My first introduction to Plattsburgh, NY was in August 1996 when I attended The Clifford Ball, a weekend long Phish festival at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base. I went with my cousin and her boyfriend at the time. I remember the lovely drive up route 87. As we neared Plattsburgh we sat stuck in traffic for miles. I don’t think we realized that 70,000 people would be attending the weekend festivities. I didn’t see much of Plattsburgh that weekend because once we made it to the base we never let the concert. If you had told me then that in the future I would become very well acquainted with Plattsburgh on foot I would have thought you were insane. I also probably would have choked on my diet coke after blowing a puff of smoke your way.
The next time I visited Plattsburgh was in September 2010 for the the beautiful wedding of my dear friend and former Peace Corps site mate Amelia and her husband Scott.
I’m going to back up a bit to explain how running figures into this story. For that I have to return to 2008. In the fall of 2008 Amelia and I signed up for a 5K in Binghamton, NY where she was living at the time. I trained for months and was so proud of the fact that I could finally run 3 miles without stopping. Plans changed and Orlando was unable to join me. Carlos came with me, but I had no one to watch him during the race. I was unable to run the race. I was incredibly disappointed and I’m embarrassed to say that I was not a very supportive spectator for my friend that day. Amelia ran the race on a cold, rainy day and did a fantastic job for her first 5K.
I was in the throes of negativity at this time in my life and whenever I got that way it was typically because of how I felt about my body. Yet the negativity was all consuming and spilled into the world around me. Amelia is a very positive person and she very kindly told me that I had to stop being so negative. It stung me at first because no one has ever called me out on my behavior like that, but I knew she was right. She didn’t stop being my friend, but I knew that if I didn’t change something I would lose our friendship and others as well. Her honesty changed the trajectory of my life. I started taking better care of myself, finally ran my first 5K in the fall of 2009 and set a goal to run a half marathon in the fall of 2010, I switched jobs at the hospital, I began to exercise daily, changed my diet, I smiled more, and stopped saying negative things about myself to others.
Back to Plattsburgh…Amelia had moved there prior to getting married. On the day of her wedding I felt as though the fragile bond between us had strengthened. I was so happy for her happiness that day and so grateful that she hadn’t given up on me or our friendship. Between 2010 and 2013 Orlando, Carlos, and I visited Amelia and her family in Plattsburgh. In early 2013 Amelia found out she was pregnant with her second child and at the same time was told that she had stage 3 breast cancer.
Things happened quickly in the spring of 2013, surgery, treatment, prenatal appointments, tests, etc. I felt helpless. The 4 hour distance between us seemed so vast. I wanted to be able to bring dinner to her and her family or scoop up her son for an afternoon so she could rest. I just wanted to see Amelia and be there if she needed anything. I already had plans to run the Plattsburgh Half Marathon in April 2013. I planned another weekend over the course of the summer to be with Amelia. During my time in Plattsburgh I continued with my training schedule for the Montreal Marathon in September 2013. I enjoyed running new routes around Plattsburgh and beyond. There are some really beautiful stretches along Lake Champlain. During my summer visit I completed a 20 mile training run around the town.
In the fall of 2013 Amelia delivered a healthy, beautiful baby girl. Over the course of the last few years Amelia’s strength, positivity, faith, and determination has inspired me to push through anything that feels even the slightest bit difficult. She is a survivor!
When she asked me to participate in the Plattsburgh Half Marathon Relay on May 1st, I was immediately on board. Amelia and her husband have caught the running bug in the last year. I have been waiting for an opportunity to finally run an event with Amelia. Although we weren’t going to be running side by side this experience would bring our running story full circle. I insisted that she run the second half of the race because running through the finish line is the most exciting part! Although there was an actual finish line and medals for the relay participants at the halfway mark which I thought was awesome.
I really love this race. The starting line is at the City Recreational Center which provides a warm dry place for runners and spectators throughout the race. The race benefits Team Fox for Parkinson’s Research. The course is pleasant, no major elevation or challenging areas. For a small race the swag is generous – nice medals, tech tees, and a beer glass.
I lined up at the start with Amelia’s husband who was running the entire half marathon. It was a cool grey day, but the rain wasn’t coming down yet. Ideal for running. Despite running about 7 miles the day before with a friend and literally running head first into a tree, I was feeling great right from the get go. Seriously, my legs were moving and my mind was in the right place. I had no clue what my pace was, but I knew instinctively that I would hit my goal of running the 6.5 miles in under 1:05. I am not known for running particularly hard during races nor am I good at pushing myself during the final miles, but I felt better and better as the miles ticked by. Mile 5 presented the first and only hill for me. I ran it strong and then careened to solid finish.
I was so energized as I turned over the bracelet to Amelia. I wanted to keep going!! I waited to watch her husband run through the halfway point. He looked great and was still smiling. Then I hopped on the school bus to take me back to the finish. The bus ride was a blast from the past. A few of us in the back recounted old memories of riding the big yellow bus back in the day. It was hysterical. Does anyone remember bus patrol? We had a designated bus patrol who got to wear a bright orange vest on the bus and had to let everyone off seat by seat when we arrived at school. I wanted that job so badly, but it went to Lisa Simpson instead. By the time I reached the finish line the rain was coming down lightly. It was great to watch Amelia’s husband make a strong finish. He is going to run his first full marathon in the fall. I am really excited for him.
The rain was picking up and as soon as I saw Amelia I jumped out onto the course to join her for the last stretch. Amelia is always smiling and she looked amazing despite the cold rainy weather. This was the longest and farthest she had ever run. I felt such pride and joy as I ran by her side over the finish line.
Running has brought such goodness to my life. It has provided me with an outlet during stressful times. It makes me feel great physically and mentally. It has taken me out of my comfort zone and forced me to realize that I am capable of so much more than I ever imagined. It has brought me to new places. It has given me and my family an excuse to travel and spend time together. It has introduced me to some truly wonderful people. It has inspired others to join me. Running makes me happy and it is such an honor to share that with others.
Amelia’s running journey has only just begun. I look forward to our next race together – To Be Decided! We did it girl!!