Wendy Phaff:
San Francisco Marathon Report

Wendy Phaff gives us her exclusive report on the San Francisco Half Marathon.

Wendy Phaff

Wow, wow and wow!

I returned this past Monday night from another amazing weekend with TNT. I thought that San Diego was special and it was, but this past weekend, San Francisco was magic in itself!

Was it because as an "athlete" I had lowered my expectations and took it a bit easier on myself? Was it the energy of being in a crowd of women some 14000 strong? Maybe it was the Tiffany necklace waiting for me at the finish line (and the VERY cute guy in the Tux who handed it to me), or how about the chocolate at mile 12?

The course itself was spectacular as it wound itself around the edge of the city passing Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge and countless breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Even the hills were no challenge when you knew that when it crested, something special would be there to see or hear.

It had a different effect on me this time. Whatever it was, the Nike Women's Marathon (and half marathon which I completed) is one of those things in life that, as a woman, is a worthwhile goal to achieve and I seriously encourage all my friends (male or female) to consider joining TNT just to participate in this special event next year. Actually, I dare you all to join! (www.teamintraining.org) (you can walk the half....just think of it as window shopping).

After an 8-week break from running (recovering from an injury), I began re-training in July. It was like starting all over again for this anything but athletic body of mine! My first run was painful and tough but I managed to make it (around the block) without too much huffing and puffing.

There is a bridge that is 2.5 miles from my house. In the spring the 5 miles round trip was a breeze. Something I did 3 days a week with no problem. But in July and August that bridge seemed very far away and not only was it hard to believe that I once ran all the way there and back, it was hard to believe I would ever even get there again. But I did.

Cliche as it sounds, and as redundant as I may be, I choose to persevere and I choose to subject myself to the rigorous demands that training for a marathon requires. Those who persevere aggressive chemo and those who suffer by no choice of their own, have it much harder than I do.

As with all TNT events, one of the highlights of the weekend is the "Pasta Party", an impressive mass gathering of 2-3000 individuals carbo-loading and coming together to appreciate the real reason we are where we are. For the Nike Marathon, TNT raised an astounding 14 Million Dollars (that's 140,000 per mile!).

It's always an inspiring moment when you hear a survivor, patient-hero, close family member or caregiver speak about the effect of Leukemia on their lives and how TNT has made a difference. There is never a dry eye in the place and knowing that everything we raise goes to such a worthy cause makes it all so much more worthwhile.

At 7 A.M. the gun went off and another Marathon had begun. This time there were 4100 TNT participants, a sea of purple shirts all winding their way through the streets of San Francisco. You are never alone when you are a TNT member. There is always someone to run with, walk with, talk to, commiserate with, etc…All it takes is an open mind and an open heart and the experience can be so overwhelming.

In addition to all of the participants, there are the throngs of people who volunteer. The amount of people it takes to pull this off is staggering, and you become so grateful to each and every one of them for being there. It is so hard to explain what it feels like to have people calling out to you from both sides of the course. How wonderful it is to receive encouragement (especially at the top of those hills).

I made sure that my name was emblazoned on my shirt in large letters, I was not going to let this marathon go by without hearing my name and knew that to get through I would need the support of the TNT coaches and “cheer leaders” along the route. (Ok, so in my excitement I ironed the 'D' on backwards!)

Somewhere around mile 9 or 10, I lost it when I saw the signs along the side of the road from each chapter with the faces of those who survived, and some who did not and all the love and thanks along the way.

I wish someone told me there would be Bison at mile 11, because at one point I did think I was hallucinating.

By the time 12 came along... and the Ghirardelli Chocolate was being handed out, I knew I was home free and with tears in my eyes, chocolate in my mouth, and my friend Lisa cheering me on just as I made the last turn, I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 47 Minutes.

When I came through the finishers chute, and collected all my goodies (necklace, T-shirt, Mylar blanket), I headed back to the turn and cheered on as many from my team as I could find. That was as exciting as finishing this event myself.

Many on the team that went to San Fran were first time TNT'ers and to see the tears in their eyes and know firsthand how they felt was as emotional for me as it was for them. I had as much fun cheering as I did running.

Not sure what's next for me, I have until January to decide. You will, of course, be contacted as soon as I know. You keep donating and I will keep running, and maybe even swim and cycle next year to continue the battle against blood related cancers!

Thanks to my friend Lisa Kellner for joining me in San Fran for this trip. It's always nice to have a familiar face waiting for you at the finish line and I have been blessed both times with good friends who have been there for me... you are all invited to come along for the ride and if you are feeling very motivated... you're always welcome to come along for the run!

Once again I thank you all for your generosity and giving. If it were not for all of you, I would not be able to participate in TNT, travel to all these places and challenge myself event after event.



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