

Life sure is better when we’re connected… as runners, as spectators, as friends and family, as strangers, as a human family. Who would have thought that would be one of the life/running lessons of 26.2 miles?? But my tired legs can testify, they didn’t run it alone. They ran supported by you. Just as I live my life thanks to the beautiful known and unknown people with whom I am connected.

Thank you.

Some of our fans (Sans PaPa Mayer taking the picture)
Some of our fans (Sans PaPa Mayer taking the picture)

 

 

A Friend Catches You When You Fall… and other running/life lessons

I have always maintained that I run not just to run because running is a metaphor for life. Running continues to teach me about life, about my journey of faith and love and struggle and pain and joy.  Recently, as my marathon training peaked, I was again given the gift of two life-lessons.  It reminded me again of why I run , why I’m putting my body through the hardship of 18, 19, 20 mile runs in preparation for the big day of 26.2 one week from today on October 12th!

1. A Friend Catches You When You Fall

On September 21st, Running Buddy and I ran a “supported” practice race down the Lakeshore path with the Chicago Area Running Association (CARA). It was a beautiful day and the run was going pretty well for both of us, though I was still getting over a cold and Running Buddy was having IT band issues. Then, around mile 18, my body wasn’t having it anymore. In retrospect, I was probably dehydrated, because when we crossed the finish line, I started heaving and Running Buddy literally caught my arm and held me up. Within minutes I was fine (thanks to water and recovery drinks!!). But already during those few unpleasant minutes, I was (inwardly) delighting in the running-life lesson being lived out. Running Buddy literally caught me when I was falling, just as her alter ego, Ace, does metaphorically in non-running real life. Just as my beautiful and supportive friends and support network do for me constantly. What a gift to have friends who catch you when you fall!

2. Conditions will Never Be Perfect

I’ve been hoping desperately for good conditions during this marathon training season and especially for the marathon! I’m sick of having qualifications for my training and my races. For example, whenever I talk about my first marathon it always includes something like, “Well, I hurt my foot two weeks before and almost didn’t run and then I ran anyway and got stress fractures in both my feet.” Or I tell the story of how I got mono the day after I won the lottery for this marathon (kinda kills the momentum) and couldn’t run the Illinois Half I’d been training for at that time too (kind of a downer). In addition to those bigger bummers, I just feel like my running in general is plagued with “well, I was kind of sick for that run so…” or “I didn’t get enough sleep this week” or… you get the picture. While I’ll of these things are true, I think it’s left me in the unrealistic pursuit for a smooth, no setbacks training season and race.

So on 20-miler day, when I was still getting over a cold and using sentences again like, “And I had a cold for this run, so hopefully on the actual marathon…” to (rightly) justify why it may not have been as good a run as I hoped (like my 19-miler was!),  I realized that I’m always looking for those perfect conditions, conditions that will probably never actually exist. The imperfect, rainy day journey is what matters. It’s the messy here and now. In running and in life.

We rarely get quite enough sleep, have quite enough time for our projects in work or school, or see our friends as much as we’d like because it’s hard to find the perfect window of freedom. Maybe we should stop holding out for the stars to align when we will then be at our best, but make the most of our imperfect and messy lives, which is still full of stars, even if they don’t quite align into Orion’s Belt. Maybe the lesson..and even the unexpected joy, is in the imperfect, “not ideal conditions” journey?

3. Drink Enough Water

Ok, so not all running lessons correlate exactly into running lessons. Sometimes, you learn a lesson while running or racing that is just helpful to learn for future runs.  Somewhere along the way in the 20-miler, I stopped hydrating enough….hence the unfortunate end of the race mentioned above. I learned what I need to be especially attentive to on race day!

Thanks to all who have supported me in fundraising for Team Taller de Jose! In addition to water, it is my supporters, whether in person with cheering, through online donations and encouragement, or in spirit and prayer, who will keep me going next week!  If you haven’t had a chance to donate yet, you can still do so here: https://connect.clickandpledge.com/Organization/tallerdejose/campaign/2014marathon/fundraiser/MelissaCarnall/

 

 

Stick-shift driving, GSWs, and Afterschool Care

Stick-shift driving, GSWs, and Afterschool Care: A Summer’s Tale and Accompaniment Appeal

Stick-shift driving

This summer, I’ve learned to drive a manual car. My roommate, aka Running Buddy, aka Ace, owns a manual car which I’ve never been able to drive. This was okay when we had a third roommate (Amici), who used to let me borrow her car if needed, and I take a lot of public transit too, of course. But Amici moved to a place called OK (miss you, Amici!), and Ace was going to be in Europe for three weeks this summer and her car would be here with me, all alone.  It was decided in early June that by July 13th, I would somehow magically be able to drive her car home, after dropping her in the suburbs where her group was leaving from on that day. And by “it was decided,” I mean, Ace decided this, having way more confidence in me than I had in myself.

So off we went to empty parking lots to practice stalling, I mean, practice driving stick-shift. Before we started practicing, it felt like I was humoring Ace and maybe humoring myself, pretending that this would somehow happen that I would be able to learn to competently drive a manual car… in CHICAGO. But after that first practice session, and after another one or two, I realized learning stick shift was like training for a marathon. When you painfully endure 5 miles for the first time and it takes every ounce of strength you have, if you imagine running 26 miles, you’ll never think you’ll be able to complete this marathon you signed up for on a whim (that was me 2+ years ago).  But if you painfully learn to endure those 5 miles, and then eventually you can run 10 miles, running 12 miles after that doesn’t seem so terrible. Twelve becomes 14 becomes 18 and so on til you  train to eventually hobble across the finish line after 26.2 miles.  Thus it was with driving. First gear in the parking lot led to 2nd and 3rd gears on empty roads, which led to stop signs and neighborhood driving. This was the gateway to Ace saying, “today you’re going to drive on the highway” and next comes parallel parking. Eventually, I drove her car home after dropping her in the suburbs on July 13th as she anticipated so assuredly. And I’ve been smiling like a 16-year-old behind the wheel for the first time as I have enjoyed this new skill of mine these last few weeks.

GSWs

This is one of those acronyms I didn’t know until less than 2 months ago and now I wish I didn’t have to use it so frequently. It means “Gun Shot Wound.” This summer, I’m doing a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) internship as a hospital chaplain at a Trauma I hospital on Chicago’s South(west) side. We throw around the term like we’ve used it our whole lives and like we didn’t see a hole in a person where there should never be a hole and like we didn’t hold an anxious mother for hours while she awaited an life-changing update from a busy ER doctor. “Patient X was multiple GSW to the abdomen… Pastoral care provided: prayer with family, water, tissues, and non-anxious presence” are normal parts of our updates with fellow chaplains. More on this internship is still to come for sure (the internship is well known to be an intense experience with little time for outside activity, thus the absence of time to blog about it). But for now, maybe take a minute to say a hold all those suffering from GSWs and all forms of violence in your thoughts and prayers?

Afterschool Care

My internship at Mt. Sinai hospital where I’ve been seeing these GSWs and otherwise meeting patients in various stages of illness is only 1 mile from the Roommate’s work. Due to various meetings at her work in the meeting that I was attending too, or coordinating rides home, or doing laundry in her work’s basement (yes, you read that right), or just going to eat lunch there after an on-call shift and before heading home, I ended up at her work many times in the first few weeks of the summer. I started joking that her work felt like my “Afterschool care.” When Roommate was in Europe, I even went to “afterschool” once to do my laundry still, after an encouraging text from Roommate’s boss that I was missed at “Afterschool.” How many people can do laundry at their roommate’s workplace, when their roommate is not even there?!?! I’m one lucky gal with a lucky roommate with a great place to work.

So what does driving a stick-shift, learning about GSWs, and going to “afterschool care” have in common, aside from all existing in my summer?!

Accompaniment.

Stick-shift driving: Roommate/Running Buddy/Ace believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. She was a patient and encouraging teacher and I was driving stick-shift by myself after about 5 lessons. I never thought it possible. She accompanied me.

GSWs: As chaplains, we accompany families and patients when they are in trauma in the ER. As chaplain interns, we have accompanied each other this summer as we process these intense experiences. I could not ask for a better cohort of CPE interns than the ones that God has placed with me at Mt. Sinai. We accompany one another.

Afterschool Care: Roommate’s place of work mentioned above? Taller de Jose!  The team I’m running the marathon for! They have accompanied me this summer and I am seeking to accompany them in their ministry of accompaniment. 

 

So my last post explained why I dropped off the face of the planet and stopped fundraising suddenly for my half-marathon in April. I also explained in that post that I would be running the Chicago Marathon, for Team Taller de Jose, just as I had anticipated running the half-marathon for them in April. At that time, I was still in the throes of recovering from mono. I am beyond words thrilled to be able to say that after the requisite 6 weeks of getting over the exhaustion affectionately known as “mono,” I was back to my regular self, and I am now almost half-way through training for that marathon!

Will you accompany me during my summer of accompaniment  as I run for Taller’s ministry of accompaniment? Your prayers and/or financial support are much appreciated! If you would consider donating, please check out my fundraising page here! No donation is too small! Or large 🙂

In the spirit of accompaniment,
Melissa

2 Updates: A Modified Goal and a Goal at the Starting Line

Update 1: A Modified Goal

So, for my few astute observers and friends out there, you may have noticed that I posted about my goal to find 13 supporters to correlate with the 13 miles I would run at the Illinois Half-Marathon on April 26. I then introduced who I was running for, Team Taller de Jose. And then I dropped off the face of the planet. Or at least the face of the interwebz.

After having a headache for ten days straight, I finally got some other symptoms that helped me determine I had mononucleosis (yep, “mono”). It’s a virus and there’s nothing you can do for it but wait it out…. for two to six weeks :/ This was just under two weeks before the race, so I knew that the race was no longer going to happen, but then I got sicker and sicker so I did absolutely nothing productive for two weeks, including updating to say I had to pause my fundraising at the 5 /13 point. THANK YOU to my five supporters- MaMa Ash, Nicole, John, Jessie, and Hillary. I’m so sorry I had to pause my fundraising before I could find the other 8 to join you and to reach my goal.

Thankfully, by race day, I was capable enough to accompany Team Taller in a different manner than anticipated….as a FAN EXTRAORDINAIRE!  I waited at Mile 2.5 with Running Buddy’s parents (aka “MaMa and PaPa Mayer”) and we watched all of Team Taller go by and I gave out high fives and collected the long-sleeve shirts they no longer needed. I then was able to bike over to the stadium where the finish line was and wait for all of Team Taller to cross that finish line at the 50-yard line hands up!

High-fiving the Taller de Jose Executive Director, Sr. Kathy Brazda, during her first half marathon!
High-fiving the Taller de Jose Executive Director, Sr. Kathy Brazda, during her first half marathon!

I may look pretty alive in that pic, but don’t be fooled, that was the most energy I had expended in 10 days! Then it felt like I ran the Half! But it was worth it. I saw almost every member of the team cross the finish line during an almost two hour time span (though two of the guys slipped by me because I didn’t know what their timing was). It was a small comfort to at least be able to watch the race, instead of being stuck on the couch like the previous weekend!

Running Buddy (r) and with her childhood friend, Deborah (l), enjoying the race course
Running Buddy (r) with her childhood friend and fellow Team Taller runner, Deborah (l), enjoying the race course
One of my roommates, Amici, after completing her first half marathon!!
One of my roommates, Amici, after completing her first half marathon!!

 

One of my college roommates and dear friends, Marissa aka "MoMo." after finishing her first Half!
One of my college roommates and dear friends, Marissa aka “MoMo.” after finishing her first Half!
All of Team Taller post-half, including the unexpectedly sidelined teammate, yours truly
All of Team Taller post-half, including the unexpectedly sidelined teammate, yours truly

But my goal is just modified, not entirely eliminated, thanks to update numero dos…

Update 2: A Goal at the Starting Line

So, back at the beginning of February, MoMo, Running Buddy, and I went to this running/friend/women/encouragement event in Madison, WI, where MoMo lives. It was called “Declare it Day” with Fellow Flowers so we all “declared” a running goal for the year (or longer).

Excitingly declaring our goals :)
Excitingly declaring our goals 🙂

MoMo has already completed hers! See above pic of us after she completed her first half marathon! She rocks, and I am so proud of her.

Running Buddy’s goal will take more than this year to complete, but let’s just say she’s well on her way. I leave that to her to share (or I’ll at least leave it for later to share 😉 )

My goal was this:

declare goal

 

You may notice that it says I want to complete that goal by November 30, 2014. Well, that date was sort of a back-up date in case I didn’t get into the Chicago Marathon via the lottery system and had to find a different Fall marathon to run and to conquer my goal. But that doesn’t matter, because The day before I had my mono diagnosis confirmed, I found out I won the lottery! Unfortunately, this type of lottery requires me to pay $185 to run 26.2 miles. Kind of a downer when you look at it that way, I guess…. but that doesn’t matter, because

I GOT INTO THE CHICAGO MARATHON!!

I will be finishing my 2nd marathon STRONG on October 12, 2014.

I may not have been able to complete my goal above of finding 13 supporters for the half marathon thanks to mono, but I will continue the spirit of that goal by running for Team Taller in the full marathon. I will accompany them through my running as they accompany others in their ministry.

We will be a tiny 4-person team probably. Tiny, but mighty! And unofficial! Team Taller is not an official charity registered through the race, so that’s why I had to get in through the lottery, instead of receiving a guaranteed entry by signing up through an official charity.

And don’t worry, friends, I will delay the start of my marathon training until I’m fully recovered from mono! Thanks for looking out for me 🙂

And thanks for journeying with me. Stay tuned for all the twists and turns that will for sure be a part of this road I’m running!

Let’s do this.

Who is Taller de Jose?

As I shared in my last post, I’m running the Half Marathon in Champaign-Urbana on April 26th for Team Taller de José. Instead of a monetary goal,  I have the goal of finding 13 people to contribute to my fundraising efforts for Team Taller.  So far, I have 4 of my 13! THANK YOU to my first four contributors- Jessie, John, Beth aka MaMa Ash, and Nicole!!!! Would you consider being number 5 or 6? 

But who and what is Taller de José, aside from where Running Buddy works?

Well, I went to their 5th annual Builder’s Day celebration on Sunday, so I’ve been especially reminded of all the needed and beautiful work that they do.

Joaquin receiving the Companion Award at the 5th Annual Builder's Day Celebration
Joaquin receiving the Companion Award at the 5th Annual Builder’s Day Celebration

Who is Taller?

Taller was founded by Sr. Kathy Brazda, a Sister of St. Joseph who is still the Executive Director, along with Fr. Bob Casey, the Board President, and another sister, Sr. Carol Crepeau.  Since the founding, the full-time staff has been very small, including Sr. Kathy, one Amate volunteer a year, and the Amate House volunteers that then got hired as staff in addition to a office manager. The way they are able to do so much work is that they have several committed volunteers that in “retirement” serve as compañeras for several days a week, in addition to social work and seminary interns that also are compañeras.

What does Taller do?

The founders wished to establish a ministry which would meet the most pressing needs of the residents of the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago,  (that’s where Fr. Bob was serving at the time). So they actually asked the community what those needs were. They embodied the Buechner definition of vocation:

Vocation is where your deep gladness meets the world deep need.

They melded the deep gladness of the sisters, that is, their congregation’s charism of witnessing to the unifying love of God, and the community’s deep need of connecting to the available services. Their mission was formed: to connect services to people and people to services in a ministry of  accompaniment.

Taller’s compañeras accompany clients to court, to the doctor’s office, to government agencies. They help with paperwork and with translation, both oral and written.

Where does Taller serve?

Taller is in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. It is a predominantly Mexican(-American) neighborhood with a large Spanish-speaking population.  Thus, a large part of Taller’s client base is grateful for not only the accompaniment of the compañeras, but also the interpretation they can provide when a fluent grasp of the language is often a barrier to appropriate access not only to resources, but to justice in court or medical advice from a doctor.

But Taller’s impact extends beyond Little Village as well. Clients come from over 41 different zip codes in Chicago and over 36 suburbs, and Taller de José partners with over 140 partner agencies to provide resources for its clients.

When…?

Ok, this question is kind of unnecessary. But, in fitting with the theme…. NOW? of course! They opened their doors in 2008 after 2-3 years of dreaming and planning. This year has included a series of events to celebrate their 5 years of service to the city of Chicago.

Why does Taller do what they do?

Because they heard of a need and have sought to fill it. Because we all need someone to accompany us through our challenges, through our fear, through our barriers to health and success. Because language should not be a reason to be denied services and justice. Because the love of God compels them. Because they work so that all may be one.

Fun Fact

Taller de José (Pronounced, “Thai- yair,” remember, no gringo “Tall-er”) is Spanish for Joseph’s Workshop. Their annual dinner and fundraiser is called Builder’s Day. It took me three years to figure out it’s called Builder’s Day in honor of the Joseph theme (St. Joseph, Jesus’ earthly adopted dad so to speak, was a carpenter). I’m a little slow on the uptake!

Thank you

Thanks for reading about this great organization that I’m running for! I’m looking for 13 people to financially support them through my running of this Half Marathon, one donation in honor of each mile.  I’ve had four people join me on this journey already. Will you be the next one?

13 People for 13 Miles

Running the Illinois Half last year with Running Buddy. (She was ready to hand off her gloves to our fans, while I was hamming it up for the camera. Oops).

One month from today, I will run the Illinois Half-Marathon in Champaign-Urbana, IL. No big deal, right? I ran the same race last year, I ran a marathon the year before that. I’ve run other halfs. No biggie.

On one hand, yes, no big deal.*

On the other hand… false.

This year, I’m running the race for Team Taller (pronounced “Thai-yair”, none of this Gringo “Tall-er” crap), the fundraising team of Taller de Jose, a social service agency in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago where the Running Buddy works. They do great work, connecting resources to people, and people to resources. So this Half is different than other Halfs (Halves? Does it plural in the same way when you’re referring to a type of race, not necessary a typical “half”??) because I’m running for the people whom Taller serves!

I’m actually hoping to run a marathon in the Fall (cross your fingers I get into the Chicago Marathon through the lottery), so this is actually the start of my friendraising and fundraising that will accompany my journey to Marathon v. 2.0. I like for my running to have purpose to it. If I’m going to run 26.2 miles, let alone the 600 miles of training that will lead up to those 26, I want to have a damn, err darn, good reason to run them, several damn darn good reasons in fact.

I’ve known of Taller de Jose for three years, ever since I did Amate House and Taller was Running Buddy’s service site for the year.  I’ve watched their running team for as long as that and have journeyed with them while Running Buddy was running for them these past two years. They do good work and they’re good people.

I will be sharing more about them and their work in the weeks and months to come, but today, I just want to share my goal for this Half:

13 People for 13 Miles.

Will you be one of the 13 people to donate?? One donation sought for each mile of the race!

The Team goal for the Half Marathon is $3000 and there are 11 runners, but just like in any team, sometimes the roles aren’t identical, so I wouldn’t mind raising more than my $272.72 share! So for the Half, I don’t have a monetary goal, just a people goal! 13 people for 13 miles.

I only have a month to find all 13 of you. Will you help me today??

Click here, to donate now! 

Thanks for considering, friends. More posts on both Taller de Jose and on my running journey in general await in the future! For now though, maybe just click on over to their site to learn more, or dive right in to donate?

Peace and gratitude,
Melissa

*Important point of clarification: Running a Half in general is definitely a big deal and so many people on Team Taller will be running their FIRST HALF MARATHONS. This is a very big deal in and of itself. I’m just trying to make the point that since I’ve run a few half marathons (slowly), the blog post announcement might seem unnecessary, that’s all! I am not trying to diminish it’s significance because running 13 miles should not be considered small potatoes, especially for all those who will be doing it for the first time on April 26th with us!!

Another Medium

Melted Crayon Rainbow-JKCreate
This is a poem I wrote originally for my internship as a hospital chaplain in place of a “verbatim” with my supervisor last week. Two things to note before reading that will help the references in it make sense:
– I had a minor health scare recently that turned out to be anemia. Easily remedied! 
– I had another type of scare a few weeks ago in an incident with a patient on a behavioral floor where I was concerned for my safety and felt trapped in the room. Thankfully, nothing “actually happened.” 
 
Last thing to note, this is a poem in the “Spoken Word” genre I suppose, so maybe consider reading it aloud for its full effect?
 
 

Another Medium.

I got a B- in art in the 4th grade.
I didn’t get another B for 10 years
And I gave up any hope of being an artist for more years than that.
I had tried and been found wanting,
So I would leave the art to the artists
And I would stick with numbers and then eventually with words.
Words could be my medium.
They can be inserted passionately into space
And their absence can adopt as much meaning as their presence
They can speak life or indict injustice
They can explain, and qualify, and be understood.
Unlike my 4th grade art that couldn’t explain itself.
That couldn’t cry out in self defense–
I was trying.
Words. Words. Words could be my medium of choice
While I pondered the possibility of me
An artist.

An artist
I pondered another medium too.
Alongside my precious words, I found another art form that awakened my soul.
That worked with words but also with silence
And that used the 64 colors of the Crayola box
With the 65th color of the breaking of a heart
And the 66th color of the vulnerability of a hospital bed
I feel my words get jealous as I get acquainted with this new medium
But don’t you see, words?
I still love you.
I’m using you right now.
Together we’ll create our art, with this medium of words and silence
And color and breath and heartache and joy.
Our medium is life itself.

I tried out this medium recently.
Furtively, like an imposter, I painted and composed and mixed words.
I stood silently at hospital beds in utter confusion
And in awe of the vulnerability of our human condition
Masked more easily for some.
I entered into the pain of rejection with our sisters and brothers with mental illness.
I crossed myself with fellow Catholics
And waxed rather nonpoeticly when asked deep theological questions.
And I fumbled words of español and uttered honest prayers for our searching.
My heart swelled in the swirling of the graced mystery
I thrived on the poetry of it all.
Or so I thought.

Then I couldn’t leave the room
I felt trapped by his presence
And then trapped by my mistake.
And my iron ran low
And my frustration ran high
And suddenly, my new medium appeared as a fraud.
I was kidding myself.
There’s nothing poetic about ministry, about life.
He was tired of life
And I was just tired.
And my iron ran low
And my frustration ran high.
And my new medium appeared as a fraud.

I wasn’t an artist
And life wasn’t a poem.
I was bumbling and tired and life was a mess.
But outside my own willing
I’ve felt the beauty amidst the mess
The graced mystery swirls and I’m not strong enough to resist
Love has captured me.
So sooner rather than later
The romantic in me can’t deny the canvas being painted
And I want to be a brush.
Coaxed back to art with empathy and concern,
Iron and friends, the trust of my patients and the brushstroke of the Artist.

Maybe I am an artist after all.
In my art with a patient
I thank God aloud that God has created her in God’s image.
So she can consider her dignity and worth.
And since art is meant to stir in us
Is it lacking in humility to say
It stirs me to consider that I am created in the that image
Of our artist-God too?
I am a brush and a pencil, a painting and a poem.
Art and artist.
Words and image and life and pain and beauty.
Our medium is life.
Maybe I am an artist after all.