Diva Half Marathon Part 1

“You don’t have to be GREAT to start but you have to start to be GREAT”~ Zig Ziglar

I had my little baby boy in mid-November 2012 and so by January I was itching to get back in shape. I knew I was going to get back into CrossFit, but I thought that registering for a half marathon would double my training and force me to train even on the days I wanted to talk myself out of it. So I searched for a half that would give me enough time to train and would be a great adventure to do with a friend or two. When someone told me about the Diva half in September that was to be held in DC WINE country, I couldn’t turn it down. They had me at, “wine country”. I just imagined crossing that finish line and relaxing on a terrace in a vineyard with a glass of chardonnay. It sounded like the perfect way to celebrate 13.1!!  So that was it. I signed up as soon as the registration opened and began counting down the weeks. In the beginning this was really about my determination to get back in shape and to give me the energy to be a stay-at-home-momma to two little ones. But, before the training even began, the Go Out Be Great team was formed and it became so much more for me. As the months unfolded, I watched as women posted proudly their training successes, their fears, their motivation, their uplifting running soundtracks  and it sort of unfolded into this amazing sisterhood of strong women; women who love and support each other and who were coming together all for Nate and Katie and Justin and the whole Baker family. I watched as the group got larger and larger and people started training harder and harder than ever before. I remember setting out to do one of my first long(er) runs in my training and turning my phone to my favorite Pandora station. The first song that popped up is one of my new faves, “Called Me Higher”. Here are some of the lyrics:
I could just sit
I could just sit and wait for all Your goodness
Hope to feel Your presence
And I could just stay
I could just stay right where I am hope to feel You
Hope to feel something again
And I could hold on
I could hold on to who I am and never let You change me from the inside
And I could be safe
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls down
But You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I will go where you will lead me Lord
You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I will go where you lead me Lord
Where you lead me
Where you lead me Lord
As I was listening to this song, my steps began to get a little lighter, the running- easier. I remember running and feeling tears begin to well up. Wow, how powerful are these words for so many women in this group who are running for GOBG. We could all just “sit here and HOPE to feel His presence” and “HOPE to feel something again”…OR, we could get up and go <literally> running into the world with GREATness and show His love and His strength. Whether we knew Nate personally or not, we have been spiritually moved by his legacy. You know that feeling in your heart that aches so badly because you want to do something good and loving? That’s your spirit. And as I look at Katie and Justin who so clearly have been called higher and deeper and who work daily to let those walls down…How many of us are feeling their ripples of Greatness? How many of us will go running to where the Lord is leading them?  I can’t think of one person who signed up with the group to just run. Nope. We were all called higher for this one, friends. I am sure of it. Thank you, my sweet Nate.  To many more wall crushing moments…   ~ Stacy Hart

Running in any type of race was not on my radar a year ago.  A lot of things changed for me this past year, this being one simple thing.  When Katie set out to tackle her first half marathon, I knew that it was something that I needed to do as well.  The months of training couldn’t have prepared me for the challenges of race day, but knowing that we were all there in support of Go Out. Be Great., rallying together for our love of Nate was an experience that is forever etched in my heart.  This life is a journey, with so many difficulties that we cannot foresee, but I am reminded that as long as our hope is in Christ, He will renew our strength, we will soar on wings like eagles; run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:31) Thank you, Katie, for letting me walk this path along side of you and your sweet family!  13.1, what an accomplishment we could all share together!!  Go Out. Be Great. – Naomi Johnson

If it wasn’t for the pain in my knees and back right now then I still wouldn’t believe that I actually ran 13.1 miles today. Yesterday I would’ve told you that there was no way that I was ready. I started the journey to do this race because it is what the group wanted to do to honor Nate and if it was for Nate then I was all in, no matter what. I think to understand how much my love for Nate influenced me to agree to this, you first have to understand my hate for running. I have never been one to enjoy running. In fact one of my worst memories from childhood was of me playing soccer, in which I was terrible at because I wasn’t fast enough and so I would run after the ball down the field and by the time I got there I was too late and I’d be turning around to chase it back the other way. I remember not understanding the point of a game where all you did was run and crying before every practice. In middle school I liked all the physical fitness tests except the 1 mile run and dreaded it every year, and in high school the only time I ran was because I loved field hockey and had to do so. When I didn’t make the field hockey team my junior year someone told me that if I took cross country then I would have a better shot at making the team the next year and so I, despite my hate, went to join the cross country team….for a day. Then I quickly remembered how much I hated running and decided that I didn’t like field hockey enough for that nonsense. And I didn’t run again. So that’s where I was when it was decided that we were going to run a half marathon for Nate, and my mind said “no way”, but my heart said “yes you will”. So I convinced myself that I had many months to train and so I would train hard and I would feel confident come race day because I would prove to myself by that time that I could run far and race day would be a rerun or sorts.….wrong! As it turns out, I would train a bit, but as I moved states, houses, and a new job in the last few months time was never of the essence and so flash forward and I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t trained the way I had hoped. So I started getting dressed this morning nervous and scared, but determined to finish even if I had to crawl. But something happened today as we all lined up at the start line and a special fellow runner grabbed my hand and pulled me up to start with them, I felt a strange sense of confidence that I could do this 13 miles and that there was no other option but to push through the pain for that little boy that I think about every single day, that the physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional pain we’ve had this past year and nothing was going stop me from being great for him today. So as the race began I felt strong and empowered with determination for my nephew and as it went on and I got tired and worn I held on to all the little things that made this day so special. The fact that women that I love and respect were all joining together from all different places because of our love for Nathan. The fact that the weather was perfect for a run, sunny but a nice breeze blowing through made it feel like Nathan was shining down over us. The fact that the people who came out to cheer often had their little kids outside playing and riding bikes and our own kids playing in the dirt waiting for us to come across the finish, made me think how the race alone was getting kids outside to play like Nate loved to do. The fact that it was in the country and I’d see a tractor every mile or two and I’d suddenly fill with love and energy thinking of Nathan and his love for every type of tractor he ever saw. Nathan today was for you, every time I felt like stopping, every time my feet said I couldn’t go any faster, I said your name to myself and gained the strength to keep pushing through. I love you Nathan, I can’t wait to see your sweet face again, but until then we will continue to Go Out, to tell the world all about you and to Be Great for you Nate! <3 – Nate’s Aunt Jenelle

Eight years ago I ran my first marathon and vowed that it would also be my last. I’m not a runner. For me, running is difficult, uncomfortable and, to be 100% honest, boring. But when Katie asked me in January if I would run a ½ marathon in honor of Nate, “Yes” came out so effortlessly. At that moment, I knew that the pain I would feel running this race was nominal compared to the pain that Katie, Justin, and their family and friends feel everyday for the loss of Nate. Life events slowed my training program and race day approached fast. Physically, I did not feel prepared but as all the runners were lining up at the start line, I had a sense of peace. I was surrounded by so many women who came out to be GREAT for Nate! Before I knew it, the clock started and we were off. I usually run with music and an app that tracks my mileage and pace, its all a ruse to keep my mind occupied. But that day, these distractions were not needed. The day was peaceful. 13.1 miles of putting one foot in front of the other as I admired the countryside and reminisced on our special angel. Nate’s presence was strong and the thought of his smiling face watching over us got me to the finish line that day. It was a Great way for us to GO OUT and BE GREAT for Nate! Love and miss you buddy! Anna, Nate’s Aunt Dee

Last year when I was asked if I would run in a half marathon, I thought “there is no way I can run that far!”  Then I heard the rest of the question…will you run in a half marathon in honor of Nate?  With no doubts or reservations I replied “yes I will.”  I remember thinking to myself   “I don’t know how I’ll run 13.1 mile but I will do what I need to do to make it happen.”  So I got down to figuring out how…read articles, got advice from others, purchased some comfy clothes, and my first “real” pair of running shoes.  I hated the color, but it was the pair the man said would be my best fit for the type of runner I was, so I got them anyways.  I know it sounds funny, but only out of love for Nate did I buy those shoes.  Shoes that now have a very sentimental meaning to me.  Shoes that got me across that finish line….for Nate! I started a running journal.  In it I logged my mileage and time of every run during my training.  This kept me motivated to do better each time.  I got my iPod set with songs that kept me going.  Some were the typical  upbeat workout songs and others were tear jerkers.  My husband once asked “how can you listen to those and not fall asleep running?!” I could listen to those songs because they inspired me in a different way.  Some made me think of Nate.  Some made me think of Justin and Katie and what this past year has brought to them.  It fueled me to make sure I got through the 13.1 miles….to do it for them.  Never at any time in my training did I not have Nate for inspiration.  Yes, my family and friends helped, but that little boy that I love like one of my own was beside me every time I ran.  Some runs were better than others and on the not so good runs I know I had his help. The days leading up to the DIVA run were emotional.  I just kept thinking I wish my friends had their son and that this run was just any ordinary run.  Nate was anything but ordinary and this run was anything but ordinary.  It was for him. To honor this boy that was so full of love, life, and joy. The morning of the race I put all my GOBG gear on and attached a picture of Nate to my bib.  It made me feel like he was there with me.  I needed all the inspiration I could get for that day.  I couldn’t believe this day was finally here. As we set up at the starting line I fought back tears as I heard a girl behind me say    “I love their shirts…Go Out. Be Great. That is so cool!”  I was so proud to have that shirt on at that very moment. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful country side to run in.  There were some killer hills and a little more gravel roads than I had anticipated, but I kept trucking through.  Around mile 11 after finishing up with one of the biggest hills on the course, I was needing some help getting those last 2.10 miles done.  I rubbed that picture of Nate on my bib and I said “Okay Nate, help me out, run these last few miles with me!”  I smiled at that moment because I know he was.  He ran with all of us that day. This was one of the most inspiring events I’ve ever been a part of.  It was so GREAT to run with all these women .  Women that came with one goal: to honor Nate. It was an experience I would gladly do over again.  I will do my best every day to help honor this boy…to keep his memory alive for the friends that we love so dearly.  So with a heart full of love, I’m thankful for having been a part of this day and I thank you Justin and Katie for the love we were able to share with Nate. – Nate’s Aunt Crystal

Nine months can mark significant change in a woman’s life. Any mother out there can tell you a story or two about the havoc nine months can wreak on a girl’s body, whether actual child birth was involved or not. Unfortunately, after two 9-month sentences my body showed its story, no story telling necessary. Nine months ago marks another significant change in my life. I made a New Year’s resolution. Like most resolutions, I hoped I’d be able to dump this one in a few weeks. Then one morning, in a particularly caffeine-fueled Facebook message replete with the pre-dawn spontaneity of a mother whose children are still sleeping soundly, I asked my friend Katie if she wanted to sign up for a half marathon. I had heard there was wine involved. In a few hours, Katie responded that yes, she would do it. By that time, my caffeine-fueled optimism was a distant, fuzzy memory. I was scared out my mind by the commitment I just made. Because Katie was someone I wouldn’t dream of letting down. Katie provided daycare for my daughter for the first four years of her life. My little girl’s start in life was marked by the love that was showered upon her by Ms. Katie and those fabulous Baker boys. Katie’s strength in the face of unspeakable grief made me want to be strong. And so with that commitment, the next nine months began. Like the emotional roller coaster of my pregnancies, my training led me to experience denial of the looming challenge, excitement at what meeting that challenge might bring, and eventually, practical preparations for the big day. My training began in earnest in the “last trimester.” While that training may have been “earnest,” “pretty” it was not. I spent my summer mornings waking up extra early so no one in my neighborhood would see me run. I jiggle when I run. I sweat, too. There are people who experience a glow when they run. I am not one of them. I am embarrassed to say that the only sports injury I experienced in my entire life was the result of a sports bra malfunction early this summer. But still, I kept training. My mileage increased, and each week brought with it pride at reaching a new milestone and terror at having to surpass it in another week. I have tried and failed many times in my life to change my body, but this time I drew strength from the legacy of a very dear little boy. It was with Nate in mind that I laced up my sneakers four and five times a week to do something I never thought possible. Through this experience I learned that my body was never my enemy, it was always my mind. And when my mind was focused on the goal of being GREAT, my body just followed right in line. When I crossed that finish line last week, I still was not a pretty runner. Upon seeing a friend at the finish line cheering me on, I opened my mouth to shout a cheer, but I think a sob accidentally came out. No matter, because aside from the two days of my life when I gave birth, that day was the only other day I can say I was proud of what my body could do; the distance of it. I have to admit I was incredibly disappointed with my time for that race. I trained better and I know I can do better. So I’m signing up for another half-marathon in the spring because now I have something to prove. For me, Going Out and Being Great is more of a journey than a destination. But I will do this. I will do it for the love that my family and I have for Nate. – Jennifer Janowich

There are so many great stories from our Diva Half Marathon that I have split this blog into two posts!  Please stay tuned next week for part 2 and to read my thoughts on the day!  xoxo, Katie

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