Running with Alison

My running buddy, Alison, is awesome and inspiring.  We met over a year ago through our daughters and talked a little about running.  She asked back then if I wanted to run with her sometime.  I turned down the invitation because I thought she was this ultra-mega-runner/triathlete who I could never in my wildest dreams keep up with.  I thought I’d hold her back in a big way. 

Then sometime along the way she shared her story with me and I realized just how foolish I’d been.  She started running and competing in triathlons only a few years ago and before that had succeeded in losing 70 pounds!  

Her running story was similar to mine.  She’d started her exercise routine from step 1 after years of no exercise and had built from there.  Plus, she’d lost a ton of weight at the same time. 

It was then that I asked her if she was still interested in running together. I’d run alone for all my runs previously and I knew I’d love the company and the friendship.  Now we’ve been running together for several months and I love it!  It’s so much more fun than running for hours by myself. 

Alison completed the Race to the Top of the Rock, a 66 flight of stairs climb to the top of Rockefeller Center, this past weekend.  It is definitely not for the “weak of quad”.  Alison wrote her own blog post about this event and I loved it so I’ve asked to share it here with my followers.  So here is Alison’s inspiring account of climbing to the Top of the Rock.

Suprising Views At the Top of the Rock

“Jackie, Stephanie, Jackie, Stephanie.”

When I run, I often resort to repeating mantras to myself. It keeps me focused, helps pass some time, and frankly stops all the negative thoughts in my head from popping up and taking over. I have a few different mantras. One is “Finish strong”, which I love to repeat for the last ½ mile or so of my races. Another is “70 gone”, which I repeat when I feel like my alter ego, “Fat Girl”, is hitching a ride on my back during my long runs. That one reminds me of the weight I’ve lost and how I’m able to actually do these runs (and is sort of my polite way of telling “Fat Girl” to get lost). My favorite mantra is simple and requires no explanation: “I got this.”

Today, though, my mantra is different: “Jackie, Stephanie, Jackie, Stephanie.” Don’t worry, I’m not naming the various personalities in my brain. Jackie and Stephanie are actual people. Jackie is my sister-in-law, and Stephanie is a friend of mine from Boston. Jackie and Stephanie have never met, and likely never will. But, they have one thing in common. Jackie and Stephanie both have MS, Multiple Sclerosis. And today I’m not doing a regular run. I’m climbing 66 flights of stairs to the top of Rockefeller Center to raise money for MS, and in my world specifically for Jackie and Stephanie.

I tried to train for this event using the stair climber at my gym, but one 30 minute session on it caused severe knee pain for 3 weeks. A few people told me that if I can run a 5k then I can climb 66 flights of stairs, so I didn’t train. And anyone who knows me understands that this morning when it came time to climb I was completely freaked out. I had no idea if I could do it. I’ve never done anything like this before.

When I get there, Rockefeller Center is packed. It seems like all of New York is about to climb to the Top of the Rock. I check my bag, line up into my corral, and look around. Pretty much everyone is wearing two bibs. One is their number and timing chip that they’re wearing on the front. The other is a handwritten one that most of us have on our backs. On it is printed, “I’m Climbing For” and the rest is handwritten by each participant, saying who they are doing this for. People are climbing for their children, parents, spouses and siblings. One person’s bib says, “I’m Climbing For… Everyone Who Can’t”. Four firefighters are lined up in their corral in full gear.

When it’s my turn, I start my ascent. I start off running, then remember that I have an enormous run week ahead of me (3 runs, 30 miles total) to train for my upcoming half marathon in 3 weeks. I don’t want to wreck my knee, so I decide to walk briskly. About 10 flights up I start seeing people stopped on landings, trying to catch their breath. Most of these people are overweight. Trust me, though, I don’t judge. I completely understand it. I understand being overweight and wishing I wasn’t but having no clue what to do about it. I understand wanting to do sporting events of any kind and never getting more than a few minutes in before needing to stop. I see one woman sitting on a step, breathing heavy with her head down. I know she’s upset, possibly on the brink of being disgusted with herself. I think about stopping completely and telling her my story: I thought I was nobody, nothing. I thought I could never lose weight and get healthy. But, I did. And she can, too. I’m about to talk to her, and then it dawns on me that all she is going to see is my outside persona, “Fit Girl”, and likely won’t believe what I have to tell her. So, I just look over and say, “You OK?” She smiles and says, “Yes, just resting.” Unknown to her, I loan her one of my mantras: “You got this.” She smiles again, more realistically this time, and I continue my climb.

At about the 20th floor, I can feel my quads beginning to burn, and I think, “hmm, not even halfway.” Then I remember a Peter K trick, to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, and I go back to my mantra: “Jackie, Stephanie, Jackie, Stephanie.” That works, and I’m able to keep going.

As I continue climbing , I realize that I’m really enjoying this workout. It’s a nice change of pace, and I can certainly feel my muscles working. When I get to the half way point, it dawns on me that I’m going to finish, and as I say in my mantras “finish strong.” For the last half of the climb I think about how I’ve taken control of my life, making better food and fitness choices. These choices allow me to set a better example for my kids, and to be able to enjoy things I had always dreamed of doing (and yes, climbing up the stairs of a skyscraper in New York City has actually been a dream of mine).

When I get to the 62nd floor, I see an amazing sight. It’s a man, probably in his 50s. He’s walking up the stairs very slowly. He’s walking so slowly because he’s on crutches. A younger man is right behind him, clearly acting as his spotter. I’m guessing the older man has MS. He’s not wearing an “I’m Climbing For” bib on his back, but it’s obvious; he’s climbing for himself. I immediately realize that though I raised money to do this climb in support of Jackie and Stephanie, I’m also doing it to remind myself of how far I’ve gone and what amazing things a person – any person—can accomplish with a little effort and a great support system. Suddenly I realize that the mantra in my head has changed: “Jackie, Stephanie, Ali, Jackie, Stephanie, Ali.”

I make it to the top (in a mere 16 minutes; not bad for a former fat girl, if I do say so myself). When I get to the observation deck, I take a quick look at New York City. I don’t linger outside; first, it’s about 35 degrees and I’m sweaty and wearing running shorts and a tank top. Besides, for me the most breathtaking sight happened inside the stairwell when I saw the man climbing to the Top of the Rock on a set of metal crutches.

As I head back down to the bottom to collect my stuff (and no, I didn’t take the stairs down. We weren’t allowed to, and besides I think my sore knees would have climbed up my body and punched me in the face if I had), I think about my morning. I raised money to support a friend and a family member, I climbed to the Top of Rockefeller Center for myself, and a complete stranger reminded me that anything – absolutely anything – is possible. As my favorite mantra always reminds me, “I got this.”

You can also follow Alison’s running journey at http://fatgirlturnedrunner.blogspot.com.  It’s a good read every time!

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One Response to Running with Alison

  1. Joe says:

    Way to go Alison! Definitely an inspiring story!