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2013 SBIM Team GSF Truly Created CHANGE

November 13, 2013 by Victoria Strong

80 inspiring runners + 25 generous sponsors = $90,000 raised! Which allows us to fund more RESEARCH, grant more IPADS, create more unique AWARENESS, and more effectively ADVOCATE.

To say this weekend was a success is an understatement. From the Pre-Race Celebration Dinner at the Canary Hotel to the Post-Race Pizza Party, the positivity surrounding Team GSF was overflowing and palpable. Every single person on Team GSF made this the inspiring experience that it was. And they are an absolutely incredible group of people. We are continually left speechless by the willingness to push oneself, step outside of ones comfort zone, make sacrifices and go out of your way -- ALL to support the work we do with theGSF. We are completely humbled and are so grateful.

In the midst of their own busy lives, each runner took on the challenge to not only train -- many running farther than they ever had before -- but also added fundraising and outreach. We absolutely loved all the creativity that went into fundraising this year: from backyard movie nights and parties to kid’s art shows and raffles. Even before race day, these runners created such positivity in their involvement with the SMA cause. We are always blown away by how many selfless people, who have no connection to this brutal disease, are willing to lace up, fundraise, and educate others simply because they can. Many face their own obstacles, many already juggle very full plates, and yet they choose to take on the SMA cause -- and they do so with gumption. And their support continues to help us focus on the good in the world and the power each of us has to make a difference!

This year about half of the team travelled to be part of the weekend. From New York, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and all over California. There were nine SMA families who ran: Team Getty (Sacramento, CA), Team Blakely (Utah), Team Nora (Tennessee), Team Lucy (came in from all over the country), Team Gwendolyn, Team Samantha (came in from all over the country), Team Rylie (Bakersfield, CA), and not pictured Team Izzy (San Diego, CA). (Just mommies pictured here but daddies ran and were part of the weekend too.) These families know firsthand the heartbreak of this disease and emotionally used their own bodies as a way to honor their child, a catalyst in the midst of their grief, and we think it takes enormous determination and a beautiful courage to do what they just did.

This year marked Gwendolyn's second Half Marathon -- just to say that is something that stops us in our tracks. She was relaxed, excited, she beamed, and was clearly so proud to be a runner.

From Bill:

"Gwendolyn and I simply had an incredible half marathon on Saturday. It was perfect. She was so excited to run this race and I think having run the half marathon together in 2012 (with Victoria) she had a sense of calm about what to expect.

Running together has been an incredible bonding experience for us. When we're out there training there's nothing else in the world that matters. Gwendolyn is running -- something that she absolutely loves to do. And I'm helping her do that. It's just me and her. My feet and her chair. Our struggles and our accomplishments. When we run she faces me in her chair (looking back) so I can monitor her. And there are times when I'm struggling physically late in runs or on hills. There's nothing more powerful and motivating than pulling strength from Gwendolyn's eyes during those times and pushing through the pain to press on. She's an incredible little girl with miraculous stamina and perseverance. And there's no doubt that I've needed to pull from her strength and determination during these half marathons.

Saturday was just perfect. A beautiful Santa Barbara fall morning. We got to the starting line and Gwendolyn was so excited. We took some pictures together and the marathon announcer announced to the crowd of 3,000 half marathon runners that Gwendolyn was there. The crowd cheered and her face absolutely lit up! And then they played her favorite song, "Roar" by Katy Perry. She was ready to run! We found a spot as far forward as we could in the first wave. All of the runners around Gwendolyn were so supportive and I know that means the world to her. We gave Victoria a kiss and a hug and made one last check to make sure Gwendolyn was comfortable and everything was all set. And off we went with the sea of runners...

The first 5 miles went extremely smoothly and we were moving at a really good pace. We hit the first set of rolling hills around mile 6 and that 2 mile section (miles 6-8) definitely took a lot out of us -- but we powered through them without walking. There is a downhill section from about mile 8-10 and that was a nice reprieve for us. We got to the infamous mile long hill at mile 10 and my legs were starting to feel a bit crampy. We tried our best to run that hill but it just wasn't in the cards this year. We got to the top of the hill and cruised the last, beautiful 2 miles to the finish line with my good friend Mike Paskin. Gwendolyn was so excited and was so proud of herself. I could see it in her eyes and tap, tap, tapping fingers. There were so many people cheering for Gwendolyn on that last 1/2 mile and as we entered the stadium and it was all pretty overwhelming for me. It hit me. We did it! We ran our second half marathon together and she did awesome. We crossed the finish line and I just wanted to give her a hug. Tell her how proud I was. She got her medal, which she always loves, and was so proud of herself. Her second half marathon >> 13.1 miles in 2:08. Not bad with four stops to suction and reposition along the way. Next year she told me she wants to come in under 2:00. smile

Throughout the whole race we saw many supportive friends, fellow runners, and people we didn't even know lining the streets, signs in hand, and screaming "Go Gwendolyn! NEVER GIVE UP." It's really incredibly touching and it means the world to Gwendolyn. She loves to run and she loves to compete in events. But I think the wonderful support we get from our friends, from the marathon organizers, and this incredible community who embrace Gwendolyn and her running makes this all extra special for her. This is her race. And having so many people out there cheering her on means the world to us and I know it means the world to Gwendolyn."

What's in a run? For every person, running a race is a personal achievement of which to be proud. But for Team GSF-- it is so, so much more. Running is powerful. Running is creating CHANGE. This year 80 awesome people pushed themselves, sweat it out, literally went the extra mile for a cause greater than themselves. They truly made a difference. And we think they are AMAZING!

SIGN UP to be part of Team GSF 2014 SBIM. Be part of the CHANGE >> TeamGSFsbim.com

A big THANK YOU to the organizers of the Santa Barbara International Veterans Marathon. They have been so supportive of Gwendolyn, of our family, of Team GSF and continually go above and beyond for us. 

An enormous THANK YOU to our incredible sponsors who helped make this year such a success:

Tons and tons of photos below. A huge thank you to Kacie Jean Photography for capturing the positive energy of the race and the exhilaration of having a real impact on a cause greater than oneself.

 

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