…And Ends At 26.2 Miles

 

IMG_0013If you would’ve told me five years ago that I would run the NYC marathon for childhood cancer, I would’ve told you that you’re crazy.

Five years ago, I was settling down in Arizona, pregnant with my daughter, Qwynn, with no plans of ever living in NYC again. Little did I know, I would be back in this amazing city, raising two kids, meeting people that would change my life forever, and running the race of a lifetime for a cause that I will never stop fighting for.

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Throughout this journey, I have learned that life is all about connections and timing. I think about the last five years and everything that has brought me to this point…the decisions we’ve made for our family, the friendships we have formed, the loss we have experienced, the stories that have inspired us. It has all lead me to this moment. A moment I will never forget. The moment I finished the NYC Marathon and raised $5,765 for childhood cancer research.

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The marathon journey was just that…a journey. The training was intense and emotional, and the 3 1/2 hour trek to the starting line was a marathon in and of itself. I had to hold back tears the entire trip as I thought about all the kids I was doing this for and picturing my family and friends cheering me on along the way. I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people too, including a guy who was about to run his 21st NYC marathon!

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The energy from the other runners, the view of the bridge, and the sound of the starting cannon were all so exciting. The crowd was simply exhilarating. They carried me so far, and for most of the race I felt unstoppable. Around mile 15, I felt my energy draining. Seeing my family and friends at mile 18 gave me a boost, but by mile 20 I had hit a wall. My mantra has always been, “the more you run, the sooner you’re done,” so I resisted the urge to walk.

By mile 22, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to finish. My calves were on the verge of cramping and my energy was fading fast. It was at this moment that I asked Ronan for help. I asked him to help me keep going. I asked him to take the pain away.

And then I instantly felt shame. How dare I ask this brave little soul who suffered so much to do that for me. How incredibly insensitive for his mother, father, brothers and sister who live through the pain of losing Ronan everyday. I quickly realized I needed the pain. The pain reminded me of why I was doing this and who I was doing this for. The pain was part of this journey. So, I simply asked Ronan to just help me finish.

And he did just that. I FINISHED!!!

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But this isn’t the end. I will continue fighting for this cause because every mother and father deserves to see their child grow up. Every brother and sister deserves to have their best friend by their side. Every child deserves to have a childhood. 💛

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who supported me along this journey and donated to The Ronan Foundation! You are all rockstars!!

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Be Bold, Go Gold!

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Valerie

It Starts With One…

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My first week of marathon training is over and my first long run (it feels silly calling 5 miles a long run considering the end goal) is dedicated to my good friend Emily. It was Emily that introduced me to The Ronan Foundation and the unfair world of childhood cancer. Right after my Uncle Lee died from a long battle with cancer in May 2015, Emily gave me the ‘Fuck You Cancer’ bracelet that I wear all the time now. It was Emily and Ronan’s story that helped put life into perspective for me.

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When I find myself complaining about anything, I think about all the kids who have or are currently going through chemo. When my four year old is pushing all my buttons, I think about the parents who would give anything to have their child here pushing their buttons. If I am having a bad day, I am reminded that there are parents and children who are having the worst days of their lives.

I have also been thinking a lot about Chester Bennington today. Linkin Park was one of my favorite bands in high school. I will always cherish memories of rocking out with my best friend on our drives to and from school. I have always had Linkin Park on my running playlist and today was no exception.

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I was thinking during one of my runs this week…what if we all just picked one cause to fight for? It could be anything. Suicide prevention. Mental illness. Poverty. Abuse. The list is endless. But if we all picked just one thing to fight for with all our might, how much better our world could be.

My fight is childhood cancer. I chose this fight because I am a parent. I chose this fight because I am a teacher. I chose this fight because kids deserve to be kids. They deserve to live. I chose this fight because pediatric cancer is the LEAST funded cancer by our government. This is why supporting organizations like The Ronan Foundation is so important. This is why supporting parents whose children are fighting cancer is a necessity.

My first week of marathon training was harder than I expected. (Guess I shouldn’t have taken almost a month off of running). But then I thought…Children who are diagnosed with cancer don’t get to train before their marathon of chemo. They are just thrown into their treatment, a treatment that is meant for adults. And that’s when I realized it doesn’t matter how hard these runs are. These kids are fighting harder.

Although I know Maya would do anything to have her son back, Ronan continues to live on through me and so many other people. Ronan’s story and others like it are going to change the world of childhood cancer and I will continue to help fight in any way I can.

Thank you all for your continued support!

https://ronanfoundation.org/campaign/3LKRXK4R

Valerie Anne

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From Bar to Barre: Balancing Aging, Parenthood, Work Schedules and a Consistent Exercise Routine

Living in NYC definitely has it’s perks. One in particular is the amount of walking that is required. Most of my time living here I have been able to get away without going to the gym regularly because my daily commute was my gym.  The walking always seemed to be enough and a run or class here or there was just an extra bonus. I have also been able to eat whatever I want (within reason) and spent many evenings out at bars with friends enjoying my fair share of adult beverages.

At my company holiday party 2 years ago, a co-worker made a comment to me that at the time I blew off. After returning to the table with a full plate of second helpings of everything at the buffet she said, “Wow Val! I remember when I could eat like that. Then I hit my 30s.” This was two months before my 30th birthday, so naturally my reply was, “Well then, I better take advantage of the two months I have left.”

I really didn’t take what she said seriously though, and I thought, It’ll be different for me. I was kind of right. Nothing really changed when I turned thirty. Thirty-one on the other hand was another story. Not long after my 31st birthday I realized that Winter had taken it’s toll on my body, and I accepted that I could no longer eat or drink whatever I wanted and still survive on just walking.

Not only am I a binge runner, but I am a binge exerciser in general. It’s always easier to get going during the summer when it’s not freezing or pitch black outside when I have to leave the apartment for a class.  If I am able to get a good routine in place, I can go weeks working out 3, 4, even 5 days a week. I always feel amazing when I can stick to a regular exercise plan, but it seems that after awhile I always go back to making excuses for why I can’t get my butt moving.

Having a kid definitely does not make sticking to an exercise routine any easier. The guilt that comes with leaving all the getting ready and commuting responsibilities with Tyson so that I can take a morning barre class or evening yoga class is sometimes too much to handle. Especially during the Rangers season when his schedule is so busy.

However, after Memorial Day, with the unofficial start of summer upon us, I decided I had to get over the guilt and figure something out. Running on my lunch break everyday was not motivating enough, but I had taken a couple barre classes last summer and really enjoyed them. So I went to Tyson with a routine I thought was fair and hoped that we could make it work. For the past six weeks this has been my workout schedule:

Monday: 30-40 minute Lunch Break Run
Tuesday: 55 minute Core Barre Class
Wednesday: 55 minute Total Barre Class and 30 minute Swim Class with Qwynn
Thursday: 55 minute Barre Assets Class or 60 minute Yoga Class
Friday: 30-40 minute Lunch Break Run

I’m not perfect every week (summer is busy!), but I usually get at least three of the days in. It definitely takes sacrifices from all parties involved. On Tuesday I work the 10 AM shift, and drop Qwynn off as soon as school opens at 8 AM to make it to my 8:30 AM barre class. This makes it possible for Tyson and I to still commute together, but it also makes all of our days much longer, leaving the house by 7 AM and not getting home until close to 7:30 PM.  Tyson very generously commutes with Qwynn by himself on Wednesday mornings and I meet him at the YMCA for Qwynn’s 9 AM swim class after my 7:30 AM Barre class. On Thursday evenings he commutes again by himself to allow me to take my evening yoga class.

I am definitely nervous about Fall and Winter coming because it means colder weather, less sunlight and new and busier schedules. I am really hoping that my new found love for barre (seriously you should try it if you haven’t yet) will keep me motivated to continue going to class even when it is dark, cold and there is half a foot of snow on the ground.

As hard as it is to manage all of our schedules and to get myself up earlier than I technically have to get up in the morning, I never regret doing it. Even the times I have had one too many glasses of wine the night before 😉 and just want to stay in bed curled up next to Tyson, I remind myself how much better I’ll feel if I sweat it out. And I always do. No matter what, I always feel better when I say yes to a workout.

 

Valerie Anne

The Perfect Run

IMG_7181Hi. My name is Valerie Christensen and I am a binge runner.

What does this mean exactly? It means that my running is not routine by a long shot. I will go most of the winter without running at all because I despise treadmills and always prefer to run outside. There might be an unseasonably warm day here or there that I’ll take advantage of, but that is it. However, as soon as Spring brings the warmer weather, my itch to run is so great that I will run for days and days in a row. For a little while. The next week I might only run one day. Then I will skip two weeks. Then I will run three days in a row. Then I will skip another week. Then I will only run once a week for three weeks. Then I will run four days in one week. Then three days the next week. Then zero days the following week. And on and on I ride this running roller coaster until winter comes again and the cycle starts over.

Everytime I run though, it is an extreme high for me and I often wonder why I wait so long to run the next time. Especially when I have runs like I did today. Today, I had The Perfect Run.

IMG_9004I am extremely blessed to work where I do. My school is right on the Hudson River which gives me immediate access to the park that stretches for miles along it. I am also fortunate enough to work for a company that facilitates and encourages physical activity. Plus, since we deal with drool, spit-up and poop all day (ewwww!), my coworkers and my babies aren’t offended if I spend the rest of the day smelling like sweat. I try and take advantage of all these things by running on my lunch break as often as I can.

Today, it was 68 degrees. Not too hot and not too cold. Today, it was the perfect temperature.

No matter what the temperature is though, if the sun is out I am usually dying before I get 10 feet into my run and shade is often hard to come by. Today, the sky was perfectly overcast.

Sometimes the strong winds off the river give me relief on those extra sunny days, but often they become so brutal that I feel like I’m going to blow away. Today, there was the perfect light breeze.

It started sprinkling ever so lightly, which made me a little nervous as I feared for a downpour (something I’ve unfortunately been caught in before). Today, the sprinkles stayed just that, sprinkles, and it was perfectly refreshing.

With everything in bloom, the sights and smells were so wonderful it was almost a sensory overload. The bright green, newly sprouted trees, and all the pink, purple, orange and yellow flowers were blooming and beautiful. The smell of the flowers was even more amazing. I loved it. It was perfect.

I was trying to decide how far to run. I hadn’t drank a lot of water that morning which was my only concern about pushing myself. I usually run up the bike path and then back down along the river.  I got to where I’ve been turning around lately and told myself—It’s perfect out here. You can go further. Just keep going. So, I gave myself a goal to make it to Pier 25. It was a run I did often last summer when I was at the peak of my binge running. I told myself I could do it today. If you get too tired on the way back you can slow down or stop, but you have to try.

I thought about giving up and turning around at every opening I came too. I tried to convince myself that I had run enough. But I kept telling myself—You’ve made it this far. You can go farther. Just keep going. And I did. I made it to Pier 25.

As I expected, the way back was not easy. It was actually extremely tough. I was regretting eating so soon before I ran. I was wishing I had drank more water before I started. But I kept telling myself it didn’t matter. It was the perfect day for a run and I was going to make this the perfect run. I told myself I wasn’t going to stop until I got back to where I started. And I did. I kept running until I got to the exact place I began. I had finished the most perfect run on the most perfect day and everything in that moment was perfect.

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“The Perfect Post-Run Red Face

 

Valerie Anne