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My second Team Challenge Half Marathon was a wonderful event! We arrived on Friday, and Saturday morning I met up with my old college roommate, and we went out to Point Reyes National Seashore.

The night before the race, we had a pasta party, and two inspirational speakers living bravely with IBD (inflammatory vowel disease) spoke— Saskia Madison and Michael Ginzberg. Since I am from Vermont, my state is too small to have a state team, so I am on Team Challenge from New England. We wore our special “Boston Strong” T-shirts. Team New England raised the most money of all the teams, over $400,000.

I also ran for Ryan McMahon, a former team challenge runner who was injured in the Boston bombing. I am part of a group called Run for Boston (#runforboston), and I am motivated to raise awareness for running as well as to raise awareness for the increase in inflammatory bowel disease worldwide.

There were teams from across the US to raise money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America: 2.4 million was the total, of which 80% goes to research. I’m quite proud to be a part of this wonderful organization.

Race day, we got up at 4:30 a.m. to have breakfast and meet the bus to take us to Napa. We all congregated at a wine vineyard there — and there were over 3,500 runners—630 were from all the Team Challenge state chapters.

Before the start, people lined up along the vineyard road, and when the gun went off it took a long time to get moving — especially back where I was pacing myself at 11-12 minute miles!

We finally got moving, and took a left for the first leg of our route that went uphill pretty steadily for around a quarter mile. At the crest of the hill, I was amazed to see a long line of brightly-clad runners as far as the eye could see.

On either side of the road and the mass of runners, there were rows and rows of grape vines. In the distance, as the morning fog was rising, I could see the Mayacamas mountain range rising up from the floor of the Napa Valley.

There were mile markers, and water stops along with port-o-potties along the way. It was so pretty with the grapevines, and some beautiful old wineries, that didn’t really seem too arduous.

By mile 6, I ate one of my Cliff bars, and started to feel a little tired. But they had live music, mocha shots, and Gatorade, so it wasn’t too bad.

I just kept a really steady pace, and I listen to a lot of music, and that really helped my motivation.

Around mile 10, there was a stand on the side of the road, and two men were giving away glasses of Guinness beer.

At mile 11, one of my coaches, Dave, ran with me for a while and that was wonderful. The coaches for team challenge are amazing!

Soon after, there was a place where you could get glasses of wine, and that was pretty fun, but I didn’t get any— for fear of getting a headache!

At mile 12, we turned right and entered the small city of Sonoma. At this point people were lining the street, and urging us on, which was great. Both of my calves cramped up pretty badly, and I was kind of nervous. I could see the finish line ahead of me, and I thought I might have to sit down and not finish!

When I was within a few hundred yards from the finish, a coach from Seattle named Chris came along and ran with me — he could tell I was really pretty exhausted.

He was very calm when he told me to just take it easy and run slowly to the finish line, and then walk it off, which I did.

I have to admit, I did get a little choked up when I crossed the finish line, and I felt really proud of myself for living with Crohn’s disease yet still living my life to the fullest.

I’m still trying to make my fundraising goal—I have until August 21st and it’s a great cause!

I met so many amazing people through Team Challenge, many of whom are a lot sicker than I am. It is really inspiring AND fun. I really recommend this!

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