This race is part of my 2016 quest to do 12 races in honor of people with ALS who have been an inspiration to me. This is Race #8. Remind yourself of the awesomeness that is Sarah Coglianese here.

The best explanation of ALS I’ve ever heard came from a 5-year-old, my friend Stacy’s son:

“ALS is when a person’s nerves are broken so they get confused. They stop talking to the muscles and telling the muscles to move. Eventually the muscles get so weak that they can’t move anymore and the person dies.”

img_8014-e1449163664671-450x450I have been so touched by how much kids wanted to do something for Team Drea. They saw mommy or daddy training, supporting a cause and a friend, racing, getting a medal, feeling accomplished, being healthy . . . seemed like a pretty good setup for a variety of life lessons.

So I decided to do another virtual race, patterned after the success of SwimBikeMom’s Be Brave, Be Thankful virtual race last Thanksgiving, which was so fun, so meaningful, and raised $4,000 for ALS research. This time, I came up with the theme of Heroes & She-roes – to show them you’re never too young to be a hero for ALS.

14063921_10154308979291327_8082060054846559430_nI reached out to SwimBikeMom (aka Meredith) to ask for the name of her medal vendor, but when she offered to run the event for me, I said YES with a whole bunch of !!!s. Even with SwimBikeSell taking out a (very reasonable) administrative fee, I figured it would be worth it since her network is much, much larger than mine. Besides, I wouldn’t have to organizethe thing, which was especially enticing since I was planning for Labor Day weekend and I’d be traveling in New England for the whole month of August.

So I was super excited about how this was coming together: we had a proven fundraising strategy; we were tapping into a much broader set of networks this time — Team Drea, my friends & family, SwimBikeMom’s army, and the ALS.net community; and we were focusing on kids as a new audience. What could possibly go wrong?!?!

Reality Check

Because what inspires me most about Sarah’s writing is that she’s honest even about the things she’s not proud of, I’m going to try to be too.

I was pretty disappointed about the turnout. We cut it a little close by having less than 2 weeks for registration, but when there were only 65 signups with only a few days left before the deadline, Meredith and I began to panic.

“How many people participated in Be Brave, Be Thankful?” I asked over email, dreading the answer.

“About 400,” came Meredith’s reply. Oof.

My secret, arbitrary goal of $10,000 seemed hopelessly out of reach. Matching our $4,000 achievement from Be Brave, Be Thankful even seemed far-fetched. Meredith said we might make $1,500-$2,000.

Being honest, I took it personally, even though I knew I shouldn’t. My insecurities bubbled up: Why didn’t we open up registration sooner? Why did I stupidly overlook the obvious bad timing with back-to-school? Why hadn’t I just stuck with Be Brave, Be Thankful? Why had I been narcissistic enough to assume my story would compel people (especially strangers) to participate a second time?

And it didn’t help my ego that Sarah’s #WhatWouldYouGive campaign had just raised over $120k in just a couple weeks (now closing in on $180,000!). Seriously?! This girl already writes better than I do, has a bigger online following than I ever will, AND she’s a powerhouse fundraiser to boot? I felt like the kid sister who would never live up to her older sister’s glamorous high school life (glam ALS life? I can hear you laughing, Sarah…)

Of course, when I said any of this out loud to DP, the rational side of me could agree and nod along with his sensible reassurances. Of course it wasn’t a competition. Of course any money raised for ALS research was good, more than would have been existed otherwise. Yes, yes, yes. I know, I know, I know.

But still. I felt like a failure and a fool.

Registrations finally started rolling in a couple of days before the deadline. In SwimBikeMom’s online group, the Tri-Fecta, some people donated races so more kids could participate. I was touched and relieved. Her army – my tribe – came through again. My friends and Team Drea also stepped up. I started feeling a bit better.

The Race

Although the race was virtual, I organized a meetup for about 20 local Team Drea members and their families on the American Tobacco Trail on a sunny Labor Day morning. Rules were simple: go as fast and as far as you want, as long as you’re at Biscuitville by 11am.

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The rail-to-trail looked flat but it had a slight downhill so I set off with some of my faster running friends on my beast of a handcycle. My friends Mary and Heather later told me – separately – that their 2- and 3-year-olds went tearing after me, pumping their little legs as fast as they would go. Oops…I didn’t realize. I guess they got an early life lesson on what DP has said many times, “she’s a pain in the butt to run with.” ?

(BTW, I paid for it on the way back. Lots of stopping, resting, forrrrrcing the handcrank slowly around each rotation).

I did 3 miles total, my longest distance on The Beast so far, but that’s about all that’s worth describing about my race. Far more interesting (and adorable) is to look at just a smattering of examples of kids participating in Heroes & She-roes:

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By seeing these images ^^, I hope the lesson is as obvious to you as the smack to the head it was for me:

Yes, the money for ALS research is critically important, but Team Drea has never onlybeen about the money.

Somehow, through donations on top of registration fees, SwimBikeSell’s contribution, and a random, fabulous donation from Window World, we made $4,000 for ALS.net. I am proud of that.

But nothing compares to how I feel when I see a face like this. Thank you for teaching me my own life lesson.

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