I had actually been struggling with something inspiring or at least interesting to talk about this week.
Then last night on my way home from work, in a driving rain, I stopped off at the Starbucks at the halfway point. I usually do anyways, but the rain gave me a good excuse.
While there, I ran into one of my teammates from my Wilco TNT Team who works there as a Barista. Valerie is one of the “Java Joggers,” which is a team within a team, I guess you would say — 5 women — 3 of them being Starbucks employees. They will no doubt all be featured here at some point — but this is all about Valerie this week.
I had not seen Val lately because she’s been having IT band issues and has been in physical therapy, and hence, not able to run recently.
Only runners who have been injured know how lonely it can feel on a Saturday morning, when your friends go off to run and you’re stuck at home, nursing an injury. It kind of sucks.
What’s actually worse, is when you try and suck it up, put your game face on and decide to venture out to help the runners with water stops or whatever else is needed—be a ‘team’ player.
So, you stand there at the starting line and watch them all run off — and you’re left standing there — usually, the other folks see you as a good target for holding their jackets, hats, keys etc. You feel very sad as you see them jog away while you’re stuck there — wait there for 90 mins with your friends keys, hats, jackets etc., and you start to stew — you quickly transition from being ‘blue’ to being irritated as hell — so when they come back in, all happy about their great run and they’re laughing and whooping it up, barely acknowledging any sensitivity towards you and your plight, you feel like taking their keys and whipping them at their head.
Hey I’m just keeping it real.
Anyways, even though I didn’t see her whip any keys in anyone’s direction, I’m sure Val had to feel some of those emotions when her little Java Jogger friends came back to their house all happy, giggling, cackling and giddy from running a great 10 miler.
Val’s a spunky chick who kind of tells you exactly how she feels, so I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall back at the Java House when that was all going down, well come to think of it then I’d hear what they’re all saying about me- scrap that!
I still remember the day I recruited Va l — it was after the I Run For The Party half marathon last fall. Java Joggers Jillian and Amanda both trained for that race and kicked ass — completing their very first ‘half.’ I was helping out at the Team In Training tent at the finish line, and right there on the spot, Val signed up to run Country Music for Team In Training- I was really excited because I love recruiting people to the cause, and I don’t even think I knew yet that I’d be coaching Val’s Team. But I was thrilled anyways.
Fast forward to late November, 2011 — our very first TEAM WILCO Group Training Session (GTS), for Country Music - my first run as coach – I was as nervous as they were-maybe more so.
We were to jog a whopping 3 miles from Granny White Park. I am not sure if Val ever ran before- but she blew out of the chute with a very steady and determined pace — I jogged up next to her, as I really wanted to try and connect with this Team, so I tried to make some silly small talk with Val — she shot me the look that all guys know — that look — the one that is good advice to just stop talking and go away — so I did — I ran up ahead to some of the other runners, but I decided to come back and give Val another try — I got the look again, not only from Val, but Jillian also signaled to me to leave her be – Jillian is sort of the mother hen of the Java Joggers -- so I decided to cut my losses.
But Miss Valerie finished the 3 miles and she was visibly excited and in a great mood afterwards — and she was only quiet out there because it was unknown territory, and she conquered it. I was sold immediately.
I quickly became a fan of Valerie and her steady determination and stick-to-it attitude, even her somewhat headstrong personality — I like bickering anyways so while we certainly had our days – Val became one of my favorite people, and slowly she got hooked on running — to the point where she started giving me advice. She likes to give advice anyways. There was a run not too long ago, where I was sick, and should have showed a good example to my Team, and not run — but having a head like a rock, I ran. And this time it was Valerie running next to me — lecturing me — for a solid 8-miles. But it was fine – she already had my respect.
However, in the very beginning Val told me she’d probably not stick with this whole thing. But you know what — on that one I knew better — certain kinds of people gravitate to the TNT culture — running, community spirit, curing cancer, making the world a better place- I just had a feeling she would get sucked in because of who she is — and she did.
But the running- every week I watched this girl get stronger… and stronger… and stronger. It was obvious—she loved it-she was in!
The day Val did 10 miles for the first time ever-I saw ‘that’ look in her eyes. She was hooked for sure, but she was also an athlete now — the look of determination became one of accomplishment and confidence — plus she was a great fundraiser and fired up about raising money. She was running but also curing cancer — what’s not to love about doing that!
A few weeks ago Val was jogging along and I could see she was hurting — her knee hurt — I was so sad for her — I just hoped it wasn’t severe — I had to stop training 2 years ago and have knee surgery — it sucks to pull out of training for a race when you’re just a few weeks away — I prayed that would not be the case for her — so when Val texted me from the doc to say it was her IT band and not her knee, I was really happy — she was probably wondering what the hell I was so pleased about — but we had about 6 weeks to the race — I knew we’d be ok.
Well just as I knew she would – Valerie worked really hard in physical therapy and she’s coming back this week to run — maybe not the 12 miles everyone else will do, but I bet she does 8 maybe 10…hopefully pain free. I won’t be running beside her trying to chat it up this time. I’ve tried to learn all of my runners’ individual personalities along this road….and the girl needs her space.
There’s no way that she’s not completing this race on April 28th. And I can’t wait to see her cross that finish line and complete this awesome journey.
Like all great journeys, the road to a half marathon has some bumps — But you handle them — and put one foot in front of the other — we have to — because we run for those who can’t.
So my journey this year will lead to the NY Marathon—and a $100,000 goal to help cure cancer.
Will you help….give what you can and click that link — I really appreciate anything you can give — I really do!
Happy Easter everyone!