“The Road to Boston.”

As many of you already know, I injured myself in a skydiving accident on June 5th. 🪂

I shattered my left wrist / distal radius with significant damage to the nerves and one particularly important carpal bone. I’ve also suffered compression injuries to my spine at T-10, T-11, a full compression fracture to T-12, as well as damage to my sacrum and coccyx.

I had surgery to repair my wrist using a plate and several screws. I am now 6 weeks post-op, heavy into physical therapy, and reality is sinking in.

There is no surgery or magic treatment to repair my spinal injuries. There are a few strengthening exercises that I can do for my back, which I have been doing. A month ago, I could barely walk 1/4 of a mile at a very slow pace and could only work a half shift (6 hours) at work. Today, I can walk a full 3 miles without stopping and am able to stand at work for my full 12 hour shift. That being said, it is still quite likely that my marathon racing days are over. (Skydiving might also be over, considering one more significant impact to my thoracic vertebrae would, most likely, result in paralysis.)

I have already cancelled all of my planned events for the year, with the exception of one: Boston Virtual.

Everybody has their own feelings about this event, but I was ecstatic when they opened it up in an effort – obviously, to make more money – but also to celebrate the return of Live race events, as well as, encourage and inspire the rest of us to keep moving forward!

Running is a phenomenal teacher in this great life lesson.

I have NO IDEA how I am going to go from where I am now (walking 3 miles per day) to running 26.2 miles in less than 3 months… but, believe me when I say, I most certainly will! It will most likely be a mixture of run, walk, crawl…but I will get it done.

Boston has been a dream of mine ever since I re-discovered running/racing as an adult. It’s what drove me to get my ass out of bed at WTF O’Clock to go to the gym, or push me to run at all hours of the day or night despite how much I’d worked or how little I’d slept! It’s what kept me moving throughout my darkest emotional days while carrying the heaviest burdens of grief and during the 3 long years it took to take my parents wrongful death case to trial. It’s what pushed me to improve physically – going from a 38 minute 5K race time in 2010 to a 3:57 PB marathon time in 2019!

It’s sad to think that it might be over for me now, when I was finally within reach of my 3:40 BQ time. This not to say that it is over yet…but I would honestly be ECSTATIC to simply be able to RUN (any pace!) for a full hour a day and return to Bootcamp workouts 3x a week. These are now my only solid fitness goals… anything more is just a bonus.

That being said, the 125th Boston Marathon is set to take place on October 11th. The terms of the Boston Virtual event are that the full 26.2 mile distance be covered in one single, consecutive activity, no matter the time it takes to complete it. Run, walk, or crawl – start to finish – at any point in time between Oct.8th – Oct.10th.

Not only do I plan to complete this epic event opportunity, I have already booked my flight and secured my accommodations to travel to Boston and will be running the actual marathon course from Hopkinton to Boston on Oct.10th – the Sunday before the race.

I feel like this is the perfect way to end my marathoning pursuits, considering I’ve never actually been able to earn my own Boston Marathon invite.

So, for all of out there struggling, I just want to say:

The road is open, my friends. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you aren’t “good enough, strong enough, fast enough” …and don’t ever let anyone or anything stop you from realizing your dreams, even if it is not 💯 the way you’d hoped or imagined that it would be.💙💛

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

My sister is hilarious 🤣 Thanks for the shirt C*C* 💙

“Living, Dying, and Everything in Between.”

It was the summer of 2005, I had been working in EMS for a little over 3 years but had just recently become a Paramedic, when I was dispatched to my very first active shooter scene. It was a strange time; an abnormal increase in violent ridden 911 calls and civil unrest. We were at odds with each other as well – many pulling for EMS uniforms fashioned after Police, with a few others (like me!) pushing for another style (ANY! other style) in order to create obvious separation between armed law enforcement and unarmed EMS. Majority rules in Union situations though and so there I was – wearing blue, with patches and badges – looking way too much like the Officer standing over me, as I tended to the patient on the ground, confirming his death.

I had been told the scene was safe. This is Rule #1 when working in EMS – “SCENE SAFETY” – especially in a scene like this. So, imagine my surprise (and my verbally unfiltered mouth) as I heard the scuffling of a foot chase coming from the second floor of this abandoned building and the policeman’s radio crackling: “Shooter on the roof! Heading towards the staircase!”. I looked up at the Officer standing over me, as he reached for his gun, and realized that I was on my hands and knees at the base of this building’s staircase.

“You told me this scene was safe!”, I yelled at him as my partner and I quickly gathered our equipment and started running for the exit.

“Well, it’s not anymore, so get gone!”, he yelled back as he took cover, in anticipation of the now certain confrontation.

As my partner and I ran for safety, we came upon a second victim outside the building and quickly extricated him, placing him in our ambulance. We utilized a nearby state trooper as our police escort out of the immediate area so that we could safely assess, treat, and transport the surviving victim.

It was later that night, as the rest of the world slept, that my partner and I talked about the situation we had been in and how it had all fallen apart so rapidly.

“I’m not afraid of dying.”, I told him, “I’m afraid of the in between. Being irreparably injured – stuck in the middle of Life and Death, becoming like many of our regular patients- unable to fully LIVE, yet unable to let it all go and simply die.”

This conversation ultimately led to EMS issued bulletproof vests and an increase in Police response to ensure adequate scene safety prior to EMS arrival. This did little to quiet my fears, yet I continually pushed those thoughts aside and continued in my chosen career path until the summer of 2019.

I’ve always been a bit of a “free spirit”. I don’t think so much of the “consequences” of things or of how they could go terribly wrong, as much as I do the thrill of the experience itself as it is intended when everything goes just right. After so many years of testing fate, choosing to face anything and everything that creates a sense of fear in me, it’s like I developed this sense of invincibility; like nothing bad would ever actually happen to me. So I continued to give zero thought to “the middle” or what it might mean to be stuck there. In my mind, it has become so simple- this or that, black or white, life or death. Recently, I have been forced to realize that it is not always so simple afterall.

One month ago, I crashed my parachute while skydiving. A rookie mistake, I misjudged my landing and stalled the parachute, dropping myself nearly 10 feet to the ground. I fractured my back and shattered my left wrist. I’m actually quite lucky – despite the significance of my injuries, they are able to be healed with surgery, physical therapy, and a hefty dose of time. Simple, right? Far from it. No one ever tells you how painful broken bones can be, even after they are “corrected” with surgery. Or how much you use your back and BOTH of your hands simultaneously to do even the simplest of daily activities – like sitting up, taking a shower, washing your hair, dressing yourself, or cutting up your own food.

I don’t mean to complain. I understand how much worse this actually could have been. In saying that, I don’t even mean death; although leaving my husband a widow and my daughter without access to me would certainly be difficult, becoming a lifelong burden to them is, in my mind, a fate far worse than death.

“You just do things. You don’t stop to consider the dangers of what you do or what it means if and when it goes wrong. I don’t think you realize exactly how bad this could have been. It could have been your legs or your hips…your ability to ever even walk again!”

On the front of the helmet I wear when skydiving is a sticker, “FLY or DIE”, it says, and I was so proud to apply it there. In skydiving, there is nothing more freeing than the feeling of flight and if you die while doing something that you love so much… well, in my mind, what better way is there to go?

Yet, here I am, living proof that it’s not always “this way or that” – and, while I consider myself quite lucky that I am not worse off, I am now faced with the realization that I am, in fact, NOT invincible and things do go wrong, very quickly and very easily.

“That’s no reason to quit,” my heart tells me, “You’ve just gotta get better at it.“

My head argues back: “But it’s not worth the risk to yourself, your family, your friends, your coworkers, or your ability to live a fully functional life unhindered by injury or permanent disability.”

I don’t know where this road to recovery will lead. My future endeavors are as uncertain as the prognosis of my hand/wrist regaining it’s dexterity and range of motion. Or how my back will be able (or unable?) to ever handle running the 26.2 miles in a marathon again?

What I do know is that I am listening. To my husband, who wants to live happily ever after with his chosen wife. To my daughter, who simply wants her mother to be here with her. To my coworkers, as they compensate for my currently injured state and constantly find ways to adapt and overcome. To my friends, who shower me with love, support, and the dark, twisted humor that our past experiences have caused us to appreciate.

You see, I am not afraid to live my life; nor am I afraid to die. It’s “the middle” which scares me most – to be “alive”, yet unable to fully LIVE, is a fate so much worse than death.

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

“Love Yourself – Lessons Learned in Transformation.”

“I’m not exactly sure what Life is trying to teach me, but I’m pretty sure it involves detatching myself from anything and everything that I cling too tightly to.”, I said to my counselor today as we discussed my most recent skydiving injuries. (A complicated arm/wrist fracture and compression fractures in my spine.)

“Transformation” is the word he left lingering in my mind as we parted ways at the end of today’s session. And he’s right – he’s seen me transform my life many times over. Beginning with my previous marriage – which ended in divorce but, ultimately, paved the way for a new, everlasting love to take root and bloom. Breaking free of a religion which never did sit well with my soul, enabling me to clear my mind of prejudice and indoctrination. Changing my profession after nearly two decades of fulltime work, allowing me the time and space necessary to heal from years of heartbreaking and traumatic experiences. As well as, hours upon hours spent over the past four years, counseling me through a very complicated grief process and subsequent existential crisis until I could finally begin to “see the sunlight” again.

Most recently, I have transformed my running from an unhealthy obsession back to a simple passion – with less attachment to the results, and more love for the actual movement itself. My finances, from paying out too much on lingering balances or spending on frivolous things, to paying off those balances and spending only on things I need or that benefit myself and/or my family with their experience. My job, by being more open and honest about my desire to escape “the grind” – working part time in order to live fulltime. And my home; decluttering every room, every closet, every drawer in our private space in order to discard useless or broken things and items which stir up negative emotions in me; donating or selling many others which no longer prove useful or add any value to our lives. It’s such a cleansing practice, the art of letting go.

In doing all of these things, I have opened up so much more time and space to see and do all of the things that matter the most to me – from spending more time with my husband, to reconnecting with old (& meeting some new!) friends, to exercising and running on a daily basis simply because it feels good and I enjoy it! Exploring this world we live in – from the small “mom & pop shoppe” businesses in our local communities, to planning much bigger travel adventures to look forward to.

It was during one of my more recent workouts (when I needed to modify, while the majority of other participants did not) that I came to this astounding conclusion:

“Love yourself for what you can do rather than hate yourself for what you can’t.”

Perhaps you don’t get why I call this “astounding”. It really is such a simple concept… and if you are someone who has done this all along, I applaud you – but it has taken all of my 42 years upon this Earth for me to realize this for myself.

Now, here I am, one week post surgery to repair the damage done to my body from crash landing my parachute in an otherwise perfect skydiving jump – completely unable to run, jump, or even walk much for any significant length of time… and you’d think I’d be distraught? The “old” me would have been riddled with anxiety and tension, shedding many tears for what would have been or could have been – but Dr. Michael is right – I’m different now. I’ve transformed.

So will I ever actually run the Boston Marathon as a qualified runner?

Will I continue my skydiving endeavors once my body has healed?

The answers are yet to be known, even to me.

I used to be so uncomfortable with ambiguity; but now I find it beautiful. 🦋

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

“Love It or Leave It.”

It never ceases to amaze me how you can be going about your life, believing you have all your shit together, and then something unexpected happens that stops you in your tracks. BOOM! – just like that, your thoughts and memories become crystal clear and, all of the sudden, you realize exactly what is most important. This moment; this LIFE.

Needless to say, I had a bit of a “near death experience” recently and it really got me thinking about all the time and energy I have simply been wasting ; stressing myself out about and chasing after things that never really even matter when you can finally look and see the bigger picture.

I have no interest in elaborating on the actual event itself because it doesn’t matter either, in and of itself – what matters is what I saw in that exact moment when time “slowed down” and I realized that THIS could be IT.

First and foremost, I was not scared. I was calm, almost peaceful. I wish I could say that I had no regrets… but the regrets that I had were not what you, I, or anyone who knows me would even expect!

I regretted all the times I crawled out of bed early to go get that long run, as my husband lay sleeping beside me.

I regretted all the invitations I declined and beers not drank with friends whom I love because I was “in training”.

I regretted letting myself feel “weak”, “slow”, and “not good enough” for Boston – as if Boston were the epitome of what a good human being should be.

I regretted putting off all the things I WANT to do, in order to force upon myself the things I believed I “should” be doing to achieve these goals – goals which no longer serve a greater purpose for me.

Running has been such a big part of my life; since I was a frustrated teenager, growing up in our religiously restricted world… all the way through my years as a Paramedic, striving to stay healthy and sane in a very unhealthy and insane world! But somewhere along the line this “healthy obsession” became an unhealthy hindrance.

It took me awhile to see it… but now it appears so clear. For so many years, I needed to run… but then I learned how to FLY! 🪂

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

“Beyond Broken.”

“What brought you here?”

That’s a very good question.

When I started writing this blog, it was primarily about a physical journey. An average, middle of the pack runner with nothing too special in the way of athletic ability – but with a dream of excellence and the desire to evolve to a much higher level.

Now, it seems, this blog has become much more of mental journey for me – the chronicling of a psychological revolution.

Much of my life has revolved around measuring up – to the expectations of my parents, the rigid rules of a religion which never really resonated with me, as well as, the personal and professional standards I’ve set for myself throughout my years upon this Earth.

I’ve spent years trying to find my place – figuring out where I belong, doing what, and with whom.

Now, it seems more about breaking free – from all of the people, places, things, thoughts and feelings which were never really meant for me and no longer hold space in my heart.

It’s crazy how, in just a few short years, something so simple can become so complex. What once seemed so important now pales in comparison to what’s most important to me now. Yet, what’s most important is the simplest thing of all.

As I sat on that picnic table today, staring up at the sky, and the skydiver sitting next to me asked, “What brought you here?”, my entire life flashed through my mind and lingered upon my three tandem jumps before taking on the AFF course.

#1.) May 2015, strapped to the same man who had assumed the responsibility of my instruction today, in order to simply face my fear.

#2.) October 2019, on the anniversary of my parents deaths, surrounded and accompanied by friends who have now assumed the role of my family.

#3.) October 2020, following the anniversary of my parents deaths and in the aftermath of their trial, as I was drowning in grief, guilt, and regret. It was on this day, as I was seeking to find out what it might feel like to die, that I was handed the reins (or, in this instance, the toggles!) and shown what it feels like to truly LIVE!

I’ve discovered that many students and skydivers have some similar experience (sometimes many!) and those who’ve been jumping a long time have a way of looking at things differently – with humor and grace, and a deeper respect for this gift which we have been given.

So, as a million thoughts and moments, failures and fears flashed throughout my mind, and my first instinct was to deflect and avoid, I stopped for a moment before deciding to simply speak my truth.

“A deathwish.”, I replied as our eyes locked on…and we both smiled.

When I came here, I came because I was broken; but now I am beyond all that. I am finally free.

Sometimes it takes facing death to make you realize how much you really want to LIVE!

Those who jump, KNOW. 🪂

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

*It’s not always about running; sometimes, it’s simply about LIFE.

“Blue Sky; Black Death.”

The world lost a good man today.

I can express myself only through the words of another, when my friend Emily said: “How lucky am I to have had someone that can make saying goodbye so damn hard?!”.

And it really got me thinking that “Life” is literally a losing game.

Seriously. Think about it.

In the end, “Life” is all about losing – losing your virginity, losing your health, losing your looks, losing your heart, losing your mind.

If you’re one of the “lucky ones” and, as the Bible calls: “of special mightiness”, you’ll most certainly lose a bit more.

Losing money, losing friends, losing faith, losing weight – until, ultimately, you lose YOURSELF – your very own life.

So then – what is the point?

This question, I posed to my counselor today.

The conversation that ensued was one which makes time stand still and all background noice stop. My full awareness rested upon his answer and the rapid fire questioning that led us to this analogy.

(The following is my “cliff-notes” version of a much longer conversation.)

“DANCING” is not about arriving at a certain point at a certain time – if it were, why would you not just go there, stand, and wait? Because it’s about the EXPERIENCE of dancing – the music, the motion, the beauty of taking those steps, and enjoying the feeling of DANCING!

“RUNNING” is not all about running “well”. It’s not only for those who are “good enough”, “strong enough”, “fast enough” too qualify for Boston. Its about FEELING good – clearing the brain and the body of anything they need not carry, and simply enjoying the EXPERIENCE of RUNNING!

Life is much like “SKYDIVING”. You don’t look around, asking a bunch of questions, because you just don’t have the time. You embrace the fall, breathe the fresh air, and take in the beauty of this view. You savor every single second of this ironically metaphorical experience – knowing, without a doubt, that it will all be over, much too soon.

So the next time this life stops you in your tracks and makes you wonder “what even is the point?”, just fill in the blank on this initial phrase with anything you most love to to do:

“Life is like: ___________________;”

(i.e. : dancing, running, skydiving)

And then add this sentence conclusion:

“…it’s all about the EXPERIENCE!”

Nobody knew this more than Moe!

“Live like you mean it – die with no regrets.” – Moe Viletto
“Everything will be okay, and we’re gonna meet up again.” – Moe Viletto (#BSBD)
“So that’s what we do with our dead buddies – we their celebrate life.” – Moe Viletto (#BSBD)

…once again, it’s not always about running; sometimes, it’s simply about LIFE.

*In honor and memory of Moe Viletto. #BSBD

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

“She said: I think I’ll go to Boston!”

“Sometimes, you find yourself ignited with magic within a moment that becomes a portal into something extraordinary.” – Naussica Twila

🦄It’s just out of your grasp but you can sense it all around.

A presence.

It could come through rock & roll or Sunday worship, but it is persistent after a long span of silence. It calls to you – beckons you to know that something expansive lives within you and that it wants to sing, it wants to dance. And maybe “singing” and “dancing” are something else entirely. Maybe it’s thoughts and feelings and being on the brink of wonder that doesn’t quite sink in. Instead, it spreads all around you, ignited by preachers or poets and rockstars and you find yourself swimming in the deep, feeling before you can think, and thinking thoughts like messages from beyond.

It is not bigger than you. It is you.

At this exact moment, just 10 days ago, I was standing in the exact place which has beckoned me for the better part of the past 10 years. This was a moment I had refused to indulge myself in, as I felt inadequate and unworthy. But this time, when the opportunity presented itself, I refused to let it slip away. The gravitational pull towards this particular moment in this particular place was simply too strong. In the magic of this moment, I felt a great shift within myself. A quiet confidence, a restlessness, an energy renewed.

I have not been the same since.

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

“Patience, Persistence, and A Certain Level of Detachment.”

I think 2021 is trying to teach me something that 2020 didn’t quite get to sink in.

2020 was a long, emotionally tumultuous year, culminating in the jury trial for my parents wrongful deaths. The preparation for and execution of this trial produced an enormous amount of stress on me and ultimately resulted in my abandonment of my marathon training and the temporary “forgetting” of my personal goals.

September arrived and I found myself undertrained and unprepared to execute at the level required for my Boston Qualifier. I deferred from my goal race and entered a much smaller, local race instead with the intent to simply go the distance and finish the race in under the 5-hour time limit. Little did I know that this would actually come to be my proudest moment of 2020 – to actually physically run the only live, in person, marathon event in the state of Pennsylvania since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the subsequent pandemic restrictions.

October came – the anniversary of my parents deaths – and waves of grief again washed over me. But this time, I felt hope and the graceful hand of the healing process which I can only contribute to the completion of the trial and the closing of our case against the man whose name still produces a bitter taste upon my tongue.

November began and, for the first time in many years, I became physically sick. My husband and I both tested positive for Covid-19 and spent the entire month self-quarantined and taking care of each other as we struggled to recover.

December found us well, yet, residual symptoms continued for me in the form of exercise induced migraines and dizziness. The girl who once ran several marathons per year was now struggling to run a single mile.

January 1st, I experienced a breakthrough: I ran 5.50 miles (my longest run since September!) without a single symptom! My hopes for the 2021 racing season were instantly renewed!

January 2nd, I fell hard while snowboarding at Seven Springs and broke two ribs.

I have spent the past several weeks numbing my brain and my pain and, while I am healing well and expect to be able to return (gradually!) to my training, I must admit that my goals require a significant refocusing. It’s one thing to be a week behind in training; it’s a completely different story to be 6-8 weeks behind… this is a game changer.

That being said, I am certainly not giving up. I am always going to do my best… even with the realization that my best will (more than likely) not yet be good enough for the goal which I am striving to reach. I am not letting go of my goal… I am simply letting go of how I imagined this would all unfold.

The funny thing is, I am 💯 okay with it… and few things have ever felt this good. My mind and heart feel free.

There is great beauty in the “not knowing” – not knowing if or when or how something will happen – but knowing that if and when and how it happens will be worth the wait.

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

“A Heavy Burden… of CHOICE.”

I get it now.

Emotions are like ocean waves… big, beautiful and, if you are RIGHT THERE in the middle of the water – you can do little to avoid the fact that eventually (and, oftentimes, repeatedly!) you will be hit. What you CAN do is control how long it keeps you down, holding you under, as the world continues on above you.

In 2017, I lost both my parents in a car crash.

In 2018, heartbreaking details were revealed about that crash and the events that followed (spanning nearly 3 years, culminating in a jury trial by the end of 2020) further complicated my grief and prolonged the healing process.

In 2019, a friend of mine succumbed to the demons in her own mind and chose to end her life by suicide.

In 2020, I lost another close friend and work partner, but was blessed with adopting his best friend/dog – whom he always used to bring to work with him on our shifts together.

The past few years of my life have been tumultuous, to say the least, but I’ve come to realize a great deal about strength and resilience and how NOT to let the “bad things” harden your heart.

It’s not always easy. I’ve seen a lot of unjust and unfair things happen and find it hard not to feel angry or cheated, or even numb. Somedays the weight of all that I have lost is incredibly heavy.

But that’s ok.

The “trick” is not to ignore it or attempt to avoid the pain of these emotions, but rather to simply not BECOME them. Recognize them for what they are and then let them go.

Like the painful beauty of an ocean wave – see it , feel it, appreciate it, let it wash all over you… but find the strength you need, your desire to breathe, to pop right back up on top, and continue moving forward.

REMEMBER: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

*Once again, it’s not always about running. Sometimes it’s simply about LIFE.

“From Grief to Gratitude.”

How do you learn to let go of a friend to whom you never got to say Goodbye?

It’s been a year and I swear I still see you sometimes – a passing face in a crowd or behind the wheel of a big gray truck driving down the road.

In my memories of the crazy calls we’ve run, the things we’ve seen and done, or the many times that I needed help – only to turn around and find you right there beside me.

In the quiet times – a classic movie on tv and the restless way you used to get up and walk out because “Quint needs to go pee”, only to realize it was really you who needed to leave, as E.T. was dying on the screen and you, yourself, were about to cry.😂

The crazy WTF questions and conversations we used to have at all hours of the night while working a 24 hour shift with too much caffeine and way too little sleep.🤪

Or the night I realized that you, too, are terrified of spiders and I wondered (for the first time ever) exactly WHO is going to come and save us now?!😳

I am just one of the many whose life was touched by you; and I am just one, of the many, who still feels this void without you here. You were a good man, a great friend, and the best partner. My memories with you are many – and I am so grateful to have them all.🙏🏼

How do you learn to let go of a friend to whom you never got to say Goodbye?

I do not know… with all of these good memories, I’d like to think that I never really have to.

What I do know is this – everytime I look into Quint’s eyes, I see YOU looking back at me; and so long as Quint is right here with me, so are YOU.

We miss you Matt-Man. We always will.

Rest easy, my friend. I’ve got Q.🐾

…once again, it’s not always about running; sometimes, it’s simply about LIFE.

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

💙In honor and memory of my friend and former partner:

Matthew Aaron Douglass (July 30, 1969 ~ January 12, 2020)