Although I've participated in many MANY races, I've never volunteered to help at any. I've always appreciated the volunteers handing out water, organizing packet-pick up, keeping our belongings safe at the bag check, but I've never stepped up to actually BE one. That was something I wanted to change. I wanted to give back to the sport that has helped me rediscover myself and has given me a connection to so many amazing women in my life. I just didn't know when the right time would be. Part of me was being selfish, because I love the race so much. I guess I was waiting for some kind of sign...
And then an amazing woman I knew had a baby with a hole in her diaphragm. I followed Liz's journey on her blog, read how she found her strength in God to get her through this uncertain time, prayed for her and her daughter, and celebrated the milestones her beautiful Finley overcame. I knew Liz would take what their family had gone through and turn it into something BIG. So naturally, when she said she was thinking about starting a race to raise money and awareness for CDH, on Finely's 2nd Birthday, I asked "How can I help?" I believe I had my sign.
It started off with a few brainstorming sessions on the part of the race committee. Liz was really driving this boat. She did so much of the preliminary work to set up her foundation, get the permits, secure the location, landed some major sponsors, the website, etc. Once registration went LIVE, we felt the pressure to start securing donations and more sponsors. It was really exciting to go to a business and share Finely's story, many were excited to help, even if it was small. Things really seemed to come together in the last month before the race. Registrations were coming in, sponsors were sending prizes and donations, and volunteers were asking how they could help. Facebook was lit up with our friends sharing the registration page, and word was spreading.
|The amazing logo, created and donated by my friend Kim DiStefano!|
Andrew was super excited to run the 5K with me (he had a chip/bib number, I did not), and he even wanted to get up before dawn with me on race day to help set up! We saw an amazing sunrise on our way to the park, and even watched 5 hot air balloons floating over the landscape. Once we arrived, it was so cool to see the race "scene" unfold before my eyes. All those races I had shown up to as a participant, I took so much for granted. So much hard work from so many people goes into giving a race that "feel" on race day. At 6:45am, all the way out at Champoeg State Park, there were so many people helping unload supplies, setting up food, registration tables, organizing shirts/packets, getting the timing equipment set up... it was a flurry of activity that is now a blur in my mind.
At 8am, participants started arriving, mingling and enjoying the Dutch Brothers coffee (we put a lot of importance on our pre-race beverage, so it needed to be GOOD coffee!), and bagels. Kids were running in the field, and many people had Ladybug themed clothes, embracing the race's theme and guest of honor/birthday girl. Andrew and I were tasked with the important job of marking the kids fun run 1K course (as I happened to be wearing my Garmin). As we made our way to the start line, we ran into so many old Stroller Strides friends and their families who came out to support Liz's dream. I loved that so much! We gathered to hear some heartfelt words from Liz, prayed and thanked God for so many people who made the day possible, and for all of the racers, then released live Ladybugs in honor and memory of the babies who did not make it this last year. It was hard to hold back the tears.
|On the Run!|
|Andrew pushing through to the finish!|
|Loving Running with my Boy!|
|Beth Kershner and her kids at the Aid Station...This was a Family Affair!|
|Lauren ready with the Water at the FINISH!|
After everyone had finished, and the kids had snuck about 10 Otter Pops each (along with several Ladybug Cookies), Chris was gracious enough to take them home so I could hang out and enjoy one (or maybe two) delicious Ninkasi IPA's, thanks to our beer sponsor. ;-) Yeah, we didn't fool around when it came to the food and drink. This was a PARTY after all. It was really great to get a chance to hang out with Amanda (from Runninghood) and her awesome husband and adorable kiddos, and catch up with some very dear friends that I don't see nearly enough any more.
|Hangin' in the beer garden with Amanda (from Runninghood and Overall Female 5K winner!) and Liz Dooley, Race Director/Visionary/Friend|
I will never EVER take the races I run for granted anymore. The volunteers are truly a gift and we could not have all the fun if it weren't for them.
It was an honor to be a part of the 1st Annual Ladybug Run. I hope we raised awareness of this birth defect and brought some peace to the families who were there running in memory of babies lost, but never forgotten.
I want to thank Liz for including me on the race committee. We didn't know each other more than just acquaintances from Stroller Strides, then started running together, then had an EPIC time together in a van for 33 hours... I am honored to call you my friend, and I am so proud of you and everything you've done. You are an inspiration to so many! I look forward to helping plan the 2nd Annual Ladybug Run...
|Liz, her Ladybug Finley, and husband Jon|