I’m Running the Santa Barbara MarathonMay 17, 2011 by Bill Strong
I've always wanted to run a marathon -- it's one of those goals I planned to "one day" check off my list. But, to be honest, the last time I ran in any way was home from my office the day Gwendolyn was diagnosed with SMA. That was over three years ago. She was just six-months-old.
I was at work. My cell phone rang. It was Victoria. All she said was -- "Come home." She didnt need to say anything else. We had been waiting for the results of Gwendolyn's spinal muscular atrophy blood test for two weeks. We'd been waiting to learn if Gwendolyn's condition was terminal. I knew immediately when I picked up the phone and I went completely numb. The world instantly felt tiny and the walls in my head closed in. The sounds around me muted. I vividly remember shutting my laptop, shoving it in my shoulder bag, getting up from my desk, and leaving without saying a word. Then I ran. It was about a mile and I literally ran as fast as I could. Frantically. I was so disoriented that I took a route that I would never normally take and I have never taken since. It was like an out of body experience and my mind was on auto-pilot. I just needed to get to Victoria and Gwendolyn. We needed to be together. As a family.
That day was a little over three years ago. I think its safe to say weve come a long way since then. No doubt, Gwendolyn has been through and fought through more than any child should have to bare. Victoria has been through a lot. Our family and friends have been through a lot. And Ive been through a lot. An SMA diagnosis is crushing. It has touched every aspect of our life and SMA doesnt sleep. The progressive nature of the disease has since stolen my precious daughters ability to move, to speak, to swallow, to cough, to breathe unassisted, and now to even smile. But Gwendolyn has shown me that while SMA has taken many physical things from her, while shes with us, it will never get its hands on the things that truly define her: her incredible mind, her love for family and friends, her will to fight, her desire for adventure, her infectious zest for life, and her beautiful spirit.
Which brings me to the Santa Barbara International Marathon. Ive never been a long-distance runner. Heck, Ive never actually done any organized long-distance running. But conquering a marathon has always been something that I knew Id do in my life. Over the last few years since my run home from the office on that March day in 2008, uber inspiring friends like Mike Paskin, Lauren OConnor, Stephen Taylor, Magda Cardosa, David Price, Dorothy Shuler and Maureen Gill, Heather Simmons and many other Team GSF runners have pulled inspiration from Gwendolyn and the thousands fighting SMA to push their bodies to the limit. They've pushed SMA research forward in the process and their actions have literally inspired hundreds of people to run alongside them to help fight this cruel disease. Gwendolyn has inspired them just as she inspires me every single day. And then it hit me -- I can continue to make excuses about why training for a marathon is not convenient now or why I cant or why I shouldnt. Or I can make it happen. Today.
I officially started training with this maniac,Mike Claytor, owner ofSB Training last December anddid my first run in Monterey, California on a trip up to Stanford for one of Gwendolyn's checkups. Mike is an incredible motivator and has been a perfect fit for me -- he's developed a great program and Ive been doing workouts twice weekly and runs three days per week. It feels really good. Therapeutic actually. And I feel healthy again. Energized. It hasnt been easy, there have already been some physical bumps in the road (there will be more), and I have a long way to go. But Im going to run the Santa Barbara International Marathon in November 2011. No doubt about that.All 26.2 miles of it.
For those fighting SMA every second of every day.
For those lost much too soon to this brutal disease.
And for me.
Gwendolyn will be part of my training (more on that later) and most of my inspiration. In her short life, shes never run or walked or crawled. She never will. But she loves to go fast. She loves adventure. And she loves challenges and pushing herself to the limit. Three years ago I ran frantically home to embrace my wife and daughter after that crushing SMA diagnosis. This time Ill be running to help end this brutal disease. One foot in front of the other. One stride at a time. All 26.2 miles. To help END SMA.
Let the pain game begin!"Team GSF" has already started forming around the Santa Barbara International Marathon. If you are interested in joining us in running the marathon -- or half marathon -- in November 2011, please email me at bill@GwendolynStrongFoundation.org. The more the merrier and I'd love the company Let's go kick some SMA ass together!