#16 2021 Heart Warrior Half Marathon, part 1

start line
A black ice start!
The freezing rain peppered my windbreaker jacket and my running shoes slid a little bit with each step down the driveway.  It's New Year's Day 2021, day of the Heart Warrior Half Marathon!  WHY would I decide to do something crazy like this? It seemed like a good idea last Fall, when we had beautiful running weather here in Ohio. Everything was uncertain in 2020`, so I should have expected that we would be confronted with some of the most challenging weather a runner can face for this event.  

With my earbuds paired to my phone, I joined a call to my running friend, Matt, a college teammate with whom I have shared thousands of miles.  He was running the Heart Warrior Half Marathon virtually that day and we decided to link up for the first time by phone during a run together.  During our runs, our topics of conversation have greatly varied over the past couple decades.  We no longer have the same discussions that one would imagine two college kids would have during a morning run after a crazy night at the track house.  

Matt, my running buddy
Matt, my running buddy

Lately, we often share stories about our children. Matt had just celebrated his daughter, Matilyn's fifth birthday the night before.  Matilyn was born prematurely on New Years Eve 2016.  We briefly reminisced what Matilyn overcame after weeks in the NICU.  An "overcomer" story, much like many Heart Warrior Half Marathon participants, or their loved ones faced, at one point or another.  

As we battled the ice and sleet on January 1st, I couldn't help but think about the many WHY stories that were submitted from those who chose to be part of the New Years day challenge run.  There are so many Heart Warrior families out there!  Some were running in memory of a loved one, in support of others, or for their little heart warriors fighting the good fight.  It wasn't just congenital heart disease (CHD) that pulled runners and walkers out the door on New Years day.  There were families challenged by cancer and other medical conditions.  I was excited to have them all, and said a prayer for each individual while I plugged in their registration email into the list.  Many shared their resolutions, anxious to kickstart the year off right and allow themselves to hope and go after big dreams in 2021.  

icy blacktop dip on trail
Dip and turn with icy blacktop

I had a couple near falls that morning.  The conditions were ironically very similar to what I had encountered last winter during a pivotal run that maybe you heard about when I shared my story on a recent podcast-(story shared 30 minutes into the podcast show).  Well, during my Heart Warrior run, I encountered the very same dip in the blacktop trail where I fell to my knees last February.  I joked with Matt about it as we were still running together virtually at that point.  I actually still slipped a bit as I rounded the curve but managed to keep it together. 

Due to some issues with achilles tendinitis, like many, I had to back my event distance down and did the Half of a Half (6.55 miles). I completed my run that morning at the local Meijer, a huge retail store (similar to Wal-Mart), joining with family, as they, including my 3 year old daughter, completed The Decimal Changer.  A 1.3 mile walk around the inside perimeter of the store! 

Later that evening, Jana and I headed out to pickup dinner. A take out order -- pizza, why not, we didn't set any resolutions for our diet.  As we waited our order, Jana began to read some of the emails from Heart Warrior Half Marathon participates.  The "race" or challenge did not have any official rules or finish line.  The event was completely virtual and finishers were asked to email their time and/or a photo.  It turns out, a lot of runners/walkers added more.  Reflections, stories of inspiration, support and solidarity -- and a lot of personal why statements.  As she read a few of them aloud, her voice broke and her eyes would intermittently fill with tears.

Thank you for all that shared, who walked, ran, or offered support.  We all won a prize from this event -- we accomplished the Heart Warrior Half Marathon mission to: increase awareness for CHD, inspire others and find your inner courage.  

My plan is to highlight a few participant stories in a 2nd blog post.  

2021 Heart Warrior Half Marathon, part 2, will be out soon.

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