Diva Half Marathon PART 2

A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they’re capable of understanding ~ Steve Prefontaine

This half marathon was one of the most emotion filled days. I prayed throughout, Friday and Saturday, that God and Nate would see me through this. I had little to no training because of recent injuries and a concussion but there was never a doubt in my mind that I would do this. At times, during the first half of the race, I actually thought” this is not me”. I know I couldn’t run this alone and it was as if I wasn’t in control of my own body during the race.  I had a great race. As I got close to the end of the course, extremely fatigued and sore, I realized I could not cross that finish line alone.  As I approached the finish line, I actually turned to run back. Everyone was running towards the finish and I was running away. I wanted Katie. I wanted to finish this race with her or behind her. I have said for the last year since we lost our Nate that I will have my daughter’s back no matter what. I will always have her back if she falls or if she needs me so I knew I needed to finish the race that way too.  As I ran behind her, and saw her grab those beautiful grandchildren of mine, push through the intense physical and raw emotions as she crossed that finish line, I knew that was what this day was for.  I then waited and ran back a mile or so to bring Jennie in, I had never seen her so emotion filled and full of raw love. The sense of accomplishment and the reason we all finished. It was never about time. It was about love! It was about Nate! To the moon and back!  - Nate’s Nanny

About 2 weeks before the race my Mom gave me a necklace that held the word “Hope” and a “N” charm. That necklace is what I clung to the entire race. I never thought I could do it. 13.1 miles. Are you kidding me? That’s about 13.1 more miles than I’ve ever ran before! As I was approaching the finish line, I remember how shocked I was that I’d held it together, emotionally, the entire race. Then as I was passing the photographer, right before the finish she said “Keep being great for that little boy”. In that moment it all hit me. I knew that I could finish. I knew that there was a purpose for the 13.1 miles we just completed. So many people stayed until we had all finished. People who I had never met, friends, and family cheering us on until the very end. My heart is full knowing that there is hope for my family’s future and that we finished this race for Nate. –  Nate’s Aunt Jennie

At the beginning of this journey we were asked to pick a word to live up to. I picked Perseverance. The definition of perseverance is “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” I have thought about this word a lot the last few months, and what it means to me. When I began this challenge I asked that a few friends of mine embrace this contest with me. It was a huge hurdle for all of us, and we were scared, but my heart was full when they said yes. As months of training went by, I received emails and calls encouraging me. Some of us would get together to run from time to time and challenge each other to be better. My friends would always contact me and tell me how Nate motivated them or spoke to them while they were running. Nate had brought us together for this and we would not give up. As the half marathon approached, I kept thinking about how I would feel that morning seeing all of my family and friends together. I kept thinking of Nate and how if it wasn’t for him I may never have had this experience, and I might never have known what I am capable of. The first few miles of the half marathon course were crowded, and a few of my friends and I were running close to each other. I enjoyed this time with them. We were not talking, but we would glance over while running and we knew what each other was thinking. “This is for NATE.” After about four miles, the course opened up and everyone went their own pace. We all seemed to get lost in the experience. Throughout the course, I just kept thinking of them, and our friendships. Many of them are from different chapters of my life. These people that were enduring this hardship with me that day have been the same people that have been there for me since the beginning. They have encouraged me through email, listened to me fall apart, and have cried with me. They have celebrated and rallied for the Nathan Chris Baker Foundation. These people have contributed and collected Dannon codes and they helped build that playground. These people are my lifelong friends. About halfway through the course I was feeling tired and my right foot was beginning to get really sore. I knew a blister was forming, but Nate must have known that I needed a reminder of my word for the year, “Perseverance.” As I came around the corner I saw a “Go Out Be Great for Nate” shirt. It was our dear friend and his children cheering us on. I almost cried when I saw him, but they were clapping and he stuck out his hand. I realized that the song “Roar” had come on my music player and the words “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire. ‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR” spoke to me over and over. I picked up my pace and I slapped his hand while running by. I did not give my foot another thought. I Persevered, I ROARED. I didn’t think after that, I just pushed every thought of pain aside. There was never a notion of giving up, and for all you girls that remember miles 9 through 11, you know that there were many opportunities to give up, many hills that I could have stopped, but I didn’t because “we are champions .” Coming towards the finish line I could see my family, but especially my daughter jumping and clapping, while screaming “Go Mommy!” My heart melted, but I just dug deep and crossed that finish line. I made my way through the photo area and barely stopped to grab my medal. I definitely needed a few minutes to regroup and compose myself. I stood there and watched the people cross and I got teary eyed while thinking, “I did it.” Many people have told me that the picture of me coming toward the finish line made me look so focused. I was focused! I was focused on doing this for Nate. I was determined to do my best for Nate and nothing was going to stop me! I was determined to show my kids that their mommy was keeping her promise to persevere. When I finally made my way back to the group I saw those same people, the people that are always there. My rocks: my family and my friends. I cried as I hugged each one of them. I kept thinking, “We did it! We did it for Nate and we did it for each other.” We proved to ourselves and to our kids that we can do anything…and with every new challenge we will be steadfastness, despite difficulty or delay, and we will achieve success! Nate, we will PERSEVERE.~ Nate’s Aunt Jackie

It was such an honor to train for and run this race with family and friends. Over this past year I’ve witnessed my extended family experience every parents worst nightmare. As a new mom to a spirited little boy it breaks my heart for them. But when I read Katie’s words that she writes from her heart, I am amazed by her strength and her faith, and I am inspired. The Bakers define their foundations slogan. They are living it each day with everything they have accomplished in such a short time in Nate’s memory. DIVA was the most difficult 13.1 miles I have ever run. It was extremely hilly and a difficult course and as an inaugural race there were some pretty big hiccups. But it was worth all of it to be out on a course where each turn I saw a runner wearing a Go Out. Be Great shirt or cheering us on in a shirt. And after the race hearing stories of greatness. One of the girls offered up her compression sleeve along the course to a stranger. One of my friends said that she was struggling at the end and two of our teammates that she had never met saw her and said “you are going to finish with us” and they ran with her the rest of the way. It seemed that every time any doubt creeped in my head I would see a shirt and I would dig deeper. It was truly a reminder of why we were there, to show support for a cause and a family that did not give up, but instead they inspire us all to Go Out. Be Great. – Mary Dowdy

When Katie mentioned the Diva half to me and asked if I was interested in running, I knew immediately that the answer was yes. Not running was not even an option! I didn’t say yes because I love to run, or because I love the challenge, or even because I know how healing running can be. I said yes because I wanted to support Katie and her family. I wanted to encourage their mission. I wanted to go out, and be great for them…and Nate. More importantly, I wanted others to see the Baker family’s tremendous faith in Christ. The Bakers made a choice to take a tragedy and turn it into a blessing for others. I am sure many hearts have been softened, changed, and turned back to the Lord through the actions of this family. Training for the13.1 mile race was not new to me but very different. It helped me grow closer to some people and even make a new friend or two. I think Katie helped and allowed us all to grieve with her, which was quite unselfish. Running the 13.1 hilly, slippery, gravel, dirt road, and did I mention hilly course, with this amazing group of ladies was simply an honor. – Susan Young

I’ve known the Baker family going on 3 years now. I was blessed to find Katie in my search of daycare providers. She has been nothing but loving and caring to my daughter during her days with her. It’s also something to find a fantastic parental resource as we have with Katie. Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare, so when I got the news of Nate’s passing, I knew I would do whatever I could to support her and her family. I’ve bought raffle tickets, attended the Fun Day, bought items from the holiday open house, bought Danimals, and spent a few hours entering long weird numbers into Excel for the Mechanicsville PTA in their hunt for a new playground. When Katie brought up the idea of running a half marathon I was all for it. I’ve been running for a few years now, doing nothing more than 5k’s and running as part of a relay team for the Baltimore Marathon. I’ve always wanted to do a half but never thought I had it in me. I’ve never been one to complete projects. I’m quick to make an excuse and give up. So, I started training and wearing my GOBG shirt on my runs with the goal of completing this half for myself and for the Bakers. Wearing my GOBG shirt is just another way I can support Katie and her family. If I can get one person to see my shirt each week on my run, that’s one more person to learn about Nate and what this amazing family is doing in his memory. I found myself extremely emotional thinking about this amazing group of women who were pushing past their boundaries preparing to run this race. The day of the race finally came and as we all know, it did not go as planned. We were all late; I even missed the start. But as soon as I was on that “road” running, I felt like I was being carried….carried by this group, this family, carried by Nate. I’ve never felt so good or conquered “rolling hills” as I did that day. Every time I would run by someone wearing a GOBG shirt I would give a wave or smile of encouragement. Most of us have never even met before, but we were all there together for the same reason…to be great. I look forward to the next (preferably a paved, flat) one!!! – Kim Drake

In January, I signed up to run the Diva half. I wanted to support my friends even though running wasn’t really my thing. At that point, 1 mile was a challenge and I was in physical therapy for my knees so 13 Miles seemed like a bit of a stretch!  Throughout months of training, I had a lot of knee pain and at some points wanted to give up. I kept thinking about what Justin and Katie and their families have gone through and no amount of my physical pain could ever even compare.  Being at the run with so many wonderful people who were (or seemed) as nervous as I was made me so proud to be on Nate’s team! While I was running through the beautiful (and hilly) country, I found myself fighting tears as I thought about the impact that Nate and his amazing family are making. Thank you for continuing to share your hearts and allowing me to be a part of this journey. God has always been there and continues to carry us when we feel like we just can’t take one more step.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

– Mindy Fredenberger


When I was first asked to run a half marathon, with my friend Jenn, I didn’t even hesitate on saying YES. I wanted to encourage her along the way but, also, it had always been a bucket list item for me.  Running distance was something I always wanted to do but never had the courage to fight for.  In years past, I always viewed it as something I would sign up for with great intentions but knew even before starting, I probably wouldn’t follow through.  But something was different this time – I didn’t question it. I just said yes. I knew I needed to challenge myself, I needed the accomplishment of finishing something, a goal, an achievement to be proud of. Right away, I thought it would be fun and encouraging to get a few girls on board to support and run with me but never did I imagine the support, love, and number of Divas that would decide to register and Be Great. For Nate.  On race day, we had around 50 ladies that ran either the Diva Half Marathon or the 5K.   About a month before the race, I miss-stepped on the stairs and found myself in a brace for a sprained ankle. Just 2 days prior to spraining my ankle, I had run a very confident 10 mile training run with a few of the girls running the half marathon for Go Out Be Great and was really entering the last month of Diva training on a runners high.  I felt confident after that 10 mile run.  I even thought I may be able to beat the goal time I had set for myself in the very beginning of training.  After the sprain, I stopped training due to pain and at some point decided to just rest the ankle until race day so that I didn’t hurt it any worse. I had a few friends tell me not to push my ankle, don’t run on an injury, you’ve already done such an amazing thing by organizing all these women to run for Nate.  But quitting was not an option. I knew I was strong and I knew that with Nate on my side I would finish this race no matter the pain it caused. So, as September 14th approached, I took my Motrin and headed out to race. I thought I’d be nervous. I thought I’d be overwhelmed with emotions.  Overwhelmed with friends and family and support and grief and pride. Funny thing, I was just full of peace.  I was able to look around before the race, at the start of the race, during, and after and just take it all in. Watching everyone that came together for us in amazement of love and greatness.  I don’t have words to describe the traffic, the delayed start, the hills, the gravel roads, and the strength from inside it took to get through this 13.1 mile race.  I can’t begin to pretend this race was easy for me, I wasn’t carried and I had to really dig deep. I ran on an injured ankle and in pain. I ran 13.1 miles and certainly felt my loss of 4 weeks training. Any long distance runner will tell you that loss of training isn’t easy. I remember at around mile 9 as I pushed up yet another hill, with tears in my eyes, I looked to the sky and prayed. I prayed for all the ladies that have supported me and ran with me. I prayed to Nate and told him of all my love for him. And I prayed that God would give me that courage and strength to overcome the pain and finish what I’d started. As I ran toward the finish I saw my mom waiting for me.  I grabbed her hand and raised it overhead – we did it!  Then as I turned the last corner of the run and saw my family standing there, with smiles on their faces as they cheered, I was rushed with emotion. Everything became a blur of what was going on around me but in that moment I grabbed Kaylee and held her while kissing Drew’s hand, and ran through that finish line for Nate, with them. That may of been the hardest steps I took of the entire race but it didn’t matter how physically exhausted my body was, in the moment, the only thing that made sense was to have my children with me. As I look at the picture now, my eyes fill with tears. I love my children with every ounce of my being and will always give them every ounce of what I have left to give!  ~  I am honored to run this race with every one of the girls that ran!  I had my friend, Amy, by my side till the very end pushing me through.  I am honored to have crossed the finish line with my mother, running in behind me, supporting me like she always has. I am honored to have finished this race with the support of Justin, the kids, my family, friends, and runners that I now consider friends. I was honored to complete this race with Drew, Kaylee, and Nate at my side. I know Nate saw me through. He was cheering as he ran with me through that finish line and I know he’s cheering for us every day. It became more than just a race. It became a journey for Nate. We all used the day in a different way but I think in the end we all came out stronger. In the end, I think we all knew, there was a beautiful boy pulling us through. We will keep being GREAT for you Nate. – All my love, Katie

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