For those of you who do not know, my little cousin, Zoe Mae, was born with a congenital heart defect. Now three, Zoe has had as many open heart surgeries as she has had birthdays. Her parents, my cousin Ed and his wife Kaleena, face this challenge with Zoe in the most admirable of ways. They have remained so very strong for Zoe, and Zoe has continued to impress all of us with her tenacity. Zoe is an adorable, energetic big sister now. To anyone who encounters her, she's a typical little girl, full of life and love.
Were it not for the excellent care of the doctors and nurses at Children's, Zoe's story may be a very different one. To give back to those who have done so much for them, Ed and Kaleena formed Team Zoe and have been participating in Al's Run/Walk for Children's Hospital since Zoe was a baby. They extend an invitation to family and friends to join them each time they walk, and this year's team was 42 people strong.
Also of note this year was the fact that my amazing cousin Jenna, who I absolutely adore, offered to help me achieve a personal goal of my own. I have wanted to participate in an official run for some time, and last year I thought that Al's Run would be a great option. Fast-forward 11 months, and life had gotten in the way of any advanced planning for the run (truth be told, I had forgotten about my desire to run it almost entirely). Then one day, while in Colorado, I saw a Facebook post from Jenna; she had just completed the Color Run....I decided I would contact her and ask her if she would run with me. She agreed, and together we ran for Zoe!
The Saturday morning of the run came early -- I was anxious and didn't sleep well, and I was up by 6am to prep for my run and get to the Summerfest grounds, where I would meet Jenna. She and I boarded our bus without any issue and soon I was on Marquette's campus, something I do only once a year when I absolutely have to (I bleed Badger red, after all).
Jenna and I were the first of our group to arrive at the meeting place, but we only waited a bit before the guest of honor arrived with her mom and baby brother. Once the rest of the gang began arriving, it was time to put on our band-aids, the ones to mend the heart on our team T-shirts, just as Children's mended Zoe's heart, and then it was time for Team pictures.
Soon, Jenna and I were lined up for our race, and as the runners began to approach the starting line, any nerves that had been with me dissipated. Unfortunately, I lost Jenna in the crowd almost immediately (next time, we'll find a way to stick together, JL). Both Jenna and I had set goals for ourselves, and I found that I was just over my typical pace after a mile; my goal, however, was still well within reach. As I moved into mile 2 and then through mile 3, I realized that my goal was easily attainable, and I thought of setting a new goal for myself. Only once did I doubt my ability to achieve that goal, and that was as I approached a hill covered in a sea of white Al's Run T-shirts. I wasn't sure if they were walkers coming down the hill or runners heading up, and at that point I didn't think I could keep up my pace if I had to go up such a large incline. Much to my pleasure, runners were routed along the street, which was flat, and not up the hill, and I felt a sense of 'go-get-it' like I haven't in a really long time. I picked up speed, began moving between runners and soon was working through the labyrinth of end-of-the-race roads; the finish line came into view, and I felt myself moving faster and faster and digging deeper and deeper. I crossed the finish line, stopped my Run Keeper, and looked down at my phone -- I had met my new goal. I was thrilled! I quickly got myself some water (I can't say I drank much of what I picked up along the route, as I'm not so talented at drinking while running, and I didn't want to slow down too much to drink or risk getting a stomach ache), picked up a cup for Jenna and headed back to the finish line to watch my cousin complete her run. She crossed the finish line looking totally composed - I don't know if the same can be said for me, but hey, there were no witnesses (at least none who know me), so I'll claim calm, cool and collected! Jenna and I gave each other a celebratory hug, and then we headed into Summerfest to meet the rest of our crew, cool off a bit and basque in our accomplishments.
It was a really great day, the weather was gorgeous, and I got to do something I have long been wanting to do. Add to that the fact that it was for a great cause and I got to do this with one of my cousins who means so very much to me, and it was pretty much the perfect way to spend my day!
|pre-race with our numbers|
|showing our Zoe love|
|we're all done|
|check out these ladies, both of whom beat their goals today|
Thank you, again, Jenna, for joining me, for encouraging me and for celebrating with me. We have so many wonderful times growing up together, and the events of this day will only add to the collection of awesome memories I have of us!