Each week we will be picking three (3) members to spotlight to tell their alzheimer's story and why they are running in this year's New York City marathon. Check in each day or week for new updates on who will be spotlighted and get to know your teammates...(each person is picked at random)
SPOTLIGHT: Cris Valerio
A simple story, from a simple girl, about a simple day….that became not so simple…
The phone wakes me from my much-needed sleep.
I arrived in this new city exactly 39 hours ago. Since then I've been to Silicon Valley twice for interviews. I've been homeless for a night after corporate housing forgot to leave me the keys. I got seriously lost three times. I parked in the WRONG garage when I finally got into the RIGHT apartment, to then have my car towed.
All of that in 39 hours. I need my sleep!
'Cris,' says the deceivingly sweet voice. 'Do you hate me? Are you ready for our run?' My dear, beautiful, athletic Courtney. Prompt as always for her workouts.
I look at the clock. It's 6:30AM. Did I mention this is Saturday?
We had agreed to do a bi-coastal run yesterday via email. For some reason, long runs always seem like a fabulous idea when written. But never, do they feel that way in action.
'Sure thing Court.' Click. Yeah Right.
I lay there in bed. My head starts to wander. The New York City Marathon is 3 weeks away. I know she is already in Central Park ready to run her scheduled 22 miles. Courtney NEVER misses a practice. I miss them as a rule.
We're a good workout team, at least I think so. I'm the one that convinced her it's OK to skip a run for a margarita. She's the one that convinced me that discipline is not just a church word.
I haven't trained at all for this monster of a task. To be fair, I've been in 2 triathlons this summer. That's what I tell myself.
Damn it Court. Now I'm awake. I wander over to the closet, pull on my new sneakers, a bright pink running skirt and a trainer. I love running in skirts.
I get on mapmyrun.com -- find a 15 miler that starts about 2-3 miles from my current location in Marin County. That should be good. It ends at Pier 3 in San Francisco. I can just grab the ferry to return. (In retrospect I laugh at my own ignorance.)
As I'm writing the directions down, I stuff the typical long run necessities you would need in NYC: my debit card, my ID and my iPhone.
I'm out the door. It is COLD!!! Wow, what was I thinking wearing a running skirt?!
I'm about 4-5 miles in when the suburbs start thinning. The hills get steeper and before I know it, I'm running a full-on MOUNTAIN somewhere between Larkspur and Sausalito.
Every steep corner I turn, I face death. Literally. I know I'm prone to exaggerate, but THIS TIME is for real! I promise…
There are literally HUNDREDS of cyclists speeding down this hill. Every one of them gives me this look that implies: Are you crazy? Pink?
7 miles in, I'm starting to get worried. All I see are hills ahead. I'm huffing and puffing like I've smoked for 20 years. I look like a mix between Frankenstein's bride and Barney (my face matches my skirt at this point).
Where are the stores to buy water? That's what I do in NYC! When is this hill going to go DOWN? What if I die? Is anyone going to find me?
At least I have my license on hand so they can identify my remains….but what a TERRIBLE picture! I don't want to be remembered as a blonde. Ever the broadcast journalist, I can picture my mug shot on screen….
9 miles ….I'm finally going downhill. I'm flying. I've got Eddie Vedder singing to me about a Hard Sun -- I don't see one. The view IS stunning. For a moment I forget that I can't feel my legs.
I feel them again quickly as I trip over a rock and veer towards the cliff only to run right into a redwood branch. Up close and personal with my new hometown.
11 miles in - a blessed gas station. I waddle in, grab a bottle of water and run to pay it. 'M'am you must spend 10 dollars to use your debit card.'
'You have got to be kidding me. Fine -- charge me for whatever, just give me the water!' I somehow pant to the poor Indian man who is trying desperately to avoid my stench.
Water in hand, I run out. 13 miles in -- I'm in Sausalito. The view is amazing. I'm so excited about my new hometown.
I feel so blessed--I often feel the weight of the world when I'm trying to justify the life I've been given. When you grow up in a third world country with parents whose sole purpose is to help others, the guilt complex becomes very pronounced. Thanks mom and dad...geesh!
Suddenly, the weight I feel becomes much more tangible. I look at the hill ahead of me. I must cross it to get to the Golden Gate Bridge. The biggest hills I've ever run are Cat and Harlem Hill in Central Park. My dear triathlon buddies….you know what I'm talking about…. Compared to this, those seem like speed bumps.
There is NO way I can do this marathon! What was I thinking? Why the HELL am I running?
I started running as a tribute to my health and to raise money in memory of my grandmother.
I kept running because it reminded me I was not alone.
In the 13 cities I've lived in my life -- there have always been runners. People running after soccer balls, running after kids, running from the cops, dogs, and women. People running in the park, the desert, the sand. Running towards dreams. Cheesy, but true.
I'm running right now because I want to feel alive…. and I hate quitting.
Grandpa has never quit anything in his life. That's what THIS race is about. Terry Garland. The man who taught me to love and live life to the fullest! My grandfather may forget some things now, but he NEVER forgets what it's like to run towards dreams.
Mile 14 - I see the Golden Gate Bridge ahead. The tourists are all trying to avoid me. I'm running like a drunken woman right now. Plus, have I mentioned I stink?
Mile 17 - Fisherman's Warf - It's Fleet Week. There is more food, more tourists, more distractions than I care to name. I can't even remember my name right now. It is beautiful though. The old man that I passed 3 miles back runs past me. I'm pathetic.
18 Miles and 3.3 hours later (hey…slow but there were MOUNTAINS!!) I'm still not sure I can finish an actual marathon. But I know that I LOVE my new hometown!
I could tell you about how once I made it to my final destination I was so delirious I spilled coffee on my lap and got second degree burns down my thighs (seriously).
I could tell you how I missed the ferry back to Larkspur, almost missed a plane to LA, and have been so sore I haven't been able to walk upright since….But that's another story.
I may have moved to San Francisco, but I left my heart in NYC. On November 1st I'll be joining more than 38,000 runners from around the world attacking life head on.
Help me do this for my Grandpa and all of those living with Alzheimer's and dementia.
Regardless, I hope this letter has given you some laughs, finds you loving and living life to its fullest.