Tiffany Zook will be doing a series of guest posts on racing for charity. She was a very important and passionate member of Team Shrinking Jeans when we raced with Team In Training and raised money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Tiffany was a rockstar fundraiser and motivational team member!! She is passionate about charity racing for good reason – she’s a pediatric oncology nurse, and has seen the good the funds raised do for cancer patients.
I have fallen in love with charity racing. Period. End of story.
Actually, this is just the beginning of my story. Many of you have heard of Team in Training, Race for the Cure, The Breast Cancer Three Day; St. Jude Children’s Cancer Research… The list goes on and on. For years I had thought that Team in Training would be a great way to give back and to learn how to run, but never had the courage to actually take action until January of 2010 when Shrinking Jeans put out the call and announcement that they would be putting a team together to participate in the Virtual Team in Training. I didn’t even hesitate and sent the email to say that I was “in”. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks into training that I even questioned what on earth I had signed up for. At the time I weighed well over 200 pounds and couldn’t run a block. Yet, I was compelled to jump on board. You see, I had a tremendous external motivation that propelled my fingers to type the email asking to be included in the team that would become “Team Shrinking Jeans”.
That external motivation happens to be my life’s work. Many of you know that I work as a Pediatric Oncology Nurse taking care of children with cancer and their families. I see the work of the Leukemia Lymphoma Society on a daily basis and I see how vital their work is in a very practical, tangible manner. Because this was a cause that I believed in from the very core of my being, I didn’t think twice about the fundraising aspect of participating in Team in Training (TNT). Truth be told I was much more freaked out by the training and the fact that I would be run/walking 13.1 miles after several months of training. It was a darn good thing I did sign up and was committed, because the first several weeks are rough and I may have been tempted to quit. I know for sure that quitting would have been much easier had I not been committed to a cause larger than a race. And now here I am, training for my third half marathon and my second event with Team in Training.
So why am I sharing all of this with you? Plain and simple, I have fallen in love with endurance running, participating in races and very most importantly, I LOVE charity racing! I want to challenge every one of you who have considered doing an endurance event like a half marathon, marathon, or triathlon to use your passion for the cause that is closest to your heart to help you take the first step in doing something that will forever change your life.
We all have our “cause”. For me it is childhood cancer. For Melissa it is Charity Water. For many of you it is breast cancer. For some it is at risk kids. I am sure that if we made a list of all the charities that tug at our heartstrings or that speak to our soul in a way that brings us to tears, it would be endless. For every cause there is the ability to pair it with an endurance event. Organizations such as Susan G. Komen and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society have very organized and structured programs in which they provide coaching, fundraising help and a seamless process to guide you through your event. There are many other non-profits who have smaller programs and provide some of the similar services as the frontrunners in the charity racing world. Then there are causes that do not have a formal program, but who would never in a million years turn down anyone who wants to raise money for them, and most of them have fundraising websites that you can personalize and use in any fashion you choose to raise funds. There are plenty of resources available from Shrinking Jeans to help you find a good training plan and lead you to the necessary resources you need to compete in an endurance event and thrive. I have become convinced that a cause close to your heart can propel you to do things that you mind may not be able to fathom.
In the cancer world alone, charity racing has not only raised funds to help cancer patients, but it is contributing to ground breaking research and new drug development. The July issue of Runner’s World (insert link www.runnersworld.com) Magazine, was completely dedicated to the role that running has played in the world of cancer. They detailed “Where the Fundraising Dollars Go”, and provide a list of cancer charities with a running connection. In discussing the translation of dollars to research, they say this:
“Support from groups like the Komen Foundation lets us focus on out-of-the-box type research… For example, Komen is helping finance a study we’re doing on the plasticity of cancer cells… On its website, the organization claims to have ‘touched every major breast-cancer break-through of the last 29 years.’ The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society takes an equally bold marketing approach, pointing to the support it provided in the development of Gleevec, a breakthrough leukemia drug, and its championing of ‘translational research’ which drives a drug’s passage from lab to clinical use”
Pretty darn amazing!
Charity racing allows you to be a voice for your cause, and the greatest side benefit is the way it transforms your health and fitness. It is nearly impossible to train for and endurance event without releasing a barrage of positive effects on your body, mind and soul. In the past year and a half since I first signed up with Team Shrinking Jeans to do TNT, I have taken off nearly 50 pounds, totally changed my body composition decreasing my body fat from over 40% to 26%, learned the value of strength training, and for the first summer in the last four years, I have not had to increase the dose of my anti-anxiety medication. I am forever indebted to Kirsten for being the catalyst that got Team Shrinking Jeans going and thus gave me a team, making the decision to take the plunge a bit less daunting.
In the coming weeks I will continue to share with you about my journey and share some important topics that are key to the journey, such as “Demystifying fundraising” – thinking out of the box and getting creative with fundraising, “How to use your cause as your greatest training tool” – learning how to channel your cause to be the most important fuel in your training and lastly we will take some time to hear personal accounts from sisters here at the Hood and their personal journeys with charity racing. For now, I challenge you to close your eyes and think about your “cause”, then think about being able to really contribute to that cause, then picture yourself making that decision and taking that hardest, yet most important first step to
Just do it…
Make the commitment.
I promise you, you will not regret it!