Disclaimer: I received the opportunity to run the New York City marathon as a fundraiser for Team in Training as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews.
As part of my quest to become an Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star Finisher, I received my fourth star in New York City earlier this month. With no chance of entering using a qualifying time, my options were to try the ballot (lottery) or to enter via the charity route. My son and I were not chosen for the lottery this year, so when the opportunity to run for a charity arose, I grabbed it in a New York Minute! Charity fundraising is not new to me and in fact, I’ve been at it since high school. Specific to the World Marathon Majors, this was my third time running for charity, having run the 2015 Chicago Marathon and the 2019 London Marathon for charity organizations.
From the moment I signed on with Team in Training, I felt like I was part of a family. It all started with a team phone call where we would meet the coaches and some of our fellow Team in Training members. We learned about the organization’s mission as well as some facts about the amazing work they have done raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). We also shared stories of why running for Team in Training was important to us. Each of us either knew someone or was personally affected by blood cancer.
Team in Training was started in 1988 by a man who wanted to honor his daughter, a leukemia survivor. He assembled a team for the New York City Marathon, and together they raised over $300,000.00. Just over 30 years later, Team in Training has raised more than $1.5 billion for LLS, helping fund research and support families affected by blood cancers including leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma.
Besides of course the opportunity to raise funds for a great cause, the opportunity to run with a team was of utmost importance to me. The camaraderie, and especially the accountability, were just what I needed to keep me motivated throughout the process. As many of you know, I am historically not good at training for races, but with the threat of not one, but FIVE bridges (read: mountains) to cross, I needed to be more disciplined and actually train for this race.
One of the many things that kept me motivated was the texts I would receive from Jaimie, the Team in Training Campaign Manager. She would check in to see how I was doing, congratulate me on my fundraising progress, and offer tips to help me meet my goals. She was especially helpful when, less than 24 hours before the race, I decided to change my transportation to the race start. Jaimie went out of her way to make sure I was all set for race morning.
Another huge motivator was the TCS New York City Marathon Team In Training 2019 Facebook Group. There, team members would ask questions, seek advice, and together ride the emotional rollercoaster of training for a big race. We shared fundraising tips, supported each others’ fundraising efforts, and lifted each other up along the way.
Through Team in Training we had access to SixCycle, a training platform where athletes and coaches communicate and work together to achieve set goals. Setup was easy and I was able to sync it with my Strava account, so my training runs automatically populated my training calendar. At the initial setup I imported my goals for the race, and then a training program was set for me to follow. Due to work, travel and other pre-scheduled races over the course of the summer I wasn’t able to follow the plan exactly, but I did the best I could and especially in the final weeks before the race, I kept on track to help prepare me for New York. Within the SixCycle platform we could communicate with our coach, Jeff, as well as with other members of the team. We received motivational support and were able to ask questions and get advice along the way.
The day before the marathon I attended the Team in Training luncheon. Held at the beautiful Guastavino’s venue, a New York City designated interior landmark, team members and their supporters were treated to a fabulous lunch and one of the most exciting ‘pep rallies’ I have ever attended. We heard moving stories from families affected by blood cancers, and uplifting accounts of how instrumental LLS was in their own personal experiences. We learned that as a team we had raised over $1.2 million as of race weekend, though as of today that number is approaching $1.4 million.
Race morning I walked the block or two to the hotel where our team bus would pick us up for the early morning ride to Staten Island. Coffee, water, and breakfast foods were available to team participants. I met up with Sandy, a fellow team member whom I met at the luncheon the day before. It would be his first marathon and we had a blast getting to know each other on our way to Runners’ Village. It was nice to have someone to talk with to help settle those early race morning nerves.
Once at Runners’ Village, I grabbed a coffee and the obligatory Dunkin’ Donuts beanie and found a place to settle for the three hour wait before my start. There I met fellow BibRave Pro Danielle, who was in the same corral and wave as I was. We chatted and got to know each other a bit and eventually walked to the start line together. Since I was planning to do a run/walk interval, we ran together for maybe the first half mile or so and then parted ways. I caught up with her again at about Mile 2, but wouldn’t see her after that.
Throughout the race I saw so many fellow Team in Training members. It was fun to shout, “Go Team!” and give so many people a pat on the back and give and receive words of encouragement along the way. Coach Jeff jumped on the course with me just before Mile 14 and again at Mile 22. He would run with me for a block or two, check in to make sure I was doing okay, and offer words of encouragement just when I needed them most. His final tips just before I entered Central Park really motivated me and helped me finish my 12th marathon in my third fastest time, 10 minutes faster than flat Chicago just three weeks earlier.
Running the New York City Marathon as part of Team in Training was an amazing experience, and I would definitely do it again. The support and encouragement throughout the process was second to none, and access to a training plan and an awesome coach made the entire experience well-worth it.
Have you ever run a race as a charity fundraiser? Did you achieve your fundraising goals? Who out there has run for Team in Training?
So far on my 2020 Race Calendar:
March 1, 2020: Tokyo Marathon