The following originally appeared on HuffPost. To read it there, click here.
So I ran a half-marathon a few months ago, and when you do something like that the first question people ask is, “So are you a runner now?”
It’s an interesting question, because technically, I should just say yes. I was running for months, building up to that rainy, cold day in January when I ran 13.1 miles. I was a runner in name only, though. Through all those early morning runs and late night stretches, I never really thought of myself as a “real” runner. I wasn’t running as fast as I would have liked. No record breaking sprints. I spent most runs playing out the very believable scenario of either being the last person to cross the finish line or worse, the one that they would have to pick up in a van because the streets were opening and the race was over.
None of those predictions came true, of course. I wasn’t last. Not by a long shot. And I didn’t pass out halfway through the race. No one stopped to pick me up because the race had ended. I crossed the finish line, got a fancy medal, scarfed down enough food to feed a small country in Africa, and celebrated that I was not waking up at 5AM the next morning.
But even though I didn’t call myself a runner, something did happen during that race.
I ran with Team Lifeline, raising money for Chai Lifeline, an organization that helps the families of children in medical crises. Chai Lifeline became a part of my family’s life when my son was diagnosed with a brain tumor, two years ago. After he spent a summer in Camp Simcha, an overnight camp for kids with cancer and chronic medical issues, I knew I needed to do something to give back to the organization that helped us so much during that terrible time in our lives.
Running with Team Lifeline is a unique experience. People told me that everyone has their own marathon story – their reason that they started running, the reason that propels them through race after race – but Team Lifeline runners wear their stories on their sleeves. Literally.
All charity teams have shirts, but Team Lifeline has two. A classic yellow and blue running dri-fit, and another one that’s solid yellow. The solid yellow shirts indicate runners who are part of the Chai Lifeline family. That means they had a child who was sick, or they themselves were a camper in Camp Simcha, or somehow, somewhere, for some reason, they were unfortunately at the receiving end of Chai Lifeline’s numerous services. It might not seem like much, but when you are running in a race, and you see those shirts, they do more than just create camaraderie amongst teammates. There’s a whole story behind each one. A lifetime.
There’s pain somewhere behind those shirts as well. Running alongside those stories makes the run something far greater than just an endurance event. You see those team members on the course and you know that you are running with people who have overcome much more than 13.1 miles. Those shirts are like beacons of goodness and hope. They propel you onward and get you moving towards your own finish.
My sister is a runner in the classical sense and she always tells me how important it is to run with friends. They encourage you, keep you going, remind you that you can get through the next mile, the next two miles. Running with Team Lifeline is more than that. It’s being part of a team of people who believe in the power of happiness, in the strength of joy, and in the ability to overcome anything. And it is about running with a family you never knew you had. I shamelessly raise money for them and risk alienating some of my Facebook friends because I know first hand where that money goes and why it is so needed.
I also know that the Team Lifeline fundraisers that are popping up on everyone’s social media platforms make up a running team of the most caring, compassionate, and straight-up happiest people I’ve ever met.
So when people ask me if I’m a runner, I always say the same thing. No. Not really. But I’m a member of Team Lifeline. I run for them.
Which is like saying I run for my family.
If you would like to donate to Team Lifeline, click here: https://www.teamlifeline.org/team-lifeline-miami-2018/binny
If you would like to JOIN Team Lifeline, click here to register (and tell them I sent you!):https://www.teamlifeline.org/Register