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We Did It. Team GSF SBIM 2012 Completed. $135,000 raised. Inspiration Overflowing.

November 13, 2012 by Victoria Strong
We Did It. Team GSF SBIM 2012 Completed. $135,000 raised. Inspiration Overflowing.

We Did It. Team GSF SBIM 2012 Completed. $135,000 raised. Inspiration Overflowing. And it was all AMAZING! We are a medley of emotions and go from being joyful to tearful to totally amped. One thing is certain -- we are completely blown away by the incredible support and positivity of this experience!

Every single person on Team GSF made this the positive experience that it was. And they are an amazing group of people. They all lead busy lives, many traveled long distances to participate, and all of them sacrificed time and energy to train. And they did it with enthusiasm. On Friday night at the pre-race celebration dinner, I looked out at the crowd and had a moment of being completely awe struck by the sea of people supporting us. Team GSF SBIM 2012 is seriously phenomenal. 105 runners who reached 1,000 donors and gathered 29 official sponsors. And $135,000 raised!!! Yes, ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!

Race day was a positive day for every member of Team GSF. Many ran their very first race. Many ran farther than they ever have before. Many beat their own personal best. One placed in the top 25 of the entire marathon. But what makes the team truly remarkable is that they were running for a cause greater than themselves. And everyone on the course knew it -- the NEVER GIVE UP. energy was palpable! I thought of all of them during the race and their belief in us gave me more running steam than I’ve ever had before.

Nine different SMA families joined us and all of them traveled to be there. We felt honored to meet so many of them for the first time, to meet their families and friends, to run this with them, and to know that all of this means so much more than just running. The grief surrounding an SMA diagnosis can be completely paralyzing. All of these families are working very hard to live with grief and move beyond its suffocating grasp. And that takes enormous courage. I thought of them during the run and I felt emboldened to be “in this” with brave people like them:

  • Heather Simmons (Massachusetts), mom to angel Owen Simmons, ran her first full marathon with Lauren (New York), aunt to angel Owen Shuler
  • Kate Van De Loo (New York), mom to angel Ciara, ran the half marathon with her sister-in-law Michelle
  • Melodie Langstraat (Washington), mom to Taysen, ran the full marathon with her sister-in-law Tawnee
  • Kate Mathany (Sacramento, CA), mom to Getty, ran the half marathon
  • Sarah Cook (Los Angeles, CA), mom to Lucas, ran the half marathon with her 16-year-old cousin from Florida
  • Jennifer Calafiore (Madera, CA), mom to Hayden, ran her first half marathon
  • Cherisse Lunt (Palo Alto, CA), mom to Lucy, ran the half marathon with a huge team of family and friends who came in from all over the country to run too

The race for Gwendolyn, her first half marathon, was thrilling. She was definitely very nervous in the morning; after so much build up for such a long time it is understandable. But once we started running she relaxed into it. And as we got closer to the finish line those fingers started tapping quickly and we could see she was excited and feeling so proud!

Completing the half marathon with Gwendolyn in many ways feels surreal. There were moments during this weekend that I felt Gwendolyn was invincible -- I felt free from SMA and that as a family we could do anything. What Gwendolyn just accomplished wasn’t even in the realm of possibility when she was diagnosed. And she just did it -- we did. And it leaves us elated. There are so many special moments that stand out and that I keep reliving in my mind:

  • Gwendolyn being so excited to pick up her race bib on Friday, see her name on it and have her very own number.
  • Watching Gwendolyn as we started, feeling myself get into a rhythm, watching her get into one too.
  • Gwendolyn tapping her fingers on her race bib throughout the race.
  • Seeing lots of Team GSF runners on the race course, reading their shirts, cheering each other on in camaraderie, feeling a burst of energy each time.
  • Seeing NEVER GIVE UP. signs throughout the race, seeing children (some we don’t even know) holding signs for Gwendolyn, and having our good friends make a surprise big banner for the team.
  • Hearing the announcer at the start of the half marathon announce to the thousands waiting to start about Gwendolyn running and playing one of her favorite songs ("All the Single Ladies").
  • Hearing friends and complete strangers shouting “Never give up” and “Go Gwendolyn.” We once again are reminded how lucky we are to live in a community like Santa Barbara that goes out of its way to lift our family on its shoulders.
  • Having other runners encourage us and tell us we were motivating them to dig deeper and run faster.
  • Tackling the scary big Cliff Drive hill at mile 10; buckling down, never giving up, pushing through, and running the entire thing together.
  • Holding Bill’s hand as we approached the finish. Then holding Gwendolyn’s.
  • Hearing the announcer at the finish line say, “The Strongs are in! Here comes 5-year-old Gwendolyn Strong, finishing her first half marathon!” (Yep, that is when Bill and I lost it.)
  • Meeting up with the rest of the team post race to share stories and experiences and feel part of something bigger than just our own race.
  • Gwendolyn beyond proud of her medal, holding it all day, sleeping with it at night, and still holding on to it now...

Team GSF SBIM 2012 was a complete success! There are times in life when you know an experience is changing your life. This weekend most definitely did that for Bill, Gwendolyn, and me. But it also did that for many others. And we are so grateful for all those who made this so much more than we ever imagined.

INSPIRED? SIGN UP TO BE PART OF THE 2013 TEAM.

We're extremely grateful to our local news outlets for embracing Team GSF and Gwendolyn's running story. Read the News Coverage: Santa Barbara News-Press: Special Family May Be Biggest Winner At SB Marathon and Independent: Never Give Up

Tons and tons of photos below. Click to view more race day images by Kacie Jean Photography.

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