Several years ago Heidi began running as a part of her normal exercise regime, which for those who know her, is one filled with dedication and perseverance. Completing various race distances of 5K, 10K, and even several half-marathons, her passion began to rub off on me from the pure passion that she poured into every run. I began running in September 2009 and quickly found the ability to focus on the task at hand and the satisfaction of completing what I put my mind to addictive as well. Since then we have competeted in several distance races together, including several crazy trail runs out in Reading, PA. This spring I completed my first half-marathon, and Heidi cheered me on from the sidelines because we were in the middle of our first IVF cycle. We have alwasy entertained the idea of training and finishing a full marathon, and we are exited to be able to run this fall. I believe we will do well and finish strong, but getting there will require months of hard work and dedication to get into race shape. Below I will try to post landmarks in our training along the way.

We encourage all those who would like to help support us in the physical endevor to help sponsor us through our PayPal account. As we get closer to our November 21 race date, we will post more information on how you can help come cheer us on as we run like crazy through the streets of Philadelphia

Good Things Are Happening

Our orientation call went well last night with our agency to review the paperwork that we recently received after being officially accepted into the Ethiopia adoption program. We discussed initial fees and timing that we can expect over the next 12–18 months before we are able to receive our little blessing.

Meanwhile we are right in the middle of our marathon training and things are going smoothly. We are experiencing some aches and pains, but powering through and staying strong by keeping focused on our goals. We just recently ran our 13 mile training run, which for me was quite an accomplishment, because I never thought I would be running half-marathons for a training run. I think that we are both really enjoying the 3-day training program that we are using as it allows us to experience different types of runs to break up the monatony and gives our bodies time to recover and rest. The remainder of our schedule from this point on will be a bit daunting. We are currently on a tandem week and then our distance will start to build from 14 mile runs up to 20 mile runs. I believe we are going to end up replacing one of the 20 miles with a full 26 mile, just to ensure that we can go the distance on race day.

We are both really excited to have seen all of the support of our friends and family rally around us in the past few weeks. We have several really great fundraising opportunities in the works outside of the ones that we already have listed on our site and hope to be able to provide you more details shortly to how you can help.

During our orientation call last night we were reminded that we have a considerable amount of fundraising to get started as a large portion of our cost will be due very soon. I hope to be able to focus solely on sending our corporate and local sponsorship letters out this week to help offset some of these cost and provide more details to the various fundraising opportunities that we have available on our website.

We appreciate so much those folks that have already donated and continue to rally around us in love and support through all. If you know of any additional companies that may be willing to offer sponsorship please contact us asap so that I can get a fundraising letter to them in the mail.

Going the Distance

As we shuffled our feet along the dark and mysterious Ironton Rail Trail last evening it appeared to me how either crazy or dedicated we have become to our training. A lot of sweat and tears have fallen on the running path these past few weeks as we have really begun to increase our mileage quite significantly. Our bodies are being a good sport about it and have only given the occasional bark back at us as we wake up in the morning or drop ourselves into a warm recovery bath. It is amazing what your body can do if you teach it properly. Our good friend Kate encouraged us by saying that “your body can do 8 times more than you think it can”, and we have kept that in that back of our minds while running our long runs on the weekend. Most recently, I believe that our shoes are starting to get warn out which has been leading us to have what I refer to as “lead legs” at the beginning of our runs. We luckily will be receiving new “test” shoes on Oct. 16th and this will hopefully eliminate this issue. We have pushed through the elements and the fatigue to complete a total of 250 miles! so far, with 35 days to go. We have experimented with various gels, electrolyte fluids, and recovery drinks to try and find the secret formula to successful long runs. So far, we have determined that game plan includes good hydration the day before, pumpkin pancakes in the morning, a recovery shake afterwards, and the occasional fiesta salad from Sunset Grill. These next 35 days will be a grueling test of physical and mental endurance as we will have long runs ranging from 15–20 miles and tempo runs of 5–8 miles each week. I think the secret to our success so far has been the 3-day a week training program that has allowed us to recover, but it has been difficult as sometimes the weather has forced us to run back-to-back days. I have battled through various ailments (shin splints, tightness in my calf, etc.), that have seemed to flair up when we don’t allow proper recovery time. I am not convinced that some of these are a reflection of worn out running shoes, but I have made it a tradition to ice down after runs and this has seemed to help. Heidi continues to impress me with her ability to endure and she has really gained all of her speed back that she had previous to the IVF. She smokes me just about every run, but we are a great team as I somehow maintain a close distance to her on most runs. Our little blessing from above continues to be the focus of our runs and we push through every mile with them in mind knowing that their up there cheering us on.

Ready for 26.2

We began training many months ago for the Philadelphia Marathon, not knowing what to expect, but hoping that our previous race experience would help keep us focused and ultimately lead us to a strong finish. Our training has taught us many valuable lessons since we first begin back in July. Nobody succeeds alone. There were days where lacing up our running shoes took encouragement from many forces. Whether a word of support from family and friends, a prerun hug on the Ironton Rail Trail, or the constant faith of footprints in the sand next to us, we know that we couldn’t have gotten to where we are today without the help of many others. If you do your best, you’ll have no regrets. As we sat outside the Finish Line store in Emmaus this summer to receive our new test shoes, a lady who had run several marathons encouraged us. She enthusiastically told us, “It’s not the quantity, but the quality of your runs that make a difference”. We approached each training run since then with focus and determination to put in hard work and finish strong each time. The road we have run in life as a couple has not always been straight and flat. Over the past year we have faced many twist, turns, hills, and valleys, but have continued to keep our chin up, eyes ahead, and feet on the ground. We look forward to completing the marathon this coming Sunday as a celebration of where we have come from and where we are going. Training has taught us that running a marathon is no easy task. We will complete a little over 44,500 steps before crossing the finish line, pushing our bodies to the limits of endurance. We will be running with 23,000 other crazy people and are so excited to have everyone come cheer us on in support of our athletic feat and help us celebrate our upcoming adoption.

If you plan on attending the Philadelphia Marathon to come root us on, I have posted some important information below that includes the cheer zones we are suggesting people to go to, as well as details about our post-race dinner celebration at the Spaghetti Warehouse.

There are several ways to make it down to the race, via car or train. Click here for more details to visit the race site. This site also has important information on parking, as many of the streets are shutdown that morning. There are parking discount coupons available at the bottom of the page.

The half-marathon/marathon will start promptly at 7:00 am at 22nd Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Due to 23,000 people, it might be sometime before you see us cross the start line, but you can look for our bright yellow Team Kester shirts. A race schedule can be found here.

The cheer zone map can be found by clicking this link. The following cheer zones would be ideal areas to cheer us on. Kelly & Fountain Green Drives – Miles 15.5 & 24.5; Main & Cotton Streets @ Winnie’s LeBus – Miles 19 & 20.5; and the Start/Finish Line – Mile 26.2. I choose these cheer zones for two reasons. One, these are the sections we feel that we will need a little boost. Secondly, the race website offers a new feature to receive a text message every time Heidi and I pass a 5-mile marker. If you’ll notice, these areas are just past a 5-mile marker, so it should be easier to know when were coming up. Click here to sign-up for this important feature to keep track of us on race day.

Lastly, after we complete all 26.2 miles, we will be celebrating with family and friends at the Spaghetti Warehouse in Philadelphia. The address is 1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123-3306. Their website here can be used to get directions.

To all of those who will be unable to attend, we appreciate all of your support and encouragement over the past few months, and ask you to continue to pray for us and think of us on race day. We will try to post photos shortly and I will provide a follow-up article describing the completion of our marathon. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at run2ourbaby@gmail.com.

Marathon Follow-up

A month removed from completing the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon and we are feeling fully recovered. We both agree that this was the most difficult task we have ever completed and could not have crossed the finish line without the support of our family and friends, the strength from God, and our goal to adopt our little blessing from Ethiopia. I really enjoyed the entire experience of running our first marathon. The months of training leading up to the race gave Heidi and I an opportunity to test us both physically and mentally as there were definitely days that we had to reach down deep to complete the task at hand. The opportunity to spend so much time together as a couple and have sometimes 2–3 hour conversations was an amazing chance to bond and discuss all of the future plans that we have for our little blessing(s). In the final few weeks leading up to the race I believe our bodies began to show some wear and tear as I developed a slight hamstring pull and problems with my right foot. Heidi, who continues to amaze me, had some slight knee pain, but was a machine for the most part and just continued to crank out miles.

The race expo day was exciting for the both of us, as I internally started to get really excited and filled with anticipation of what we were about to ask our bodies to complete. I had my right foot taped up in anticipation of foot pain during the race, from what I believed was the beginnings of a stress fracture.

The weather for the race could not have been better. It was partly sunny, low 50’s, and only a slight breeze. We started off strong, and eventually had to force our self to slow our pace around mile 2. At this point we were running almost 10:00 minute miles, and knew it would be tiring to maintain this pace throughout. Right around mile 3, I was dealt a devastating blow as my mp3 player decided to lock-up, but I kept motivated from the roar of the crowds along South Street and chose to focus on the funny signs from the fans and shouting out encouragements to struggling runners. We maintained an excellent pace up through Drexel, and were running strong until around mile 9. At this point, we went down a large hill, and my feet begin to ache terribly. I thought for sure that the stress fracture had come full circle, but I sucked it up, and we pushed on. We begin to see some of our friends and family from this point on, which would help motivate us to the half-way point where the half-marathoners split off towards the finish. I would say the next 7–9 miles from here were the most grueling. Because of difficult access, there were not a lot of crowds, and we started to see the elite runners heading back towards us on the other side of the street. Once we got into Manayunk, I knew that we were going to finish this race, some how, some way. The final 6.2 miles were a true test of all of the hard work that Heidi and I put into our training regiment and the sheer determination to grind out the final miles. We knew that we were running this race for our little “Bells” and she was somewhere out there cheering us on in spirit.

We finished strong, hand-in-hand, as I gave a high-five to Mayor Nutter and we crossed the finish line to open arms from our family and friends. It was a surreal experience that we will never forget as we remember that you can do anything you put your mind to. I am constantly reminded of the verse Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

- Joshua 1:9

After the race, we enjoyed a wonderful pasta feast at the Spaghetti Warehouse surrounded by our family and friends, and even some of Heidi’s students who came down to help us celebrate. We can’t thank those enough who were there in person or in spirit, as you truly helped us continue on through the streets of Philadelphia that day towards our goal.

Through everyone’s donations, we were able to complete the next step in our adoption process by submitting all of our final information packets to our agency. We were blessed to find out that we made the official waiting list a few days before running the marathon, and we are currently in the process of waiting for our Favorable Determination Letter and moving one day closer to our referral. 2010 will be filled with many memories, but one of the most special will be our Marathon Weekend where we were surrounded by the support and love of everyone in our lives.