485819_229020803_XLargeIt’s 4:45 a.m. on a Tuesday morning in January when I hear the gentle hum of my alarm. I roll over and quietly slip from under the warm covers thinking to myself, “I must be crazy!” As I add layers of fleece-lined running clothes and step outside into the frigid air, I can’t help but continue to question my sanity… and the sanity of my ever-willing running partner. It was 10 degrees that morning and we ran hills with our flashlights lighting our way. It wasn’t the first, or the last, morning that we dragged ourselves out in sub-freezing weather and the pitch dark to clock our training miles. We had a goal, and we were determined.

We were part of a team of local runners that had committed to running the New Jersey Marathon or Half Marathon to benefit the Moms Helping Moms Foundation. Having been involved with the organization since its inception, I had actively solicited friends to join the team and support a cause so near and dear to my heart. “Train during the winter” I said… “It will be fun” I said! I’m pretty sure they were all questioning my sanity at that point.

During the days leading up to the race, I obsessively watched the forecast, hoping for mid 50s and a dry day. Although the forecast didn’t quite deliver what was on my wish list, I wasn’t going to let a little rain take from the pre-race excitement. The lead up to race day was fun, including picking up race numbers, passing out our Moms Helping Moms shirts, and doing those last few easy runs with friends as we let our bodies rest in anticipation of the big day.

On Sunday, May 1, our months of training were put to the test. As we gathered at the starting line for our pre-run team pictures, I felt the first few raindrops. It was too late; nothing could dampen my spirits at that point. I was ready to take the course!

Over the next four and a half hours the rain fell steadily, getting progressively heavier. The first few miles were filled with chatter and laughter as we got into our grove and found our pace. By mile 10, I was ready to accept that the rain was here to stay and I should just embrace it! As we approached the 12-mile mark, the course split, with the majority of runners following the half-marathon route. As I veered to the right and prepared myself for a lonelier second half, I was filled with pride. It had been many years since my last marathon and I realized that it didn’t matter how fast or slow I went, all that mattered was that I was going to be able to finish this and I was doing it for a good cause.

Over the next couple of hours, I wound through beach towns and past famous landmarks (the Stone Pony is smaller than I expected) as I listened to the squish, squish, squish of rain-soaked sneakers. It was then that I realized that the months of training doesn’t just prepare you physically, it prepares you mentally.

Finally, after more than four hours of constant pounding, I turned onto the boardwalk and picked up speed. I was running toward the 25-mile marker, where I knew my family would be waiting, in the rain, to cheer me on. As I approached my husband and kids, the fatigue from the pervious few miles was washed away. I watched my two-year old clap her hands eagerly and yell “Good job Mommie” (a line she had been practicing for days). I hugged them tightly as the rain (and tears of joy) streamed down my face. With just over a mile to go, those hugs gave me the energy needed to make it 26.2! I looked at the smiles on my children’s faces and thought about the hundreds of other kids that would benefit from the diapers, wipes, clothes and so much more that we could provide thanks to our marathon fundraising.

As I look back on the experience in retrospect, I am filled with emotions. I am proud of what my body was capable of. I am thankfully to the 25 other people that spent months training and braved the weather to join me on this adventure (many set personal records). I am grateful to all of the sponsors and donors that helped us collect over $20,000. I am so appreciative of the new friendships forged and old friendships strengthened. I am touched by the appreciation of the families that benefited from our efforts. But, most of all, I am inspired. I am inspired to push harder, to do more, and to never give up doing everything in my power to change the lives of young children – to give them a fair chance of a fulfilling life. I have learned that we all bring something different the table, and it’s important that we recognize what we are capable of and how we can use that to benefit others.

Heading to bed tonight, I am yet again setting my alarm for 4:45 a.m. so I can get a run in before I head to work. In the business world we often hear people talk about things being a “win-win.” This experience was so much more than that, it was a “win-win-win” – a “win” for me personally, a “win” for Moms Helping Moms, and a huge “win” for the families we work with.