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About six months before my 30th birthday, I decided I needed to take stock of where I was in my life and how I was living it. I have been an active person since I was a kid, but I found myself in a place where I did not like what I saw when I looked in the mirror.

We all go through difficult times in our lives, and at that point I had gotten out of a long relationship and had been having a lot of trouble finding work. I started to get lazy and down on myself. The problem is that I am a firm believer that the choices you make have a direct effect on your place in this world. As my mom and Yoda would say, “Do or do not, there is no try.” We can’t always control the job market, but having my butt glued to the couch all day did not help my mental or physical health. How could I present myself in a positive way when I wasn’t treating myself well?

That is when I got my butt off the couch and my feet into some running shoes.

I have a cousin who also lives in Los Angeles. She had been involved with a running team and told me she would train me for a half marathon. My father ran marathons my entire childhood, and when I was very young, I used to run with him. I won a medal at the age of 8 for coming in third place in my age category in a 5k race.

I was very excited to have her support, and I started to train along with other several friends of ours. It was great! I had a goal, I was active, and I was doing it with a group of friends. Getting in shape and meeting goals is always good for self-confidence. After months of training, we ran the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, and it was a great experience! We even had our own running shirts made:

After the Santa Barbara half, I ran the Long Beach International Half Marathon. I was hooked! My next step was to decide if I would train for another half or step it up to a marathon. My cousin helped to push me towards doing a full and got me involved with Team In Training.

If you have never heard of Team In Training, than you have been missing out. This is a wonderful organization that trains anyone for a half or full marathon, and you can run or walk. They also have a cycling team, a hiking team, and a triathlon team. In fact, they have trained over half a million people to compete in events all around the country. More importantly, this is no ordinary running team; this is a team that trains and fund raises to help end cancer. Team In Training is a partner to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Since their inception, they have raised over $1.2 billion to fund lifesaving research.

When you join Team In Training, you will get into shape, you will set and achieve goals, you will make friends, you will have an amazing support staff, and you will MAKE A DIFFERENCE. You will have the opportunity to get to know people who are fighting for their lives, you will meet people who run to remember those who we have lost, and you will learn how little it can take to help change the world.

My Team In Training team’s Honored Teammate Captain is Virginia Gardner. She is an amazing woman who not only kicked cancer’s ass but continues to fight for others. She is a perfect example of what we can do if we all get up and do something. The drug that has kept her in remission was funded by money that Team In Training raised.

Now I know that I went off on a tangent and that I am writing about running, but my experiences with becoming a runner and what it has meant to me will always be tied to becoming a better me, and working to save lives is part of that.

I ran the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon in June of 2010. It was the HARDEST thing I had ever done. I ran in honor of many people, but the one that helped push me through was my grandmother, Harriet Kruger, who I lost in 2008. My grandmother was a 30-year colon cancer survivor and a very large part of who I am today. In the moments of my race that I was physically hurting more than I ever had in my life, it was her voice in my mind that pushed me through. It is hard to explain how it felt to cross that finish line and what it meant to me, but all I can say is that it was life-changing.

After this great experience, the next running season I rejoined as a mentor for Team In Training, which means I was a support for others who were training for their races.

Since I began running in 2009, I have run two 5ks, two 10ks, one 15k, five half marathons, and two full marathons. I’ve lost over 20 pounds and am now in the best shape of my life. I know that I can achieve anything I set my heart and mind to. I am a better and happier me. I encourage everyone to get up and do something to better themselves and others.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I… I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. ~ Robert Frost

Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.  ~ William James

I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.  ~ Edward Everett Hale

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.  ~ Mother Teresa

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.  ~ Nelson Henderson

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” ~ Gandhi