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Lupus Walk
Linda Crosses the finish line

She Entered!
She Ran!!
She WON!!!
Ooops! I meant "Whined"

And you can stop whining too now that Linda has provided her webmaster with the text for this story!

I have always been drawn to movies that tell heroic stories of challenges that were met with conviction and courage. We often dream of doing something "brave", but often times are met with fear. These types of stories have always been inspiring to me.

Since I was a little girl, I have wanted to do something special for my sister, Mary Lou, who had died of Leukemia at the age of 6. That sort of trauma leaves its mark. This time, when I received info in the mail for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I decided to act.

As I sat there at the 1st meeting I went to, I was moved by the stories, enthusiasm, and commitment of everyone. When I made that decision to run a Marathon, I had only one thought, and that was to do this for Mary Lou. If I had been in my right-mind, I might have reconsidered, since I have never been a runner, and I had some physiological challenges to consider. But, no not me, I came from a passion to remember. So this is my story. I hope that it may inspire, motivate and draw out your own courage.

New Jersey Shore Leukemia and Lymphoma Marathon- 2004

Did she talk the entire 26 Miles?Through all the challenges during the training period, including the bittersweet winter, I managed to complete the Marathon in 5 hours, 57 minutes, and 34 seconds. The Marathon was a life altering experience and one I will always remember. It has given me a greater appreciation for the many individuals who commit to organizing fundraisers, and the many volunteers who serve the cause and who support the participants in many ways.

Having never been a runner and having no perception of distance I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I certainly have a much greater appreciation to anyone participating in any of the events from runners to walkers, triathlon to the 5/10K, and especially the 26.2-mile marathon.

In my favor, the New Jersey Marathon was primarily flat (NO HILLS). The morning of the marathon was a little chilly, but once the race was "ON" everyone started removing layers of clothing. As the day progressed, the sun was vibrant and left its afterglow. By late morning I could feel the breeze from the ocean, and although it felt initially good within a short time the chill was a little overbearing, and I wished I had hung onto my windbreaker instead of giving it to one of the volunteers!!

The greatest challenge was between the 9th and 10th mile where I hit my wall (a term marathoners, I learned, use when they don't think they can go on) I've been told that they usually hit that around the 20th mile. (Not that I realized, at the time, that was what I was experiencing... The Wall) I understand now why I hit mine early due to the fact the furthest I had run during my training was 10 miles.

At this point my hips started crying, and the pain was almost unbearable, and I thought to myself that I would surely end up crippled, if I continued. It was at this point where all my doubt and fear of failing challenged me. I will never forget the words that haunted my mind, "What in the World were you thinking girl", "What made you think that you could do this" and the best was "If you quit you will always fail at following through". Of course, that was when the greatest pain hit me, the thought of failing. What got me through this challenge was all those who where part of my TEAM, whether through Sponsorship, or those who kept me in their thoughts and prayers. The energy I felt from their love and encouragement got me through the next 6 miles.

In order to stay in the race I needed to get to the 16th mile marker within 4 hours. I had started out good with my goal being 5 miles every hour, but by the 10th mile and 2 hours later I was losing ground. (Up until the 10th mile I was able to continue running, but as the pain intensified each step became more difficult and I shifted to walk/run).

Within the next 2 miles the pain in my hips shifted to both legs causing me to forget the pain that moments before had challenged me. I kept a watchful eye on my time, as keeping a steady pace would be crucial in making my mark to the 16th mile. As I entered the 14th mile, the pain shifted to my right knee and ankle, and with each step the pain grew. Changing from walking to running created a jabbing sensation that sent electrical impulses through me.

By this point, I was getting to know some of the other runners, and ended up hooking up with a runner who was feeling the challenge. It helped me to support him on keeping his focus and pace and keeping my mind off my own pain.

My niece, Heather, was planning to come down to cheer me on, and I prayed that if she came she would meet me somewhere between the 17th and 18th mile marker. (Little did I know, she was also saying a prayer) As I breathed a sigh of relief, when I saw the 16th mile mark, (3 1/2 hours) I knew I could not be pulled out of the race, and my commitment grew stronger than ever.
Heather knew the vicinity the marathon would be, but had not gone on line to check out the route. As she got closer to the area, she realized she could be riding around for awhile. Having no idea where she needed to be, she pulled over on the side of the road and began to pray for her Angels to show her the way. She turned down the next road and was greeted by runners and St. Michael's Church at the 18th mile mark. I can't even begin to tell you how much it meant to see her smiley face and hear her voice yelling "Aunt Linda". Not only did she show up where I had hoped, but also being a Physical Therapist she came prepared with Advil (a huge bottle), strawberries, bananas, and lemon water. Talk about guidance, love and support!! She then joined me in the next 4 miles encouraging me and helping me keep my pace and focus.

My son, George, had seen me off at the starting point and was waiting for me at the finish. My niece had her cell phone with her and kept him posted as to how I was holding up and expected time of arrival. By the time I took my 6th Advil (or was it my 8th), Heather asked if I wanted her to massage the area (at this point I had hoped it might help). My niece, is really cute, as she was working on my knee she informed me that she didn't think it was muscular, but cartilage and I would be able to finish the race, but would probable need surgery at some point. So with that to look forward to, I decided that I could worry about that latter, and needed to get back to my goal and that was to finish.

As I continued to hobble between running and walking, Heather continued to encourage me and helped me to keep a good pace before leaving me to continue my journey to the finish. She reminded me to call upon my sister, Mary Lou, who was one of the honorees' I was running for. I can't say that I could feel her presence, but I know she was with me, along with my father (Dayton DePue), and my father-in-law (Malcolm Mitchell) who passed away 2 weeks prior to the marathon of liver cancer. (I knew they were waiting for me at the finish, and I also knew that I was not alone)

By this point, I had no idea how much further I had, maybe 5 or 6 miles, maybe less. The only thing I knew I needed to do was to finish within 6 1/2 hours and I had 1 1/2 hours left. With the pressure still remaining, I noticed the woman behind me holding the 6 hour flag (there were several flag holders throughout the marathon holding flags that indicated the time you would finish at, if you kept the flag holders pace).

Trying to keep my pace ahead of her, I began feeling like the Grim Reaper was following me. As I reached the 25mile marker, the woman with the 6-hour flag started to get ahead of me. I knew she was a few minutes ahead of herself, but time was narrowing with a 1/2 hour remaining and as I was into the 25th mile it dawned on me that I might still have another mile to go once I hit the 26th mile marker.

As I continued to keep my focus and pace, a woman from the (TNT) Team In Training (she was one of the mentor/coaches from the Leukemia Lymphoma Society) was walking the opposite way. When she saw me she turned around to join me and said "I'll walk with you to the finish". Being fearful to ask the question of how much farther, I found the strength to ask anyway. When she turned to me and said, "Honey you've only got 2 blocks left", I wanted to cry, because I knew in that moment I was going to make it, and had accomplished something that would transform my life forever. In my breath, I said "Thank you God" and as I rounded the last corner responded with "I'm running the rest of the way in".

With each step was another "ouch", and the woman from TNT turned to me and said, "You don't have to run. You can walk and you'll still get to the finish in plenty of time". But I knew I needed to run, and nothing could stop me and she began to run with me. With each step, the pain lessened and I felt like I was running on air. As I caught eye contact with my son, whom by this time was jumping up and down yelling "Oh my God mom you did it". The expression on his face was priceless, for in that moment I could feel his enthusiasm and see how proud he was of his mom.

Allah Akbar!As we did the "High Five", I continued to run like the wind, and George started to run to try to get ahead of me to take pictures. (It was kind of comical to watch him, because he was having a hard time keeping up with me). By this time, I was so on; the adrenaline rush was exhilarating. I am sure my Honorees were with me during those last 2 blocks as they carried me over the "Finish Line". The sense of achievement was incredible, and I will carry not only this moment, but the whole journey it took to get there.