The GOTR Spirit - 2012 NYC Marathon

We’re so excited to share this guest post from Deborah Shackell, a Girls on the Run coach and site liaison in Canada and a member of the 2012 NYC Marathon Solemates team! Her inspiring story of how she turned a tough situation into a positive and exciting one is a great example of the GOTR spirit.

Running a marathon has been a dream of mine, but with two knee scopes and advice from doctors to ‘lay off the running’ it seemed like it was far-fetched and would always be an uncrossed item on my bucket list.

Girls on the Run has inspired the ‘go-er’ in me to do more, to try again, to be a role model and to push a little harder. It inspired me to at least ‘look into’ a marathon, to revisit the possibility of my dream. If I was just going to do one marathon I might as well make it a big one, so New York was my choice. After I didn’t get into the lottery, I started looking into charity options. All of the marathon charities are very worthy but I wanted one with a connection to my life and my community. So, when my husband emailed me with the news that Girls on the Run was an official charity for the NYC marathon, I knew that this was the time! Raising money for Girls on the Run was a perfect fit for me. I had started the program at two schools in my hometown of Canada and have encouraged many others to become involved.

I set out to fundraise and train for the run of my life. My persistent qualities were an asset during this time as I worked through the training, fundraising, nutrition and an ITB injury. In the final weeks before the marathon I was excited and nervous. My husband and I would be visiting NYC for the first time and celebrating our 10th anniversary. The race was just 2 days before my 38th birthday.

Then Hurricane Sandy hit. I watched CNN every night wide-eyed at the devastation and loss. As we awaited news of how all of this would affect the race, we struggled with our feelings. Would it be right to run a race amidst all of this? Would our flight be cancelled? Would our arrival bump someone in need of a hotel room out of a place to stay? On Wednesday evening, our hotel still had no power and our flight was uncertain. We made the choice to cancel our trip. Of course, this was a very difficult decision, but nothing compared to the struggles that were going on in New York. I sent an email to GOTR Solemates to defer to next year and started to think about my marathon journey continuing instead of ending.

Moments after making the decision, the ‘look on the bright sider’ in me kicked in! I still wanted to run on Sunday. I wanted to run for NYC, I wanted to run to raise money for Hurricane Relief, I wanted to run for the spirit of Girls on the Run and I wanted to run for me. I set up a course and encouraged friends to donate to the cause. Before I knew it, emails started coming in asking, “Where are you running?” and “want some company?” It wasn’t the NYC marathon but it was hopeful and thoughtful and FUN.

On Sunday morning I slipped on my bright pink Girls on the Run singlet and set off to start my run with 2 friends, Laura and Lesley. As we walked down the driveway, my friend Catherine stopped by on her way to church. She was cheering and ringing a bell out of her car window. Down the road we saw a sign staked in the dirt at the side of the road that read “GO DEB.” Another friend, Annie, set up a ‘water station’ and was holding a big sign reading “RUN LIKE A GIRL!” The support continued all along the course: A friend drove with his GoPro camera out the sunroof of his car videotaping our run, two more friends showed up at the halfway mark, other friends and family stood along the trail cheering and waving signs and my husband and son supported me the whole way (my son biked with us on the trail for a bit!). As we approached the last curve in the road before my house, Lesley (who ran the entire route with me) started a commentary: “There it is – CENTRAL PARK, just ahead…” There was even a small crowd at the finish. They all believed in the dream too!

The NYC marathon that didn’t happen, did happen. It happened for me in Collingwood, Ontario, Canada. We didn’t run the full marathon distance and there weren’t millions of fans, but there was hope and inspiration. The morning after the run I got a text from a friend that said: “hope you feel great today – you inspired me to run this morning – gonna keep it going.”

So, the dream and the marathon journey continue. I chose to look at the cancelation of the NYC Marathon as an opportunity, not a disappointment. I have the chance to learn from my mistakes, the chance to raise some more money for GOTR and I have the awesome opportunity to inspire a few more feet to get out the door and get running!