I ran, I raised, I conquered.

“So, what races do you have coming up?” Erica Davis, CAF (Challenged Athletes Foundation) athlete, casually asked me after she listed off what seemed to be more races than days in a year in her upcoming sports calendar. “Well”, I replied, “I have a few smaller races but someday I want to do a full marathon.” “What are you waiting for!?” she questioned with a persistent smile.

That was it. Those 5 words were all I needed to set my leg muscles twitching. I knew that I was in fact, waiting for nothing. It happened to be my 26th birthday and in that moment I made a promise to myself that this would be the year of ‘some days’. Why wait for some day, when I have the ability to do it NOW? In that moment I went online and impulsively registered for one of the toughest athletic challenges of my life – my mind was ready, however, my body needed some convincing. Los Angeles Marathon, I am coming for you.

So I ran. I have always been a runner and an athlete but 26.2 miles was a whole new beast. My older sister, a veteran of 4 marathons, joined my forces and we put in the miles. It wasn’t easy finding motivation on a chilling (for San Diego) morning or a solo 16 mile run in the rain after a week of the flu, but I didn’t sign up for this to be easy, right? Those days were overshadowed by the mornings where I couldn’t wait to wake up, tie my shoes and hit the road, growing in confidence and endurance with each mile. How good it felt to start my day with an hour of fresh air, a sunrise and a clear mind.  In that training period, these legs clocked over 400 miles.

And I raised. I decided to put some purpose behind the miles I had ahead of me. What better use of my efforts than to raise money for the very athletes who have been inspiring me every day since I started working for CAF.   I did the usual Facebook solicitation and friendly emails to my people but I wanted to take it one step further. I quickly took on the role of an event planner as my side job, secured a live band and together with the support of my family, threw an epic backyard fundraiser themed, ‘Get Your GIVE On’. Over 75 people got their dance, eat, drink, raffle and give on to support CAF. Jami Goldman-Marsailles shared her incredibly moving story, followed by a live performance by local San Diegan, Paul Cannon. Overall, my fundraising efforts reached nearly $10,000 and a new network of people found a genuine passion for a previously undiscovered cause.

And finally, I conquered. Someday was finally today. Mile 10 I was cool, mile 14 was steady, mile 19 was impossible, mile 23 was existential and mile 26.2 was pure elation and tears. The finish line was actually behind me. All of my doubts and fears vanished and were quickly replenished with certainty, relief and joy. The support of my coworkers, friends and loving family (including my 12-time marathon running mama) was truly overwhelming and the sense of accomplishment I experienced was unlike any other feeling. Hearing people say you are stronger than you think is one thing; proving it to yourself is where true self-confidence is created. To my inner voice that rarely stops to celebrate my own successes, I say, not this time! I am PROUD. That moment will be stored in my memory bank for all future challenges – be the girl crossing the finishing line. Be bold, live life with your hands in the air!

Whether it’s taking those first few steps to an active lifestyle or 26.2 miles of sweet pain, it’s my turn to ask, what are YOU waiting for?happyvbvb

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The Girl with the Pillow

The most cushion and comfort I would feel for the next few months was cuddled tightly beneath my crossed arms.  I stood at LAX making small talk with my parents staring up at the massive sign of rotating arrivals and departures. Behind the forced yet hopeful smiles were tears.  Mom and Dad, so proud and excited yet scared. After many I love you’s and all the well wishes in the world, I reached up for one last prolonged hug while my mom exclaimed through a teary smile, “Damn you and your adventurous spirit!”

While I slouched in line waiting for security, I looked ahead to a life that I couldn’t imagine and back on a life I knew so well, full of images, stability and comfort. What would my new existence look like? What would I look like there? Who would I meet? Where would I live? Why did I leave? Why did I leave?  It was in my heart.

I had to trust my instincts. In vulnerability and discomfort the only thing left to trust was my heart and gut.

I haven’t thought about that moment, since that moment, and now I am unknowingly using that strength to move forward through tough times. Be the girl with the pillow I tell myself. When having a bad day or week or month, I find refuge in knowing that I have been to that place before. Loneliness. I have learned to accept that feeling, without analyzing or overthinking why, and just simply feeling. When I arrived at a state of loneliness recently (which I had been afraid of feeling since I experienced it so intensely in Australia), I sat there, took it in and said OK, I can do this, bring it on. In that moment I felt free and knew that my inner strength would continue to build from that moment on. It would get easier, it always does.

I live life with my heart forward. I make decisions true to my instincts and although it can be dangerous at times, it is a part of my character that I have learned to embrace.

“Because in the end what matters most is how well did you live, how well did you love, how well did you learn to LET GO”. That quote has grown a part of my soul since I read it on a wall in Bali. Letting go is so hard, impossible at times, but it is in letting go that your present and future path is lit up, guiding you into a direction filled with clarity and contentment.

Fasten your seat belt. Be the girl with the pillow. Step out, be brave, be adventurous, let go.