I’m Running the Santa Barbara Marathon

May 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 Gwendolyn.

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 The more the merrier and I'd love the company smile Let's go kick some SMA ass together!

Talk About It

LALALALA LOOOOOOOVE!!!! CONGRATULATIONS Bill!! So here for you!! Every step of the way!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Magda on 2011-05-17 09:33:56
[...] I decided to train for the Santa Barbara International Marathon back in late 2010, I hadn’t run or exercised in years. And I’d never done any organized or long-distance [...]
Posted by Team GSF SB Marathon: Hills, interval training, and the Montecito Half Marathon | Gwendolyn Strong on 2011-07-12 09:48:53
Once again you continue to amaze and inspire!! Congrats on realizing your goal and taking the steps to achieve it-already so proud of all you do!
Posted by Emma on 2011-05-17 09:44:32
[...] originally hoped to run the marathon with Gwendolyn Strong�s team in Santa Barbara on Nov. 12, but California is a long way, and so is a full [...]
Posted by We are running! | Callie Golden on 2011-07-29 16:19:03
YAY!!! I have been waiting for this announcement smile Can't wait to run along side you!! Gwendolyn really does have a super hero Dad! xo
Posted by Lauren on 2011-05-17 09:48:58
[...] Marathon while on a trip with Victoria and Gwendolyn to Monterey, California. And it’s been�five months since I decided to go for it and we officially launched our Team GSF SB Marathon challenge. Looking back, it has all been [...]
Posted by Team GSF SB Marathon: My X-Factor and the Final Stretch. | Gwendolyn Strong on 2011-10-21 09:58:34
Such beautiful writings from the two of you. I am too much of a wimp to run a marathon, but I would be happy to support you in any other way possible. Let us FB friends know if you are fund raising, need water ladies or anything else! You will do great, you are inspired from where it counts....and will be an inspiration to others. xo Barbra
Posted by Barbra Mousouris on 2011-05-17 09:53:31
Reading this made me truly are an amazing Dad! Good luck with your training and thank you for sharing!
Posted by Stephanie Humes on 2011-05-17 09:59:56
Yea!!! I am so glad you have announced this. I wish that I could say that I would be running beside you but I'll probably be several miles behind:) Can't wait to see you guys next month! I love your writing, it is touching and honest.
Posted by Cherisse on 2011-05-17 10:05:22
BIll, I want you to know how much I wish I could run it with you, and how thankful I am that you are running for Gwendolyn & me and everyone else who can't. Kick it's ass mate, kick it's ass!!!!!
Posted by Laurie on 2011-05-17 10:11:35
Run has fastas you can and your family will be in my heart every step of the way . I'm here in New Bedford Ma but I'll be there for you what ever you and your family need just say the word.
Posted by claudia sampson on 2011-05-17 10:23:58
Run Bill Run!!! So amazing!! Thank you for all that you and Victoria do to stop SMA!! Can't wait to hear about your training and what better inspiration than your beautiful little Princess Gwendolyn!!
Posted by Tammy Duke on 2011-05-17 10:45:58
Go, Bill, go!!!! While I know that your love for your daughter will continue to inspire and fuel you through your training and the marathon itself, I also know that a host of angels will be there by your side the whole way. And, I hope my son, who was taken far too soon by this cruel disease, will be leading the pack.
Posted by Audra on 2011-05-17 11:23:57
We love you Bill and you beautiful,precious little family and we are so proud of you and continue to be inspired by you ... I will be emailing you in a minute.We have 3 that would be honored to join your team.
Posted by Zoey's mom on 2011-05-17 11:33:38
Bill!!!!!! I am so excited for you!! I know how therapeutic running is but have yet to build up the strength, desire and COURAGE to commit to a marathon! Congratulations in advance! I know that inspiration from Gwendolyn and all of those little angels on your shoulder will see you through! : )
Posted by Kristen on 2011-05-17 11:43:48
Way to go Bill, you are going to kick butt and take names! I cannot wait to see pictures.
Posted by Elizabeth on 2011-05-17 18:13:53
That is wonderful news Bill! You will do amazing I'm sure of it. We will be cheering you on from a far grin
Posted by Jaime Gooden on 2011-05-18 08:35:15
You go Bill! I will be rooting you on all the way. This coming from the girl who can't even make it around the block. You may inspire me to give it another go.
Posted by Holly on 2011-05-18 09:45:05
smile This was so beautifully said. I wish you the best.
Posted by jillian on 2011-05-20 08:23:55
Great Bill!! What an inspiration!
Posted by Marcela on 2011-05-25 11:50:01
[...] is �seriously considering� joining the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation team for the Santa Barbara Marathon in November to raise money for SMA research. When he�s officially committed to running we�ll be [...]
Posted by A little on edge | Callie Golden on 2011-05-27 19:03:55
[...] and willingness by so many to jump on board Team GSF and run with me in the Santa Barbara Marathon since announcing my training a few weeks ago. I’m proud and excited that OVER 20 people — 20 incredible people! — from [...]
Posted by Team GSF SB Marathon: 20 Plus Runners and a Few Things I've Learned | Gwendolyn Strong on 2011-06-05 11:21:41

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