May 2013 was my first Ragnar Relay, I was driver/ navigator for a van of 6 runners. Half were friends and the other half I had just met. In that forty-eight hours, that seemed like forever, we became a family. I watched how each of them pushed mile after mile with wings on their backs. This event was truly a life changing experience for us all, Running for Dylan.
I met Dylan several times. I saw how he hid under the benches at Extreme Fitness Martial Arts where we all trained. I watched how Nicole, Ian and Jake made sure he was set up with his head phones so as not to hear a bunch of us old folks yell at each other to go faster, be stronger and never give up. I noticed how he came out from under those benches and sat, sometimes flapping, because whatever he was watching made him happy. I sat beside him one day and didn’t dare move. He curled his tiny toes under my thigh and I felt like that was such a privilege. It felt like finally Dylan would trust me. Selfish, but it was a personal victory. Everyone at MXA lost Dylan on 12/14. And like a family, we rallied and did whatever we could to help honor Dylan. So, we ran.
After that first Ragnar experience, I decided I wanted to give it a go. I started training and entered my first race; the Newtown Turkey Trot 5K in November 2013. I hated every minute of it, but was determined to keep running. Group runs and 5Ks, miles and miles of training on the road. Everybody kept saying “you’ll get that runner’s high” - well that takes a while I learned. Fast forward to Ragnar Cape Cod 2014, I was runner #12, the last to go. It’s difficult to describe in words the emotions that flooded me when I crossed that finish line. The sea of purple cheering me on literally carried me through – I will never forget that moment.
In March 2015, I ran the New York City Half Marathon. Still not convinced I was a “runner”, I felt the responsibility to share what Dylan’s Wings of Change could offer. Nicole and Ian allowed me to support a growing organization in my hometown the Bronx, D3 Sports and Recreation that enable hundreds of children with special needs to access sports. The connections served as an incredible motivation.
Running for Dylan brought me back to Cape Cod in 2015 and my first Ragnar Trail in the summer of that year. At the 2016 Cape Cod Ragnar, I completed 22 miles. I’ve finished another half marathon since then and have signed up to take on the New York City Marathon 2017. Every time I think I can’t do more, I find the strength and inspiration to go above and beyond.
I still find it hard to consider myself a “runner”. To me, those people run fast, run often and make it look easy. I depend on my friends, those yells of “go faster, be stronger and never give up”. I need those memories of Dylan to help me get through those days when I don’t feel like running. I don’t list my accomplishments for a pat on the back. I share them because in May of 2013 I said I couldn’t do it. Because all these moments brought me an incredible circle of friends, a desire to motivate and a passion to make a difference. I will always Run 4 Dylan, in Lil Strides.