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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sorting Out Boston



"Let not young souls be smothered out before they do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride." Vachel Lindsay

When I did an interview last year with a local Boston radio station, I told the audience Boston was my favorite city (outside of Milwaukee) and I meant it.

I visited Boston for the first time when I was fresh out of college.  I brought my freshly minted chemical engineering degree to Boston hoping to land a job with one of the local consulting firms.   I had two interviews, but the economy in the early 1980’s was worse than today. With double digit inflation and unemployment, companies were laying off employees not hiring.

I spent my time between interviews exploring Boston. I stayed outside the city so I even got to experience Boston driving.  I walked the freedom trail, took in a ball game at Fenway Park and wondered around the neighborhoods of Beacon Hill and the Back Bay.  I fell in love with Boston and since my first visit it has been a special place for me.

My second visit was just a few years later to attend a professional conference. The professional society running the conference held a 5 K race along the Charles River. I took 3rd in my age group, my first running medal ever.  That visit I stayed in the Back Bay area in a lovely bed & breakfast owned by a retired school teacher.

I returned again last year to run the Boston Marathon, the accomplishment of a long held dream. I set a goal of finishing in the top three in my division.  I was also doing a bit of media to promote awareness of CMT.  I felt the pressure to succeed due to the media and expectations within the CMT community. I achieved my goal by finishing 2nd in the Mobility Impaired Division.  Running the Boston Marathon was even better than I imagined.  The crowds were absolutely incredible. They cheered for me near the back of the pack like I was an elite athlete.  The race was brutal due to the heat.  Due to the tough conditions and expectations I set on myself, I felt I did not enjoy the experience as much as I could have.

I vowed this year’s Boston would be a celebration. I would have a good time and put no pressure on myself. I was also bringing two friends as guides because I wanted them to share in the Boston experience. Plus they would carry everything I needed for the day, making my run much easier. So this Boston was going to be about having fun and enjoying the experience. I wanted to really remember the experience because with my CMT, I never know if a race I run will be my last.

Usually I carry GU, sport beans and sports drink with me. I had forgotten my bag of goodies at the hotel. Since all I had was sports drink, I took advantage of food offered by race spectators.   Since marathon Monday is Patriots Day (State Holiday) the course is lined with families.  It is a long tradition in the small towns along the course to come out and cheer the runners and offer support in the form or water, ice, oranges and candy.  The course is lined with homes and whole families come out to cheer. It is not unusual to see a picnic or grill going in the background. It is a celebration in anticipation of the warmer weather after a long New England winter. It reminds me of some of our festivals here in Milwaukee.  We know all about long winters here in Wisconsin.

This race experience was such a contrast. I remember all the kids lined up on the route. So many little kids all along the course, holding an orange in their hand or a cup of water to give to runners. When I gave them a high five or took what they offered, their faces would just light up.  One little boy held out his hand to me as I passed.  In his palm, he had a single gummy bear. I did not really want or need a gummy bear, but he was so cute I just had to take it.  I put it in my mouth and told him how good it was.   He was so excited; he turned to his dad and said “she took my gummy bear.”  I don’t know if I was more thrilled or he was.  He was so sweet and so innocent.

I remember the girls of Wellesley College, screaming their heads off just like last year.  I would pretend I could not hear them and they would yell louder.  I would shout that they rocked, and they would crank up the volume a notch.

Equally impressive were the students of Boston College, they turned out in even greater number than the Wellesley girls.  Lots of cheering and high fives for blocks and blocks.  My right hand started to hurt and get numb from all the high fives.

I saw lots of runner’s dash off the course for a quick hug from friends and family.  There were family and friends supporting runners all along the course.  My friend Cheryl met me at 16 miles last year and surprised me by popping up after the 25 mile mark, just before the turn onto Boylston Street.  Many family members try to be at the finish to see their runner cross the line. One of my guides, Robert was going to try to get close to the finish line to see us come in.

I interacted so much with the crowds I felt bonded to them. Last year they had loved me as a runner and this year I loved them back. It made my 2nd Boston experience even better than the first.

That is why I think I was hit so hard by what happened. Martin Richard, an 8 year old local boy was killed as he waited for his dad to cross the finish line. He was just like the thousands of kids I saw lined up along the course. His mom and sister were with him and both critically injured.  It could have happened to any of the kids I saw along the course.  The bombing was such an evil act, contrasting with all the good I had witnessed that day.  My heart goes out to the families losing loved ones and to everyone injured on Monday. Such a senseless act that will change lives forever.

My friends and I were never in danger. The blast occurred long before we would have crossed the line. It is impossible not to be affected by those that lost their lives or were hurt. But you realize also that bomb could have gone off at any time. Life is fragile; things happen that you never planned.  If that bomb had been planted at the start there would have been even more death and injury.  Runners are packed shoulder to shoulder between metal barricades. I shudder to think about the panic that could have happened if a bomb had gone off there.  I would stand no chance in a stampede.

There was no happy ending for me or many of the other runners.  It is estimated up to 10,000 runners were still on the course when the race was stopped. No finish line victory, no finisher medal, no finish line celebration for me or those runners. No sense of accomplishment for a goal met.

I saw runners at the airport wearing their finisher medal.  I felt angry. I felt they were rubbing it in that they had finished and were celebrating a day when such tragic events occurred. It seemed out of place. I understand they may have been wearing their medal out of support.  It wasn’t rational to be angry but I was.

I did an interview with local television in Milwaukee about my race experience.  She asked me if I would go back and run Boston again. I would go in a heartbeat. I would love to be there in 2014 to show my support.    

I am still trying to sort out all my emotions about my experience at Boston this year.  I hope the catch those responsible soon. No punishment can possibly repair the damage done to the families affected by this incident.   Words aren’t adequate to describe the emotions I feel.

I hope to go back and do what runners do next year. When you meet another long distance runner there is just an instant bond. We understand the strength and discipline it takes to train for and complete a marathon. It is what we do.

I handle stressful things in life by writing and running.  I hope by running in Boston next year to support all of the communities along the route. What I can’t put into words I hope I can demonstrate by returning and running the event again.  Runners are strong and we can be strong for the people of Boston.  We can show them we understand and feel their pain. Although we cannot erase the events of Monday, we can do what runners do, overcome obstacles sometimes against all odds. We are strong and will be strong for the people of Boston.

 They really are the greatest fans in running and deserved so much better than what happened on Monday.
***************************
Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 122 members in 26 states. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston Race Day

Tragedy in Boston today.  Two explosions rocked the finish line. It could not happen in a worse place.  The area is lined with bleachers.  I talked to a runner that was .10 from the finish. She saw a trash can explode.

Reports of two dead.  I am staying right next to Mass Gen hospital where they are taking victims.  Sirens are everywhere.

We heard about the explosion when we were at mile 23. I was running with Cheryl Monnat. She had her cell and it kept going off. Everyone was concerned about us.

We continued on not knowing if the reports were true.  More messages asking if we were ok.

We were told at mile 25.5 that the race was over and were directed to Commonweatlth Avenue.
Their were sirens everywhere. Roads were cleared as we ran to allow entry of emergency vehicles.

It was mass confusion trying to find the buses with our luggage.

The day was going well and I was running strong. That is nothing compared to the tragedy for the city of Boston.  The crowd support was so incredible.  This is one of the friendliest cities I have ever visited.  My heart bleeds for this city and this event.

I changed guides at mile 13. Guide Cheryl Monnat could only get to mile 16 and had to run back to 13.  We had to wait over 10 minutes and them some time to change over. Her fiance Robert was a bit upset. I kept saying it's ok. This day was about having fun.  That 10-15 minutes kept us farther away from the explosion. We heard about it at mile 24.  I would have been fairly close in another 15 minjutes

Police are asking people to stay home. The hockey game tonight is cancelled.

What will I remember from today?  Not that I did not finish.

I remember all the little kids so eager to give me high fives. I don't know if they were more excited or I was. I will remember the students of Boston College on the Golden Mile. So many high fives. I will remember the woman of Wellesley. They love to play with the crowd.  When I told them they rocked, they cheered louder and provided a needed boost.

So many little kids handing out cups of water and oranges.
I will remember a little boy not more than 5 that held a single gummy bear in his hand. As I passed he turned to his dad and said "she took my gummy bear" I almost cried it was so sweet and innocent.  He treated me like I was an elite runner. Well so did everyone in the crowd

I will remember the generous spirit of the people of Boston both before and during the run.  The people of Boston make this a wonderful event. I am so sad it was marred in this way. But I think the people of Boston will bounce back strong. I can't want to see it for myself.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

It takes a team-- Pre Race Boston



"I thought about how many preconceived prejudices would crumble when I trotted right along for 26 miles."- Bobbi Gibb the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon 1966


Bobbi Gibb was denied entry into the Boston Marathon in 1966 because she was told woman were not capable of running more than 1 1/2 miles. Amateur rules at the time forbid women from running anything longer than that in competition.

She ran in 1966 anyway, sneaking into the race. She electrified the running world by finishing in 3 hours and 27 minutes.  She beat 290 men in the field of 417.

Bobbi Gibb changed the perception of women.  Efforts like hers paved the way for changes for woman in sports and in larger society.  She showed the world what women could do to make changes happen for other woman.  She was one of many pioneers that paved the way for women of my generation.  I am sure even she did not realize the effect of a simple act of running a marathon.

Those of us with CMT doing runs, walks, rides, and triathlons, are pioneers as well.  People with CMT were once told to go home and not exercise. I still hear from members of the CMT community that working out too hard is bad. They were once told hard exercise would accelerate their disease.

When one of our Team CMT members asked the CMTA to start a team, she was told people with CMT can't run.  Now they have a team of their own and tell their members to be active. Event by event we are changing notions about what a CMT affected athlete can do.  As I read posts on Facebook, I see many many people with CMT now talking about exercising.  Exercise is so important for staying strong and living a full life with CMT.  We have already made a difference!  Team CMT members be proud of the part you play.

Members of this team have done events that are a challenge for any athlete.  Three of our team members have done Ironman Triathlons, many run marathons and half marathons. We are showing the world what someone with CMT can do. When I found out I had CMT, I could not believe that 155,000 other Americans had this disease.  That is as many as have MS.  I could not believe I have never heard or CMT. I could not believe so many others were not aware of this disease.  That did not seem right to me. I set to change that with my efforts and those of my Team CMT teammates.

Tomorrow in Boston there will be 500,000 spectators.  That is half a million people that will see the Team CMT singlets on our three members running this event.   Raising awareness puts a face to this disease.  Raising awareness is the first step to raising funds.   In a marathon the finish line seems far away. Sometimes it seems like treatments and a cure are far away as well.  I know with hard work we will get there.  I know the members of Team CMT are a large part of that battle. Running a race like Boston may seem like a little thing, but I know some how it is all connected to our fight for treatments and a cure.  Just like the finish line, it can't come soon enough.

When I was getting a chiropractic treatment a few weeks ago, the doctor remarked "I had a whole team working on me."  I laughed and said "It takes a whole team to keep me going."    I also have a whole team behind me.

Thank you to the members of Team CMT. We are in this together. You inspire me.  I will be thinking about you all as I run tomorrow.  Thanks also to coach Joy Von Werder, you answer my endless questions, you keep me calm and centered.

I wonder if Bobbi Gibb had doubts when she ran Boston or if she had any idea of the effects of her run. Sometimes the simplest acts can have the most profound influence.  I know I have doubts every time I line up for one of these events.  I am so tired at the start, I ll wonder how I will ever run 26 miles.  I hope the efforts of Team CMT can have the same far reaching effects of the first woman to run Boston.

********

Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 121 members in 26 states. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.







Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Boston Marathon Dedication

Cheryl Monnat and Robert Kearney
"A man of many companions may be ruined, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."- Proverbs 18:24

I always dedicate my marathon run to someone. It helps to motivate me and get me through the miles.  When I dedicate the race to someone I feel like I can't quit or I am letting them down.

My first marathon I ran for my nephew Brandon. The Madison marathon  was my first Boston qualifier  and I dedicated  it to my mom who had recently passed away. The Marine Corp Marathon I used to qualify for this Boston I dedicated to all the members of Team CMT.  Last year I dedicated my Boston run to HNF President Allison Moore and Team CMT member Joyce Kelly.

This year I am dedicating my Boston run to friends Cheryl Monnat and Robert Kearney.  They say when bad things happen in your life you find out what you are made of.  That may be true, but I have found you also find out what those around you are made of.

I have friends from high school that I have not heard from since the day I announced I had CMT. I have siblings that have never acknowledged my CMT. My own sister who has two kids with CMT has not donated one dime to any of the three fundraisers I have done.

Cheryl was there from the very beginning of my quest to qualify for Boston. She was there when I first talked about forming Team CMT. She listened patiently as I talked about my CMT.  She looked at endless designs for our Team CMT singlet.  She has run in countless races usually far ahead of with. If I asked her she would run right beside me.  On Monday in Boston she will be one of my two guides.

Cheryl has provided much needed support. In Madison she was there in the last mile to cheer me on when I needed it most. Last year in Boston she was at mile 16 and mile 25. I don't think I could have finished without her support. She truly has been a friend who has been closer than a sister. We have known each other since we pledged to the same sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi at UWM.  She has shown the true spirit of sisterhood when I needed her most and I am forever grateful.

Cheryl and her fiance Robert Kearney were the first two members of Team CMT.  They ran our debut race in Brown Deer Wisconsin in April 2011.   Robert and Cheryl have continued to faithfully run races and ride in bike events even when I couldn't due to injury last year. Robert agreed to be on the team and has run in events just because I asked him. That says a great deal about the type of person he is. I remember one of the first times I met Robert, Cheryl and I were running in a half marathon and he was doing the 5 K at the same event. He said Cheryl and I were hard core.
  He has run countless events for the team including the Dublin Marathon last October.  Robert is hard core now too.He will be my other guide on Monday. I am grateful for his friendship and support, especially since he makes my friend  Cheryl so happy.

My friends stick closer than a brother and a sister. I am so proud we will all be representing Team CMT in Boston on Monday.

*********

Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 121 members in 26 states. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Boston Week 17-Flying Under the Radar

Booklet for Physically Challenged Athletes


"To finish will leave you feeling like a champion and positively change your life"- Hal Higdon

The race is less than a week away. I'm almost finished packing. I am starting to get excited. Last year I was really nervous, because I felt I carried lots of expectation. Both the ones I put on myself and the ones from the CMT community.

Last year I did lots of media, so I felt that I had to run really well. I set a goal to place in the top 3 in my division. I realized that goal with a 2nd place finish in the Mobility Impaired Division.

I trained so hard last year because of that goal and I wanted to be worthy of running in the Boston Marathon. I felt honored to be accepted in the race, I wanted to be a good representative for the CMT community. I am so thankful to B.A. A. for including Challenged Athletes in the race. Thankyou for making our dream of running Boston a realty. Thank you for giving us the chance to show the world what we can do.

The experience was even better than I imagined. I still remember running the last mile and feeling the volunteer put the finisher medal around my neck. I had worked so very hard for that moment. All the hard work and sacrifice were worth it.

It will be a different Boston experience this year. I chose to keep it low key. I didn't seek media attention, although I would have done media if offered.  I wanted to enjoy this Boston, with no pressure and no expectation.  I wanted this Boston to be fun, well as fun as a marathon can be.

I know the course now and won't be intimidated by it. My qualifying marathon in Madison, Wisconsin was tougher that the Boston course.

I did not train as hard this year. I over- trained last year and ended up with a cyst on my ankle. I still have it and am hoping to get through the race.  I am also focused on Nationals in Austin at the end of May. Because of that I have done more swimming and less running.  I hope I did the right amount of training.

It will be fun this year because I will have two friends along as guides. They will split the course and each run a half. The company will be very appreciated. There will be times during the race when I will so tired and in so much pain I will want to quite. Their presence will help me be strong. I know Monday will be a tough day, marathons always are. I am so thankful for their support.

I hope everyone with a wish to run Boston, sees that dream come true. Qualifying for and running Boston really has been a life changing experience.   I once thought my dream of running Boston was out of reach.
I know determination and hard work can take me as far as I can dream!

So yes, this Boston will be low key, but no less thrilling and satisfying.

***********

Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 121 members in 26 states. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.