Neil Heckman – 2014 Gilda’s Club NYC Marathon Team
Out of all of the memories I have from training for my first marathon, there’s one that stands out to me more than any – and one that has motivated me to maintain a consistent and passionate involvement with Gilda’s Club.
It was a hot August night. I was rounding out mile 9 of a training run around the reservoir in Central Park, and I was trying to think of an answer to the question “why do I care about cancer?”
Now, before I give off the wrong impression, let me backtrack and explain my thought process.
Like many people, I’ve had grandparents who passed away as a result of cancer complications after they had lived long and happy lives. Some of my best friends have lost parents, siblings, aunts, and/or uncles prematurely to the terrible disease – so of course, when I was trying to answer the question “why do I care about cancer?” I immediately thought of those instances.
However, I’ll admit that until I’d heard of Gilda’s Club, I was living with slight tunnel vision when it came to cancer; I always kept the people living with cancer in the forefront of my thoughts, but I never gave much thought to the support teams that go into helping someone fight cancer, or the support teams that help those supporters.
So like I was saying, I was rounding out mile 9 of my training run on that hot night in August, and it suddenly dawned on me. I actually don’t care about cancer at all. In fact, I hate cancer, and I hate that we have to talk about it on a regular basis, and that it negatively impacts so many people, families, and friends. But the truth is, when you hate something, it means that (in a sort of catch-22 fashion), you actually do care about it.
And because I care, and because I wanted to do more to help those who were living with cancer, I ran the 2014 New York City Marathon, and I was honored to have had the opportunity to raise money and awareness as a member of the Gilda’s Club team. There were many charities and organizations that runners could have signed up for – rotary clubs, local camps for children, and other cause-related organizations – all of which are extremely important, but for me the choice could not have been more clear.
So after running more than 800 miles to train through 2014 (not a typo), on November 2nd, 2014 I ran through my own injuries, and 50 MPH winds. I ran because I care for those who had run, who do run, and for those who will run in 2016 and every year. I ran for those who want to run, but are no longer able to. I ran because I care for those who have fought, who do fight, and for those who are supporting the fighters. And lastly, I ran, I raised funds, and I raised awareness because I care for those who are living with cancer, and in the most difficult race of all – the one for their lives. I carried them with me, as Gilda’s Club has carried so many people who live with cancer. And now it’s your turn.
With Gilda’s Club, together, we can make more strides toward finishing every race.
Bridgette Payne – 2014 Gilda’s Club NYC Marathon
I grew up watching my Dad run marathons. He was even crazy enough to run ultra-marathons (35 mile tortures). He may have passed down his eye color and sense of determination to me, but his desire to run marathons must be a trait that skips generations. I don’t like running. But in 2014, I ran the New York City Marathon in less than 4.5 hours.
I have been involved with Gilda’s Club for 4 years, and have been raising money for the organization through many of their activities such as the 5 Boro Bike Tour, and I was looking for more of a challenge.
In my career in medicine, I watch my patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments – their own personal marathons that they did not choose to run. I chose to run the New York City Marathon to challenge myself, and to push myself through something that I really didn’t want to do. I wanted to put myself in my patients shoes and the members of Gilda’s Club and show them that they are not alone in their fight.
As I tied up my running shoes every time I trained and on the day of the marathon dreading the miles ahead of me, I thought of the cancer survivors that had to push themselves to get up every morning, go to their doctor’s visits, get to work or school, and take care of other people’s needs.
When you run the marathon, you feel like you can’t go any further, but you don’t give up – much like the fight against cancer. Everyone who runs the marathon raises a lot of money for Gilda’s Club, and all the money goes to a good cause. Running down the streets of Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, the crowds cheering me on were so uplifting and helped me keep going.
I hope that everyone who runs this year’s marathon has as much fun as I had, and that the money that is raised for Gilda’s club uplifts the members as much as the roar of the crowds do when you cross the finish line! And for those of you wondering, although I say I will never ever ever run again, don’t be too surprised if you see me next November telling my dad to slow down.
Claire Shorenstein, MS, RDN, CDN – 2015 Gilda’s Club NYC Marathon Team
I ran the NYC marathon for the first time in 2010. It was my second marathon, and I had trained extremely hard with the help of a coach to run a Boston Qualifying time. I remember waiting to start on a perfectly sunny, crisp day. The atmosphere was electric, and I was overcome by emotion as I crossed the start line and took in the amazing views from the Verrazano Bridge.
Brooklyn was a huge party – I got caught up in the excitement and reached mile 13 feeling unusually fatigued. It was way too early to be tired as I entered Queens, and yet every mile was a battle to stay on pace. Cheers from my friends, family and thousands of strangers carried me along 1st Avenue. I felt my goal slipping away as I made my way through the Bronx and up 5th Avenue (where did that hill come from?!), but then something happened when I entered Central Park.
I felt a renewed sense of determination and clawed my way back to my goal over the last two miles, unleashing this fury I didn’t know existed. I simply refused to accept defeat – I had worked too hard for that – and found another gear that catapulted me forward to finish in 3:39:36. I was in complete shock as I hobbled my way through the chute. I eventually found my Dad and whispered “I did it” as he gave me a huge hug, which unlocked a flood of tears and a huge smile.
That first NYC marathon was a pivotal experience. It inspired me to start a blog, become a certified running coach, and push myself harder to reach new running goals. It gave me the courage to go back to grad school at the age of 30 to begin the long, challenging road towards becoming a Registered Dietitian. It solidified my relatively new relationship with my now husband, who also ran that day (his first marathon). It motivated me to coach the Gilda’s Marathon Team in 2012 with Physical Equilibrium and to continue every year thereafter so that I could share this incredible NYC event with others while supporting a great charity. This marathon holds a very special place in my heart, and I had always wanted to run it again – not racing it all out, but at a pace that would allow me to be more present and enjoy every step. Last year I finally got to do just that.
My husband and I love to take on running challenges together, so in preparation for a 50-mile race, we joined the 2015 Gilda’s NYC Marathon Team to train and raise money in memory of our dear friend Noirin, a longtime runner and Gilda’s Club member who passed away in June 2015.
After finishing the marathon in 2013 as part of the Gilda’s team, Noirin started the 2014 race but wasn’t able to finish due to a painful side effect of her cancer treatment. Her DNF must have been very disappointing after training hard and finishing the previous year, but she remained cheerful as always and eager to hear about everyone else’s race. Last year, we celebrated her life and finished the marathon for her. As we crossed the start line, I pictured her smile, her laugh, her strength, her determination, and her positive spirit. It was an ongoing source of inspiration during our race and beyond.
This year I am not racing, but I am equally excited to coach my fifth Gilda’s Club NYC Marathon team alongside Coach Sara Dimmick! If you are considering running the marathon, please join our team – we offer an intimate group training environment with personalized coaching and nutrition advice in exchange for your support of an incredible organization. Take it from me – the NYC marathon is a life changing experience, and you won’t find the same energy and crowd support anywhere else in the world!
Peter Wohlsen – 2010 & 2014 Gilda’s Club NYC Marathon Team
When I was younger, I always figured I could run a marathon. Then I was hit by a car while crossing the street and it shattered my leg. I wasn’t so sure I could run—let alone run a marathon–anymore. But I still didn’t really want to anyway.
That was a year and half after my Mom learned she had breast cancer and 7 months after she died. I don’t know how I would have survived that time without Gilda’s Club. When cancer hits you, it overwhelms your life. Gilda’s Club and running, neither of which asked me for anything besides participation, got me through. The support Gilda’s provided was both priceless and free.
After a few years of recovery, I managed to score a ticket to Gilda’s Club’s annual gala. Coincidentally, it was the first year they fielded a marathon team. For the first time in my life, I wanted to run a marathon. I signed up that night.
Over the next year I trained hard bringing friends and strangers along with me through my blog runpeglegrun.com. Fundraising for Gilda’s Club was easy. We only needed to raise $3000 and I raised over $16,000. It was the race that was the challenge. I hoped to qualify for the Boston Marathon but fell just short. Missing that goal, though, helped me to remember the real purpose of my efforts: to honor my Mom and to thank Gilda’s Club.
Gilda’s Club gave me one more life enriching opportunity by asking me to speak at the next year’s gala–two weeks after that first marathon. Telling my story to a room of 400 gowned and black-tied people and being able to publicly thank Gilda’s Club for all they’ve done for me remains one of the proudest moments of my life.
I’m grateful for all that Gilda’s Club has provided me and I hope to continue to give back. Let my words be an inspiration.
If you’re interested in running the New York Marathon, there is no better team to run for than Gilda’s Club. Running for charity and specifically running for Gilda’s is the best way to get a number. If the fundraising is intimidating, I am happy to help. Doing NYRR’s 9+1 program costs nearly half the money you need to raise while running countless races around Central Park on weekend mornings.
If it’s the running that intimidates, the Gilda’s Club team will help you do more than survive. The unparalleled coaching, support and camaraderie are fringe benefits next to the good you are doing for yourself and people with cancer in their lives. In a world where so many of us are touched by cancer, you–like all Gilda’s Club members–will THRIVE.
Incidentally, 2 years after I first ran on Gilda’s Club’s marathon team, my Grandfather was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In August of that year, I asked if Gilda’s had any extra numbers and was able to join the team again (runpeterrobertrun.com). I had the honor of running the 2014 NYC Marathon for my Grandfather and again for Gilda’s Club. It wasn’t my fastest marathon but it was the greatest marathon I’ve ever run. I can’t run this year so, please, run for me, run for you, run for Gilda’s and for all of us who are touched by cancer.
MaryBeth Williams – 2012 Gilda’s Club NYC Marathon Team
You should probably know that I was always the one picked last in gym class. I was the bookish kid, the one who never played sports, never joined teams. For most of my adult life, I’d have scoffed at the idea of even running for a bus. So what was I doing, on a chilly November morning, getting up while it was still dark outside and getting ready to run 26.2 miles? The answer was easy — I was doing it for Gilda’s.
I began running a decade ago, when I moved to an apartment building advantageously close to a park. Inspired by the early morning joggers I could see from my front door, I bought a pair of sneakers and one day decided to just go out and give it a try. Running soon became part of my regular routine, a special time for me — a working mom of two young children — to connect with myself and my thoughts. Then a few years ago, when I got Stage 4 melanoma, running became something else. It became a way for me to feel like myself in the midst of a profoundly scary and stressful time. The other thing that helped me feel that way was Gilda’s Club.
My daughters, my spouse, and I all started coming to Gilda’s Club shortly after my diagnosis. Our nights there quickly became an important highlight of every week, a time to connect with a whole new group of friends. Even on the hardest days, knowing we had Gilda’s to turn to — with our support groups or at parties or family fun nights — made the entire experience easier for all of us. It was fitting then that I was at Gilda’s when my doctor called to tell me that my latest scans showed no evidence of disease. Gilda’s had given us so much. It didn’t take long for me to figure out I wanted to give something back.
But while my prognosis was better than I could have hoped, I still had to continue my often grueling clinical trial. So maybe when I asked my doctor if he thought it would be wise to fundraise and train with Gilda’s marathon team, I had hoped a little he’d say no. I’d never run any race longer than a 5K. I was on experimental drugs. He told me, “Go for it.”
I went for it. I trained for six months with a fantastic group of people and a trainer who offered advice and encouragement every step of the way. I raised money for an organization that offers so much to so many other New Yorkers just like me, just like my family.
I won’t lie — it was hard. I racked up hours and hours and hours of training, of early mornings and blisters. I discovered a strong distaste for sports gels. On the day of my marathon, I spent a fair amount of time in my own head, wondering what on earth I had talked myself into and why. But I kept in my mind the mantra our trainer had shared: I want it more than I fear it. I wanted it. And when I crossed the finish line, I felt invincible.
In the end, I achieved something while undergoing cancer treatment that I had never achieved before — certainly not when I was an awkward kid cowering in gym class. I became something, while undergoing cancer treatment, that I had never been before. Not just a patient. An athlete. A marathoner. I couldn’t become one if not for Gilda’s. And I couldn’t be prouder to have run for Gilda’s Club.
Sara Dimmick – 2010 Gilda’s Club NYC Marathon Team; 2009-2018 #TEAMGILDA Coach
As a runner and coach, I’m so happy to be part of the Gilda’s Club network. My company Physical Equilibrium has been coaching the Gilda’s Club Marathon team for 8 years now! We got involved so that we could support the teammates who were donating their time, fundraising, and sweat to raise awareness and provide support for people living with, or who have been affected by, cancer.
I personally have been touched by cancer. The list is not short: family, classmates, clients, friends, old and young. The work and support that Gilda’s Club provides is unparalleled. Doctors and nurses can only provide so much help. It’s the emotional support and having others to talk to and understand that creates the human bond and helps heal.
I love coaching the marathoners. Many on the team are 1st timers and it is an amazing goal to accomplish. Complete a 26.2 mile race! Just like going through cancer treatment, you need a lot of support to get through an endurance race like a marathon. The camaraderie of the team with the other runners, coaches and the staff at Gilda’s Club makes the team aspect fun and supportive.
I’ve had the opportunity to not only coach the runners but run on the team too. Knowing that you are training and running for such an amazing organization pushes you and gets you to the starting line on race day. The NYC Marathon is like no other race. Running over bridges with views of Manhattan and through the 5 boroughs is amazing! The energy of the runners and the spectators you will not find in any other race in the world. It goes on for the full 26.2 miles!
We would love to have you as part of our NYC Marathon team this year. You can join as a runner, support crew, fundraiser, or sponsor. Your donation helps support and heal those living with or touched by cancer.
Kristin McCann – 2011 & 2015 Gilda’s Club NYC Marathon Team
I grew up in a family where laughter was the backbone of our spirit. I was well aware of Gilda Radner from Saturday Night Live, particularly through my Mom who would do an impression of Roseanne Roseannadanna!
I was 19 years old when my mother passed away of a brain tumor. Her incredible sense of humor (and cursing) has continued to stay with me. It took me some time to process the loss but in 2011, I finally found a way to celebrate her life. I saw a posting in my neighborhood on a well-known building with a red door, publicizing openings available on Gilda’s marathon team. They were looking for runners to help fundraise while getting a guaranteed entry into the NYC Marathon! I could not think of a better way to cherish my mom’s spirit.
Not only did I discover fundraising for Gilda’s Club rewarding but found an amazing community of people. The marathon led me to the Associate Board where I was able to collaborate with peers who shared similar journeys and enable me to find a family of friends.
I ran for Gilda’s Club again in 2015 as a tribute to my father who had recently passed away. In 2011, he appeared in 3 boroughs to cheer me on. He was so impressed and supportive of the work Gilda’s Club is doing that I knew he would be thrilled. It was only fair I run all 5 boroughs for him.