I’m set to run the Boston Marathon on April 15. I qualified for Boston with a finishing time of 3:34 at the California International Marathon. I’ve been training for months but preparing for years. I’m ready to shiver, sweat, and push my way to the finish line.
While my twins Micah and Zachary were in the NICU, I found small windows of time to run. My NICU-runs gave me the space I needed to conquer the guilt, shame, and anxiety I felt from giving birth so prematurely. With every stride, I gained more confidence and clarity to better cope with our sons’ hospitalizations.
Just a month before the twins’ first birthday, Micah died from complications of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Suddenly, I forgot how to breathe. I didn’t know how to eat, or how to live without Micah. But, I knew how to run. So, I ran through my grief. I found comfort as my tears and sweat became one and the same.
I was running when the vision for the NEC Society, a nonprofit dedicated to necrotizing enterocolitis, floated into my life. Running is my place for peace, creativity, and resolve.
In the days, weeks, and years since Micah’s death, I’ve often felt closest to Micah while running. I feel his warmth on my skin from the sun. I see his bright smile as nature flutters around me. I hear his sweet baby coos in the sounds of the wind. I listen to his songs and I just run. And I find myself near him.
These 26.2 miles in Boston will be different than the 26.2s I’ve run in the past, mostly because I am different. San Diego, San Francisco, Orange County, and Boston 2011, those races were for me. This race is for the babies.
It’s for all of the babies impacted by necrotizing enterocolitis, which kills around 500 U.S. infants every year. It’s for the babies in the ICU right now, fighting to survive. It’s for the fragile babies who made it home but are now struggling with lifelong complications from their precarious beginning. It’s for the babies who live on in the hearts of their loved ones.
Running 26.2 miles takes strength and resiliency. Much like enduring the death of your child, you just keep going, even when you feel like you have nothing left to give. I run because Micah never had the chance. I run because Zachary has defied all odds. I run because their baby brother Elijah radiates with strength. I run because I can.
In an effort to help raise awareness about necrotizing enterocolitis, I am dedicating each marathon mile to a baby who’s faced this devastating disease. These infants may have been vulnerable to necrotizing enterocolitis, but they are stronger and more resilient than any marathoner.
The families and clinicians that help lead the NEC Society are inspiring and extraordinarily dedicated to the health of our most fragile babies. Together, we can accomplish so much more than a marathon. Running 26.2 miles may be admirable, but being part of an organization that’s improving outcomes for babies is remarkable. Ready to be remarkable? Join us www.NECsociety.org