Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Craving Grace

The New York City Marathon is only 25 days away. 
Last year I was posting like a maniac about the marathon. It was all I could think about and all I was focused on. 

This year is different. 

I think it has to do with how the race went last year. I learned so many lessons from how I ran that race but the most important one was that I finished. Even though I felt like I was going to die. And I trained like an animal. 

So this year, I am still training. Very hard. Diligently. With focus. But with joy. With laughter. With friendship. Not solo. And it isn't as much about how I am hoping to finish but how I hope to run the race. It seems altogether different. 

I believe that is what Jesus wants us to know in life too. It isn't about the finish, but about the life we get to live now. I read this quote from Abraham Lincoln and it has meant so much to me in this time of training, 
"In the end, it is not the years in a life, but the life in the years." 

That rings so true to me for this marathon training but also for the families that we are raising money for with Inheritance of Hope. 

They don't have years to have life together. They have to live right now. 

It puts life in perspective. And we need to be graceful with each other and ourselves. To take care of what we have and who is around us. To not miss the moments by trying to reach some obscure finish line that isn't really there.

The last three months have been amazing. I have loved the training, discipline and deep friendship that has come from running for hours alongside my best friends. When you have little guys at home, there is almost nothing you won't do for two uninterrupted hours of chatting with your friends. So running it is! I mean-we have run y'all. Here are the numbers:

Since August 1st we have run 285 miles, in 50 hours, 34 minutes. And burned 29,694 calories.

This has been work, but it has been so much fun! 
And I've gotten to see the better side of me and to hear more clearly about how I've been made to give my life away so others can know how precious they are. 

I'm so grateful to have met my fundraising goal due to the generosity of others. But Jenn and Amy still have a ways to go. I'd love to encourage you to give money to their funds. 

Please remember, this isn't money going to us, it is going to families that are suffering with terminal illness. It is easy to give to these families. It is simply that we are fundraising on their behalf. 

Their race against illness is MUCH harder than this silly 26.2 marathon that we are running. We run because they can't. They are doing what they can to simply love their families while they can. 

Help us give them the trip that they can't during one of the their final years. Just look around. You know someone who was just diagnosed with cancer. Or who has been fighting for a long time. They can't possibly pay for a vacation. These families need a break. 

$25 or $50 will add up quickly. I promise! Even if you don't know Jen or Amy, go donate. It will be the biggest blessing to them AND YOU. 

We run in 25 days y'all! 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Life Is Not a Story About Me

Reflecting back to the finish of the NYC marathon last year, it is such a whirlwind of emotions. I was so grateful to be finished. To have crossed the finish line and be alive, to have so many friends and family thinking of me that day and to have Jesus alongside me. 

I truly felt His presence and knew that He wanted me to know how much He loved me and how much life's race was like a marathon.  Highs and lows. Long miles and quick miles. Happy or sad. Sick or feeling good. He would be with me. It was the most beautiful thing in the world. 

And I was really sad because I just wanted to run and be triumphant and kill the race. I wanted to do everything I had trained to do. It just didn't happen that way. I physically couldn't do it. I immediately started looking up races I could run to prove to myself how awesome I was at running. It was ridiculous. Matt encouraged me to slow down and take some time to let this race just rest within me. 

I've run since NYC. I've run a few 1/2 marathons and then I ran at the Inheritance of Hope 15k in Brevard at the end of April this year. It was absolutely beautiful. All the money from the race went to families (again) suffering from terminal illness and many of the families showed up. 

We started the race and I felt like my friend Amy Patwa was with me the whole race. She and I just got to talk about what it would be like to run in Heaven. And how it is now to run with Jesus here. And how hard but good it is to run life with eyes of faith and not by sight. And I just ran. And I ran through farm fields and by streams and I felt like I was floating. Turns out-I won! First female! 

It was amazing! I've never won a race before and that race and prayer time prompted a whole lot of other big moves in my life. 

I ended up leaving my job of 10 years later that month. And I've been trusting Jesus that He has big plans in my life and in others lives as we tell people about hope and the good things to come as you step out in faith. 

I know my life is not about me. My story is never going to be about me. Thank goodness. God has much bigger plans than that. I am really glad that He wants to use me in the lives of others though. 

And right now He has called me to run with Inheritance of Hope in the NYC Marathon this year and I'm so pumped to get to play a part in lives of families that are dealing with terminal illness. 

If you'd like to help, here is the link:  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Final Marathon Pics

I finally downloaded the actual marathon pictures so I thought I would share them with you.

There is nothing like giving yourself a month to digest this huge thing you did. Look back at the pictures and realize how incredibly awesome it was.

Yes, I felt like crap for 8 miles. But that was nothing in comparison to the greatness of the overall marathon. I can't wait to do it again.

I finally understand why you would want to do this again and again. And also why you would never want run again. But I have learned so much just in reflection. How could you not want to try that again? Just to learn what you are made of and how God wants to whisper to you that you are His FAVORITE just cause you said yes to this big epic thing?

Let's go. Only 340 more days until I can get back there!

I'm going to do my best to narrate what I think my thoughts were at these points during the race:

Mile 7/8: FEELING AWESOME AND TOTALLY KNOW THE CAMERAS ARE THERE. I haven't seen one person I know, but I feel like the world is cheering me on. 

Somewhere on First Avenue. I just ran straight past Matt and the kids. Didn't get to say hi and it crushed me. This has to be around mile 17. Just a short 10 miles later and I feel like death has crept inside of my back and is starting to get ahold of me. I know I only have 10 MORE MILES TO GO. Wasn't a great time in my life. Head down and trying to work through it. 

I want that photographer to die. You can see my tummy starting to bloat. It's not a good sign. BUT--EMPIRE STATE BUILDING IN THE BACKGROUND. So that's pretty awesome. 

Just more miles. This race is endless. 

The start of mile 18/19. I walked up that bridge. Then-NO LIE, I saw the photographer and it was downhill, so I started running. 

We are coming down 5th Avenue. The barricades are up and it is the final three miles. It is close and SO FAR. I just ate an orange from someone on the street. In New York City. WHAT AM I THINKING? Which is what I then thought over and over in my head as I dry heaved in Central Park bushes just a mile later. Cool.

My sister and Matt were staked out on Mile 25 right next to the photographer. Like could touch his camera. This was the best I could muster. I felt the darkness closing in. I told Matt I was going to die. Shellie (my sister) shook a cow bell at me and Matt told me to die later. LOOK AT MY EYES. I'M DYING. Like Lance Armstrong at the end of the Tour de France on Alp d'Huez. This was ridiculous.
This was my final mile. I felt like I was alone in NYC. It was so cool to think about being escorted by the police. Check them out. FINAL MILE.
AWW YEAH. Profile Pic to beat all profile pics.

But there's another photographer and I'm 500 yards from the finish. So pumped. Imaging Jesus and all the saints welcoming me home. LOOK AT EVERYONE'S FACE! JOY! EXULTATION! 

FINISHER. I didn't die! I LOVE THIS! 

I puked behind that blue thing. And felt a whole lot better. As you can tell. 

I really do love running. LOOK AT MY FACE! I felt the embrace of so many people, Jesus and the joy of having accomplished this race. It was so incredible. 
 This was truly one of the most joyful things I've done in my life. I can't wait to do it again.
I'm trying to figure out my race schedule for the Spring, but you can be sure that I'm running more and more than ever.

It doesn't have to be running. But find your passion and let Jesus speak to you deeply through it. Let others see Him while you are loving what He made you to do it! GO. NOW! He will help you find the time, money and ability if He wants you to do it.

"There are many creative ways to cultivate interest in the Gospel by displaying Christ's love. Often the most natural expression flows from doing the things we love." --Becky Pippert (Out of the Salt Shaker and Into the World)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I'd say I'm recovering pretty well.

I've gotten the sweetest little sercies in the mail from Inheritance of Hope supporters (Mike and Ike's, fun socks, a gift certificate to get a pedicure, an hour long massage!) and then today for work, we had to go mountain biking. Tough life right? 

Our newest client has recently built an incredible mountain biking trail right outside of downtown Brevard and they are in need of a signage system to let visitors know where they are in the trail plus what they are seeing and why it is important.

Today was the day to go ride the trail and see the project first hand.

We rode/hiked the first half of the trail. It is REALLY TOUGH. Like crazy hard. Uphill. We got so excited we actually riding our bikes that we missed our main turn (this is why they need signs) and we ended up riding/hiking our bikes an additional 2 miles.

After a disastrous downhill decent that resulted in a dead-end and a long mile long hike with bikes STRAIGHT BACK UPHILL, I declared this to be the worst thing I have ever done. Which is hard to declare since I almost died of dehydyration three days ago. But it really was.
That little dip in the middle? That's where we went straight down and then STRAIGHT BACK UP. UGH. 

We finally found our way and had the most exhilarating, amazingly beautiful and thrilling bike ride I've ever had. We descended over 1000 feet in elevation in a little over 2 miles so it got rowdy with hairpin turns, switchbacks, waterfalls, riding in the middle of fallen trees and did I mention that is absolutely beautiful here in WNC?

I am SO tired. But it was SO worth it.

Love this life!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Run the Mile You're In-QUICK RACE RECAP

A few bullet point pieces of advice that I heard before the marathon:
  • Don't walk around the city too much. You'll leave your best miles while sight seeing.
  • Be careful with food and drink. It's easy to get distracted with the city lights and sights. 
  • Stick with the plan you made before the race. Don't let race day emotions get the best of you. Stick to the plan. 
  • Run the mile you are in. Don't get ahead of yourself. Don't think about the past. Just run one mile at a time. 

Well. I botched all of that. 

I didn't know it at the time. 

I thought I was being careful. But in retrospect, I walked WAY too many miles in the city. I drank hardly any water (compared to at home). On race day, I threw away my water bottle at the start. I planned to carry water with me for the first 10 miles because I didn't want to fool with the water stations. But I got jumpy and tossed it.  The last bit of advice I had to follow: run the mile you are in. Only during the last 6 miles of the race. Because I had no choice. 

When you know you hate water stations and you don't really sweat in general, it's a bad idea to throw away a water bottle. And a really bad idea to not drink anything for the first eight miles of a 26 mile race. That's what I did. I was so focused and so happy to be running, I just RAN! And didn't drink anything. 

NYPD Police Helicopter just being bad a** and doing its thing. I had to stop and take a picture. 

I saw Matt, my sister and brother and the kids at mile 8 and was thrilled. The crowds were amazing! It was incredible. I was booking and feeling good! I left them and kept trucking and took a gu. It hit my stomach like a ton of bricks. I realized then I might be a in a little bit of trouble. I started looking for water stations and for people handing out bananas. My calf started cramping a little. Not a big deal. But worrisome. 

I kept on going, started hitting the water stations and taking on gatorade. 
We went through some awesome neighborhoods in Brooklyn, then hit Queens. Went across the bridge into Manhattan which I was so looking forward to. Mile 16. It was supposed to be the highlight of the race. Literally your "fastest mile". 
I was crashing. I was looking for my crew of supporters and only saw them after I passed by. I was so sad. I saw the Inheritance of Hope cheer crew on the other side of the street and couldn't get over. 
Any juice I had in me was gone.

I took on another gu and my stomach started cramping. 
I made it two more miles to 18 and couldn't go anymore. My legs and lungs were fine. But I was bent over with back spasms. This has never happened before! 

I walked for a minute or two and then people started yelling at me. "Leslie-let's go!" "Run for HOPE Leslie!"
Yep. They got a picture of me suffering. And that guy NOT suffering. 
I picked myself up and kept going. But slowly. Everytime I came through a water station, it killed my momentum and I had to stop. Stretch out my back and take a minute. Then classic New Yorkers would start yelling at me again.  I ripped off the pace wristband I was wearing to encourage me to finish in 3:40. That was long gone.

So I got going. 
But then I hit Central Park. Mile 24. 
I really thought I couldn't go anymore. I stopped. One girl running actually hit me on the back and yelled at me "You're a charity runner?! Get going!" I mean-New Yorkers are no joke on how hard they are on you. 

Right after that, a kind man looked at me and said, "It's okay Leslie, walk up this hill. Who cares? You're going to finish." 

That's when I started running again. I ran past a women who literally was passed out on the course and I thought, "That seems like a solid option right now." Sleeping instead of running with pile of bricks in my stomach. 

I ran through the Mile 25 marker and saw my crew again and just stopped. Told them I was going to die. They told me that was ok. Then told me to go finish. One woman next to them remarked how I wasn't even sweating! This is a clue that something is very wrong with you. 

I picked it up and just ran without thinking or even looking around. I just wanted to be done. 
All of the sudden around Columbus Circle the magical signs started showing up 1/2 mile to finish, 400 yards to finish, 200 yards and everything was splayed in blue and orange and people were all running to the finish and I thought to myself, "What if this is what going to heaven is going to be like?"
Kinda awesome with the motorcycle cops behind me. 

And it hit me: 
You don't get a say in how your final days are going end. 
My friend Amy didn't get to determine her end. Neither did our friend Jay Whitaker who died last weekend. This race brought me so close to understanding that it doesn't matter what those days look like.  I was so disappointed to not end the race in triumph and joy and with ease like I had planned and hoped for. How much is that like Amy and Jay? 

As I was rounding the turn, the Rolling Stones song "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was playing. Which has been my theme for this whole race. And it has never been more true. But I got just what I needed to finish. 

With Jesus we all get to finish. We all get the medal. But we don't get to say how it goes. 
That's the race. 

Of course, when I get to heaven, I hope I don't throw up endlessly once I cross the line in a fit of dehydration. 

This was after I threw up a few times. I felt a lot better. Then I felt a lot worse. Then better after I threw up some more. Awesome. Finisher. 4:17:18. 30 minutes after I wanted. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I think I'll go for a run today

PowerBar Run from Ryan Lawrence on Vimeo.

"The marathon is a charismatic event. It has everything. It has drama. It has competition. It has camaraderie. It has heroism. Every jogger can't dream of being an Olympic champion, but he can dream of finishing a marathon." -Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon co-founder

I'll see the finish line in a few hours!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Oversleeping: Daylight Savings Time-1 DAY!!!

Tomorrow is the race!
I can't believe it. Shellie and I ran a great 5k this morning and I got to shake off some nerves while helping Shellie set a PR. We had a great time together.

Now, Matt and I are heading into the city for some pre-race time with Inheritance of Hope and then the race tomorrow. Of course, the time changes tonight and everyone I meet brings up this super famous episode and clip from Seinfeld.

I will NOT OVERSLEEP. I will be at the start on time and get this thing going.
I swear. :)

See you tomorrow. It's RACE DAY. Just a reminder, the race will be nationally televised on ESPN2. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, watch Run for Your Life on ESPN2 tonight. It's a documentary about Fred Lebow and the NYC Marathon. It is so inspirational and will make you want to run this race next year. I swear!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I'd Like to Be a Bird, But if Not-I'll Be a Runner-4 Days!

My friend Dusty sent this video to me as inspiration for the race.

And I loved it so much I had to share it on here. Just watch him climb those trees.
 And, I want a cabin in the woods like that.

He said "Just think of all those dreams lined up before a race..."


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Track Your Runner-5 Days!

The New York Road Runners have officially released the application in the iTunes and Google Play store that allows you to track runners on race day. So if you'd like to add this app to your phone, you can play along at home and watch my progress:

New York Road Runners Link

Also, here are directions if you want to watch the race live. It is going to be aired on ESPN2! Starting at 9:00am nationwide! WOOHOO!

New York Road Runners Tune In information

Also there will be a finish line camera on the New York Road Runners page that you can watch me try to finish the race. I am hoping to cross anywhere from 1:35pm to 2pm. So that is a good window of time to hang out in front of the computer if you are into that kind of thing. If you track me on the app-you will know FOR SURE when I should cross.

My bib number is 25206 and I am registered under my full name so that should make it easy to find.

(last year's commercial)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bandit Catcher-6 Days

With all the talk about race security, there has been so much advice about making sure that your race number is SEEN at all times on the course. Otherwise, you will be considered a bandit in the NYC Marathon.

Here's the deal with being a bandit. I've had friends do it. There's something fun and mostly harmless about it. The race starts, a few miles down the road you hop on the course and you get to jog for fun along with all the people that have paid, trained and planned to be there.

The biggest deal with being a bandit is you never, ever, ever should plan to cross the finish line. You just don't get to do that. It's what separates people running the race from the spectators. Which ultimately a bandit is a thief of services.

Spiritually, I think it is so interesting to think about. Jesus says he will separate the wheat from chaff and sheep from the goats. The runners from the bandits.

A New York Times article about Bandit runners said this:
"One man had a blue bib — from a completely different race. A woman ran past two catchers after showing a folded bib in her pocket, but a third catcher looked closer and found the bib was from last year’s marathon.

A boy, about 10, wanted to escort his father to the finish. But the bandit catchers did not allow it, and the boy shuffled to the side, where his father returned to get him after finishing. Another man held an infant, hoping to share the big moment. The catchers let him by.

“I wasn’t taking the baby,” Richard said.

A pair of friends had joined the race at the Queensboro Bridge. Fernando Bedoya of Bolivia and his friend, Giorgio Groppi of Italy, wanted to cross the finish line but knew it was not the right thing to do.

“They run for 26 miles,” Groppi said of the waves of runners behind them, headed to the finish. “We run for 10. We are just pretenders.”

We run to finish. Not just say we ran a few miles of the race.
6 Days Until the Marathon!

Bandit Catcher: 2011 NYC Marathon from Elbert Chu on Vimeo.