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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Heart of a Champion

Scarf ladies at Old South Church Boston

"Everyone has some strength, something inside of them that makes them a champion. It's not about you; your fight is always about something greater. No matter what you go through in life, you can do whatever you put your mind to: and if hardship comes, God will always provide a way." -Loretta Duncan-Fowler from the book, Unbreakable Spirit by Lisa Nichols

The year after the 911 terrorist attack I was traveling on a small group tour in New Zealand. Our guide a self described hippie, started talking about the attack.  He stated that he did not care about what happened in New York, no one he knew got hurt and it did not affect him personally. So who cares was his stated opinion.

It made me angry. I wondered how someone could be so superficial and simple minded. What hurt any one of us hurts us all. I was deeply affected by the families that lost loved ones and those whose lives were changed forever by the attack.

I felt the same way about Boston. I was on the course when the attack happened and was never in any danger, but I was deeply affected, I was sad for those that lost loved ones or whose lives were changed forever by the event. I vowed to return and run the race again for them.

The city of Boston are champions. They could have reacted in anger. Instead they opened up their homes the day of the bombing to runners blocked from returning to their hotels. They made the choice to come together and open up their hearts. They have raised millions for victims. The family of Martin Richard have started a foundation in his name.

Ten thousand runners competed in the 5K and 10K race yesterday in support.

There will be victims of last years bombing running the race, some on have lost limbs and have had to re-learn to walk and run.  They are champions and am proud to run with them.

There will be firefighters running mourning the loss of two of their own from a recent fire. They will push past their pain and grief, they are champions.

Many will run in honor of those they have lost to illness. Other will run for charities, raising millions of dollars, champions all.

One Boston area women sent out 3000 ellow rubber ducks with Boston Strong painted on them to people across the country. We took them all over the country, took pictures and used the awareness to raise money for the Boston Strong Fund.

The ladies of Old South Church in Boston had their own response. They started a nationwide project with knitters to make scarves for the runners in the Boston colors of navy and yellow. They gathered 20,000 scarves to give to runners. Each one had a message of love and the name of the knitter.  I got one of these scarves. Each one was unique and when I selected mine, the giver said "I must wrap it around you.",  Then she said "May this scarf wrap you in love and courage." Now those are champions. Using their talent for knitting to project love and courage.  I can just picture my knitter quietly making my scarf with love in her heart. I wish I could thank her and meet her personally.

Every spectator will be a champion. By their presence they make me as a runner feel like a champion.  I will draw strength and love from their mere presence. They show together we can come together after an event and show the best we are capable of.

Every runner will be a champion. Every runner from elite to the back of the pack runners like myself will have to dig deep to finish.  We will run because we will not let fear keep us from the sport we love. We realize we are all vulnerable. Any one of us could have been hurt last year. We will not feel fear and if we do we will not let it keep us from living our lives.

As I stood at the finish line of the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee last fall, I realized how vulnerable we all are to attack or unexpected events. I did not feel any fear, nor am I afraid for the race on Monday. I just have determination to live my life and continue the work I am doing to raise awareness of CMT.

My Team CMT teammates and I  run for people with CMT that can't run. I want to show them what is possible, that you don't have to feel like a victim because of your condition.   We will have two CMT affected athletes running to show that while we have CMT, it does not have us. It was once thought that someone with CMT couldn't run. We're here to show them what is possible, that despite their condition, they can face life with grace and dignity.

Someone on LinkedIn said a few days ago, he was tired of the whole "Boston Strong" thing and none of us were special. I could not disagree more.

I think everyone does have special strengths and talents. Each one of us is on this earth for a purpose. Sometimes we have to dig deep to do the work we were born to do. Sometimes we have to push through are fears and our personal limitations. But we all have the chance to be champions, even if it is just knitting a scarf for a runner or handing out a cup of cup of water along a race course.

I will see lots of champions on Monday.  I am humbled and awed to be part of such a great experience and although it will be too warm to wear the scarf I was given, I know I will be running wrapped in love and courage. I can't wait.

See you at the finish!


Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT

Chris is a triathlete and long distance runner. She is a two time participant of the Boston Marathon.  She was the 2012 National Champion Paratriathlon Open Division. In 2013 she qualified as a member of the Team USA Duathlon Team. She will compete in 2014 at the Age Group World Duathlon Sprint Championship in Pontevedre Spain.

She is the author of the book, “Running for My Life” that details her experience as a CMT affected athlete.

You may visit her author page at:

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 149 members in 27 states. We also have members in AustraliaCanadaVietnamTurkeyFinland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site; or

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.

Additional Link
Follow CMT affected Paratriathlete Timmy Dixon

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