Members of Team SJS just minutes before the start of the 2010 Fox Cities Half Marathon!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Is it in you?

Yesterday was the biggest race I have ever been in!  Over 18,000 runners and walkers lined  the streets of Green Bay for the Bellin 10k.  18,701 to be exact!!  My good friend, Renee, had asked if I wanted to do this race and I was honestly taken aback at first.  I asked her if she realized that this race was 6.2 miles long?  You see, Renee started running just last summer for the Fox Cities 5k as a member of Team SJS, and she had told me then that she wasn't sure she could do it!!  She trained diligently and struggled emotionally with the "But if I walk, I'm not really a runner" mind game that we all play with ourselves at one time or another.  Well, she did that 5k and nailed it, just like I knew she would!!!  And then, she ran another 5k this spring in the rain, sleet, cold, thunder and lightning!!  This time, I ran it with her and the fact that she even showed up told me that this woman was serious!!  I have to admit that she did do a little whining along the route about the crappy weather, but hey, who didn't?  Had she not been running it with me, I wouldn't have even thought of doing that run!  It was miserable!! 

So yesterday we rode to Green Bay together, ready to tackle the Bellin.  Renee shared with me her goals for the race.  Her C goal was to do it in 1:20:00 and to run more than she walked.  Her B goal to finish and her A goal to not need medical attention!  I laughed at that one!!  I shared with Renee that my one and only goal for that day was to break my PR of 1:14:58 from last year's Otto Grunski 10k.  It had been my first 10k ever and the day hot and humid!  My stomach was cramping, I was dehydrated and sick and the race was terrible.  I wanted to run this race with strength and speed and to not have to deal with the dreaded stomach issues that had plagued me the entire season last year.  I was nervous, anxious and a little afraid.  Afraid mostly that my body would once again fail me, even though I had worked so hard to get it read for this big day.

We hugged Renee, took pictures and wished her luck before saying goodbye at her corral.  Mike stood next to me on the other side of the fence in Corral 4.  It was a little strange to have him there in street clothes and not running this one with me.  I was on my own to tackle this beast!  There were people as far as I could see, which always makes me think about the possibility of tripping over someone's feet if they cut me off from the left side, my blind side.  I couldn't imagine going down and hitting the pavement with thousands of runners and walkers still behind me.  I knew that it would cause a domino affect and that I wouldn't be the only one kissing the pavement if I wasn't aware of who was around me. And normally, in any given race, the beginning is tight, but then people pretty much spread out over the course.  But not this one, not with 18,000 of us running at the same time, in the same direction.  This one was gonna be tight the whole way through.

After the standard speeches, National Anthem and introductions, the gun apparently went off.  I don't know, I was so far back in the pack I never heard it. The masses began inching forward and closer to the start line.  It took about 10 minutes for us to get there, but eventually we were off!  My headphones singing in my ears, I stepped lightly and held my left arm out away from my body just enough to give myself a cushion from anyone who may bump into me.  I may not be able to see them, but I was damn well gonna know they were there! 

It took awhile to get comfortable with all of the people, my breathing, the constant distractions.  There is something truly amazing about those quiet training runs when you are all alone and able to think of only the things you choose to think about.  This time, I had to fight with the white noise to get into the "zone."  I eventually got into a rhythm and at mile three, I knew I was clipping at a good pace.  I had figured out that I  could definitely do a 1:07 if I stuck to an  11 minute pace.  My watch was showing me 10:22 for the first mile and 10:42 for the second.  I knew that if I just stayed where I was and settled in, I was going to do it.  Mile 3 had a huge downhill and I thought for sure I was going o go head over heels on that one!  But when I checked my watch, it was a 9:54 and I knew that these last three miles were gonna have to be steady. 

By the time I reached mile 5, the burning in my legs began and I could feel myself wanting to slow down.  I was pushing myself to the limits and I had been afraid to do that for a very long time.  I have had this fear of my body failing me ever since the SJS.  Primarily because it has!  My eyes have failed me, my feet have failed me, heck even my fingernails have failed me!  Loss of vision, nerve damage and atrophy, damaged vocal chords, scarred lungs, ugly skin and the loss of finger and toe nails all made me believe that my body was no longer as good as it used to be. That it was damaged and I would never be good at anything again. I had been doubting my own abilities and my own potential to do things I had once been good at as well as things I had never done before.  It was at that time I remembered Emilie's blog about fear.  If you remember, I just met Emilie through her blog this past week.  An SJS Survivor herself, she is competing in an Iron Man on the 26th of this month.  She wrote about digging deep to realize what your true fears were and breaking them down to minute pieces where you can dissect them and overcome that fear one piece at a time.  As I remembered that, I realized that there are so many runners out there with obstacles much bigger than mine that do incredible things.  In fact, Sarah Reinertsen, an above the knee amputee and Iron Man, was running this same race!  She was more than likely already finished!!  I wasn't slowing down now!

I pushed through the remaining 1.2 miles, realizing that I was going to finish way earlier than 1:06!!  I began to panic a bit wondering if Mike was going to be there.  He wasn't expecting me yet and I wanted him to be there!  I needed him to be there!  I ran passed the band that was playing, heard the cheers from hundreds of people lining the street and made the final zigzag to the straight away for the finish line.  I scanned the crowd for Mike, but didn't see him yet.  The finish was getting close...where was he???  And then, like magic, I heard him yell my name and I looked up to see him holding the camera, waving his hand, and smiling his big smile.  He gave me a thumbs up and I knew he realized I had just smashed that PR!  Killed it, by nearly 11 full minutes!  Officially, I had finished the Bellin 10k in 1:03:52.  I had done it, and surprisingly enough, my "failing" body was still in tact.

We watched Renee as she sprinted across the finish line!  She looked strong and absolutely amazing!  Supporting Team SJS once again, she was wearing her team shirt.  I felt a lump forming in my throat and realized how proud I was of her and her incredible accomplishment and the gratitude that I had for her willingness to put that shirt on and run those miles in the name of friendship.  Yes, she did that race for herself, I know that, but she also did it for me.  I realized what an amazing friendship we have, and I'm holding that close to my heart forever.  So Renee reached her goals as well!  She finished that race in 1:19:19, beating her 1:20 mark.  She ran nearly the entire thing and, best of all, she didn't need ANY medical attention!!

So here's my question to you, the reader.  What is it in your life you really want?  Is there a fear that is holding you back?  If so, what is it?  No really, what is it?  And is that fear worth giving up what it is you are dreaming of?  Is it really?  I didn't think so.  So the next question is, is it in you?  I'll bet it is.


  1. Kendra! I'm so happy that i found your blog. congratulations for finishing the race:)Your story is such an inspiration!
    My cousin Catalina was diagnosed with SJS last week, she's in Atlanta, and on monday she was put in an induced coma. This has been extremely painful for all of us, but founding your blog has been a ray of light and hope. I'm going to share it with my family and all my cousin's friends.

    Thanks! Love <3


  2. Hello Diana!!!!

    I am so glad you found my blog too!!! There are so many of us Survivors! I wish I would have known that when I got out of the hospital. My friend, Kate, is a Survivor and lives in Atlanta! I would love to be able to connect your family with her. She is amazing and could be a huge help. Is there a way I can reach you??? I will be praying for your cousin, Catalina, and will ask the SJS Group on FaceBook to do the same. Also, the Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation could be helpful for more information as well. The website is If you're on FaceBook, you can find me there as well. My name is Kendra Moore Schmidt.