A little over a year ago, I decided to make a change in my life. I was overweight and had a lot of bad habits. I decided to make my health a priority and started exercising regularly. The habit stuck, and I had never felt better. As I was making this change in my life, a good friend of mine was busy training for the 2017 Rock n Roll Marathon. We talked a lot about her training, about her weekend runs that were getting longer and longer. I myself never did any running. The idea of it sounded terrible to me, something I would never get into or even want to. What she was doing sounded so crazy to me, but at the same time I was inspired and happy for her. I was there that morning last June, cheering her on as she and so many others crossed the finish line. I had never attended an event like this before, and I was in awe of the energy I felt there. There were so many people, so happy and filled with positivity. It was that moment when I first remember thinking "I want to do this".
Three days later, I received some sad news. My aunt Liz had passed away. She had been battling cancer for a long time, and it finally took her from us. Even though I knew it was coming, I was still in shock. I was overwhelmed. I didn't get to see her much since I moved away from home, but she has always been a great role model to me. The last time I spoke to her was on Mother's Day, and I'll always remember, despite everything she was going through, how strong and optimistic she remained. I already had planned a trip home to see her in mid June, and unfortunately that was about a week too late.
I still made that trip home to NJ to be with my mother and the rest of my family. While home, I needed an outlet to take my mind off things and to satisfy the craving for physical activity that my body had now grown used to. It was there that I went running for the first time in years, the first run on this path towards signing up for this marathon. It was barely 3 miles, and I remember gettin caught in the pouring rain. But it felt right. So I went again the next day. And the next.
Since that time, there have been several ups and downs in my life. There are many things that have happened this past year that I'm grateful for, and there have been many obstacles to overcome. And for a reason I can't quite explain, I've just kept running. It's provided stability in my life and a positive outlet on which to focus. I've run through the streets of Berlin, Prague, Virginia Beach, the Jersey Shore, and all over San Diego. And all this time, I can feel the spirit of my aunt Liz there with me - this feeling of peace, of moving forward, of achieving something that seemed crazy a short time ago.
So this is why I run, and this is why I am training for my first marathon. I think Liz would fully embrace the positive energy that struck me last year at this race. And my aunt is with me, reminding me that life is short and to take on new challenges that I never before thought I would do. She is also there reminding me to use this moment to do some good for other people. Cancer has affected people close to me, and I want to do what I can to help save those going through it now and in the future. I am using this opportunity to fundraise for St. Jude Children's Hospital in hopes that the money I raise helps find a cure for childhood cancer, and I am very grateful to everyone who is eager to help me reach that goal.