Tag Archives: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Houston Half-Marathon Finish #6 With a Heavy Heart

What happened to the top of this downtown Houston building?

My heart is very heavy today, and it has nothing to do with yesterday’s Aramco Half Marathon, which I finished in the second-slowest time of my six total mostly due to the first five miles that felt like we were running in a sauna.

Remember all that nerve-wracking pre-race weather watching, which included a warning from race officials that if there was lightning the event could be delayed or even, perish the thought!, cancelled? I awoke yesterday to dry conditions outside. Normally, that would be good, except this is Houston, home of horrible humidity any time of the year.

That meant that the Chevron Houston Marathon and my race, the 13.1-miler, would at the very least be run in the muggiest of conditions: Temperatures in the 60s (nice for spectators, not for runners) with the threat of rain. It finally, blissfully, started to pour after about an hour. That helped to keep us cool, but most of us were already cooked from the earlier steam bath.

Fortunately, the rain didn’t keep the spectators away. Houstonians love to support the runners! They hold up great signs (“Worst Parade Ever” was my favorite this year), make a lot of noise and even sing (loved the triple Elvis impersonators!), and encourage us to keep on going. The event showcases everything that’s right about Houston, which really boasts some of the nicest people in the entire world.

This year’s Aramco Half Marathon finishers’ medal

And, as always, the best feeling in the running world? Crossing the finish line and receiving a great-looking finishers’ medal.

Still, as I was slogging away and trying to keep from falling on the uneven city streets, I couldn’t help but think about the two high school kids I was running for as I raised funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I’ve written about Stephanie, my younger son’s classmate, before.

Tanner plays percussion in our high school’s marching band.

But now I carried in my mind during the race a new young warrior whose battle is just beginning. Tanner, the high school freshman son of my good friend and masseuse Tina, was diagnosed with large B cell lymphoma today. Tina had told me last week that he had cancer and that they were waiting to find out what kind. Tanner and my #2 son played recreational basketball together years ago, so we know this fine young man. I feel terrible that cancer is hitting my friends’ children.

Along the half-marathon race route, Houston’s Christian radio station had two prayer stations. As I jogged past, I thought about Stephanie and Tanner and prayed that they will be healed (Stephanie is in remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma). Maybe some day both of them will run and raise money for a cause that’s near and dear to their hearts, too.

I hope you’ll keep both of these brave kids in your thoughts.

Weather Watcher

The unanswered question: When will it rain on Sunday?

Just about everyone who is participating in, volunteering at, or organizing Sunday’s Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Half Marathon has had one website on the equivalent of internet speed dial (e.g., bookmarked) for the last month: AccuWeather.com.

Like everyone else, I’ve been monitoring AccuWeather’s Houston forecast almost daily in hopes of figuring out what to expect on race day when I hope to finish my sixth Aramco Half Marathon. It’s one thing to control your training (which for me was pretty good long runs and too-few short, daily miles). But you just can’t do anything about the weather except hope it won’t be too hot, too cold, or too wet. I’ve run through a couple frigid Houston Marathons (one was 27 degrees!), and I’ve finished several 26.2-milers and half-marathons that were a bit steamy. All of them were pretty tough.

My favorite running temp is around 50 degrees . . . for the entire time I’m out pounding the pavement. Which usually is impossible, because I’m a turtle, not a hare. As you can see from the above graphic, Sunday looks like a wonderful day for spectators, as long as the rain holds off. It’ll probably be too warm for runners, especially for us slow-bos in the half-marathon. Not that that matters. What’s important is crossing the finish line and hanging a medal around your neck.

Looks like a loooong way to run even on the map!

Checking Sunday’s possible weather for the past month has been interesting. It started out with the forecasters warning us that a norther could roar through either the night before or while we were standing at the starting line, waiting for the cannon to boom and disturb the downtown streets at 7 a.m. That would mean cold temperatures, wind, and probably rain. Not good!

Soon after that fortunately inaccurate forecast, the morning temp was expected to be 37 degrees. Then 31 degrees. Then 38 degrees. Then 40 degrees. Then 48 degrees. And, now, 53 degrees. Kind of like watching the stock market rise, fall, and rise!

The wild card in Sunday’s forecast is whether or not it will rain during the race, which rarely happens. A running friend wrote on Facebook that his mom always said that a little rain never hurt anyone. That’s true, but one thing rain can do is cause blisters . . . and those sure can hurt!

Good luck to my fellow participants in both races! May the temps stay low while we’re on the course, the wind be light and at our backs, and the rain hold off until after everyone finishes.

Oh, and may the second toe on my right foot not cause me pain, like it has on my long runs!

Sidebar: As I’ve noted before, I’m running the half-marathon as a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. My honored patient is my younger son’s classmate, Stephanie, from whom I draw so much inspiration. Thanks to those of you who have helped me exceed my $1,000 goal (I’m currently at $1,300)! Anyone who still would like to support this cause, please click on the link and donate. It’s much appreciated!

Run for a Reason Again

Stephanie (middle) dances with the Angels during halftime at a football game.

I’ve been a somewhat-dedicated runner, jogger (at my current snail-like pace), or walker since 1978. Enjoying the great outdoors (I’m not coordinated enough to use a treadmill) for miles at a time is a very selfish pursuit. It’s a great chance to clear your mind, think of blog posts and photo ops, and re-energize for battling strong-willed teenagers.

Every now and then, I actually train for and finish a race (usually January’s Aramco Half-Marathon). It’s satisfying to set a goal and achieve it, no matter how long it takes to cross the finish line. And it’s especially fulfilling to have yet another purpose amid that selfish pursuit: Raising funds for a worthy cause.

For the second straight year, I’m participating in the January 30th Chevron Houston Marathon/Aramco Half-Marathon’s Run for a Reason program. Once again, my chosen charity is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a cause that’s near and dear to me. Blood cancers have cut short the lives of my father, stepfather, cousin Lisa, and my dear former neighbor’s father, Dick Jones, who I ran in honor of last year.

I’m also honoring the memory of Sue Van Natta, a tireless fundraiser for LLS, who passed away from breast cancer this past summer.

Stephanie shows her exuberance.

While I plan to draw energy during the race from the memories of loved ones and friends, I’m also going to gain inspiration from Stephanie, a classmate of my younger son. The fellow high school sophomore was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma this past February 18. She endured four months of chemo and a month of radiation. But she’s come back strong—her latest scans show no sign of cancer, and she’s had a wonderful season with our high school’s dance team. Who wouldn’t be motivated by her story to run well?

I sincerely hope that this also will motivate you, my cherished readers, to click on this link and donate to support my fundraising efforts. Let’s kick blood cancers to the curb!

Random Running Snippets & iPhone Apertures

Me pre-race (note Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS watch) complete with my Hero hat

Wondering how I did in yesterday’s Aramco Half-Marathon?

Short version: I finished with a wide smile on my face and tears in my eyes.

Longer version: I finished with a wide smile on my face, tears in my eyes, and with my left arch hurting almost every step of the way. That had plagued me in training. But numb feet had not; unfortunately, I suffered with those from miles three through six, forcing me to walk from time to time until I could feel my toes again.

Thankfully, my tootsies felt fine once I hit mile seven, so after that I only walked through water stops and when I ingested Gu energy gel. Oh, and when I took iPhone 3Gs photos, which I uploaded to Facebook along the way.

I wasn't the only one taking iPhone photos at the start.

I figured I’d try to take iPhone photos and keep updating my Facebook status during the race. In hindsight, it would’ve been much better to have used my Olympus Stylus Tough point-and-shoot camera. It was awkward stopping mid-race to take a photo, typing in a caption (especially considering I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses), and then hoping AT&T would allow me to upload it to Facebook. I missed out on lots of potentially good pix of cute signs and even cuter babies. And that guy at the half-marathon start wearing a Lion King costume. Wonder if he finished still wearing it? It got pretty warm.

Lots of people in front of me as we head towards mile two. Guess I'm not going to win!

We did have perfect running weather—it was about 45 degrees at the start at 7 a.m. and about 60 degrees when I finished around 10 a.m. Which means that probably half the participants overdressed. Those who were wearing tights, jackets, gloves, and beanies looked like the temps were still frozen over from last weekend!

I felt very comfortable in a short-sleeved t-shirt and shorts, complete with my Hero running hat that I earned by raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Oh, and my Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS watch. Why was that important? Because, as in 2008, it showed that I actually ran 13.3 miles instead of 13.1. Oh, that aching extra two-tenths!!

Heading up a hill just past 10K (6.2 miles).

The race starts with the half-marathoners and those running the Chevron Houston Marathon on separate streets. We mesh together around mile two until mile nine where the halfers blissfully turn around (180 degrees) and head for the finish. The organizers like to boast that the course is flat . . . but it is NOT! There are enough hills in the first seven miles to stretch out our legs and tighten our arches (well, my left one).

Cresting the hill over Allen Parkway nearing mile 7. As we're running outbound, faster runners are about to turn near mile 11.

Here were my plans for the race: First goal always is to finish. My second goal was to break three hours. That’s a slow pace and nowhere near my personal best, but my training had been done at snail speed. Mentally, I was going to concentrate on just getting into the swing of things for the first two miles, which includes the much-hated (by me) Elysian Viaduct. At least two people slipped and fell behind me as we approached the first mile on the viaduct. I’ll bet they hate it, too.

Sidebar: Years ago there was talk about getting rid of the viaduct, which is a concrete overpass. I volunteered to be the one pushing the plunger when it came time to dynamite it! But, alas, it still stands if only to torment me every year.

After the Elysian, I was going to think about the six people in whose memory I raised funds for LLS. The first was Dick Jones at mile three, then my dad, my stepdad, my cousin Lisa, Don Queen, and Ron Kalteyer at the subsequent miles. After that I felt like all of them were on my back spurring me along to the finish.

The halfers will turn around in 200 yards!

Two of the best aspects of Houston’s premier marathon/half-marathon event are its volunteers and spectators. We couldn’t have a successful race without thousands of helpers. And those watching make us feel like running gods and goddesses, as well as providing plenty of distractions. I saw so many great signs along the course! Some I remember were “Run like you stole something!” and “So easy a caveman could do it.” There also were live bands and boom boxes providing great music along the way.

No balloons for my pity party at mile 10?

Once I made the turn at mile nine, I focused on one sight: That mile 10 banner. I just couldn’t wait until I was able to have my very own pity party and feel sorry for myself and my aches and pains. Funny thing, though—by mile 10, I was rolling along at a decent clip for me. Sure, my arch was hurting, but it wasn’t slowing down my pace any, and I knew that in a mere mile we would be on Allen Parkway running along with the fast marathoners across the median. Plus I had those six precious souls riding on my shoulders whispering in my ear, “You can do it!” Cancel that pity party!

Mile 11 is a good time for prayer!

Houston’s Christian radio station had several prayer stations set up along the course. What a great idea . . . even for those of us who are Jewish! All runners are grateful for divine intervention late in a race.

My biggest disappointment once we got off Allen Parkway and headed through downtown towards the finish line at the George R. Brown Convention Center? No Elvis sighting! That’s the first time I haven’t seen the supposedly dead rock ’n roller during either the half (now five finishes) or marathon (eight finishes).

Disappointment reigns for those who finished behind me.

Finally, there was the most-spectacular sight of the entire 13.1-mile race: The finish line! Why do we run races? To finish them! As always, when I crossed the line, I looked to the sky to thank my dad for being along with me.

And then I thought of Dick Jones, who I had hoped so much would be there at the finish watching me run for him. He was there in spirit, of course, interrupting his golf game in heaven to ride on my shoulders. I couldn’t help but break into a wide smile and start to cry.

A Warrior’s Battle Is Over

Patty and Dick Jones

Patty and Dick Jones

An old warrior has now been laid to rest. Dick Roland Jones, the father of my neighbor JJ the organizational whiz, peacefully passed away from cancer last night.

Mr. Jones, one of the most amazing and interesting people you could ever meet, battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for six months. It was a fight that inspired me to sign up for the Chevron Houston Marathon and fundraise for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through the marathon’s Run for a Reason program.

Mr. Jones’ untimely death saddens me so much. He was a wonderful husband, father, brother, grandfather, and friend. But his passing also pushes me to train harder and better for the January 17th marathon. I know he’ll be my guardian running angel, encouraging me along the dreadful hills of Allen Parkway during the later miles. He and the others whose memories I’m running for—my father, my stepfather, my cousin Lisa, my friend Karen’s brother Ron, and my neighbor Tami’s father Don—will be in my heart every step of the 26.2 miles. They will give me strength when I’m running out.

I’m pleased that people have been donating to the LLS through my Run for a Reason webpage. I hope more of you will give, so that we can one day find a cure for this dreaded disease. Any amount—big, small, or in between—is appreciated. You never know if it will be YOUR $5 that funds the research that finally cures these horrible blood cancers.

Mr. Jones: You will be missed but never forgotten. Rest in peace, brave warrior.

Running for a Reason

My dad in 1969

My dad in 1969

In 1986, my parents were driving from their former home in Virginia to their new abode in the Los Angeles area where my father had gotten a new job. When they got to L.A., my mother called me and said that my dad hadn’t been feeling well, and that she had driven part of the way.

Ever have warning bells go off like mad in your head? That’s what happened to me when I heard the news. My father NEVER let my mom drive. It didn’t matter if they were going a mile down the road or cross country. He was the master behind the wheel. I immediately knew something was wrong.

A few months later I got the frightening call from my mom: My father, at age 57 (a year older than I currently am), had been diagnosed with leukemia. Back then he was too old to qualify for a bone marrow transplant, so his prognosis was bleak.

At first I went through the range of emotions that affect most of us when we hear that one of our important loved ones is terminally ill. But then I got busy. I had been running avidly since 1978, but I only had participated in 5Ks (3.1 miles) and 10Ks (6.2 miles). I decided in the fall of 1986 to train for and run the Houston Marathon the following January in honor of my dad and to encourage him in his fight against leukemia.

I finished my first marathon in January of 1987. My dad, who was touched by my efforts, passed away in March of 1991, almost a year before my #1 son was born. I ran a four-mile race right after he died, and I still can remember crying away the miles.

I’ve finished several Houston marathons since then, but I’ve switched to the half-marathon distance, because it’s so much easier to train for and complete. I haven’t trained for a marathon since 2001, and I only miss those 26.2 miles when I’m watching marathoners finishing. Ah, but then I remember the hours of running and the aching muscles and the agony of mile 23, and I’m glad that Houston started its half-marathon tradition in 2002.

Dick Jones celebrates his birthday.

Dick Jones celebrates his birthday in happier times.

But then my next-door neighbor JJ the organizational whiz’s father, Dick Jones, was suddenly diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma this past spring. It has been a tough, hard battle for him . . . kind of like a marathon. And that got me thinking (always dangerous for me!)—I need to draw inspiration from Mr. Jones’ fight as well as try to encourage him and help raise money for a cause. Why not train for and complete the January 17th Chevron Houston Marathon in his honor?

lls_c_hi_res_jpg

Fortunately, the Chevron Houston Marathon has a long-standing Run for a Reason charity fundraising program. I’ve signed up to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), and I hope my readers will help me inspire Mr. Jones. Here is the link to my fundraising page: Run for a Reason. Let’s show Mr. Jones that he is not alone in his war against this dreaded disease.

In addition to running for Mr. Jones, I also will run in memory of those who have died of leukemia: My father; my stepfather, Earl; my friend Karen R.’s brother, Ron Kalteyer; and my neighbor Tami’s father; as well as my cousin, Lisa, whose life was cut short by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I hope to gain strength along the route from all of them.

Please join me in my efforts to raise money to help find a cure for blood cancers. I’ll do the running; I hope that you’ll support me by contributing to this worthy cause.

Let’s fight along with Mr. Jones!