My whole life I have struggled with my weight. When I was a little girl and we had to run a mile in school, I couldn’t do it because I was too heavy and everyone would make fun of me. When I was 17 years old I decided I had enough and I made up my mind to lose weight. I lost 70 pounds! The next goal that I set for myself was to get over my fear of running. When I lost all this weight I started dealing with major self image problems which led to depression. I decided that doing a race might help me deal with these issues so I decided to sign up for the Carlsbad Half Marathon. Through running and training for the race I have gained the confidence to know that I can do anything and I hope my story will be an inspiration to others who face these same issues.
In early 2006, after never running in my life, I decided to sign up for the Carlsbad Marathon. I’m not sure what compelled me to want to run a marathon, but I just knew it was something I was “supposed” to do. In July of 2006, I joined In Motion Fit in Carlsbad. My first “check out” run with the group, I could barely run two blocks. I had my work cut out for me.
With the encouragement of the wonderful In Motion FIt coaches, and a lot of hard work, six months later I was standing on the starting line of the Carlsbad Marathon with thousands of other runners. Not only was this my first marathon, I had never even been to one.
I was told to be prepared to “hit the wall,” and sure enough, at 20 miles I felt as if I could not continue. By no means could I go another 6.2 miles, I had nothing left. I said a prayer, asking God to carry me the rest of the way. At that same moment, out of the crowd of spectators, came my training coach, Stan. He ran me in the remainder of the race, encouraging me all the way. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I was running for a higher cause.
That cause is the Bread of Life Rescue Mission in Oceanside. For the last four years, I have been a Board Member, and frequent volunteer at the Mission. On one particular night, as I was passing out blankets to our shelter guests, it came to me. I knew why I was “supposed” to run in the Carlsbad Marathon. I was supposed to raise money to buy cots for our guests to get them off the floor.
I proceeded to create a fundraising website and then sent an e-mail to my friends asking them to sponsor me in the race. They really came through! We raised almost $9,000 and were able to buy cots for all of our guests. They are no longer on the floor.
After the marathon, I continued to run with my group, and in April I entered the La Jolla Half Marathon. During the race, I ruptured a disk in my back that required surgery. While in the hospital, I contracted a staph infection. I had to go back to the operating room two additional times, and endure a lengthy recovery which included 12 weeks of continuous IV therapy. Due to the trauma to my spine, I was unable to walk, and had to train my legs to move again.
It was not until November that I recovered. I really missed my running partners and wanted to join them again. Slowly I started to walk with Stan’s walking group at the YMCA. In December, I joined my group again. All that time off affected me, and I had trouble keeping up with the group. With only 30 days left until race day, I knew I was not capable of running in the marathon. What about the half marathon? Is 30 days enough time to train to run the half? I hope so, because that is what I am doing. After all, if I am going to ask my friends to sponsor me again, I had better be in the race!
Jean began a marathon for the people of Nigeria in 1998. She first began at a walking pace by fundraising for the building of a chapel in Minna, Nigeria. Once completed, Mrs. Colarusso visited the chapel and was moved by the many needs of the Nigerian people. Seven out of 10 people are infected with the HIV virus. After her initial visit, Mrs. Colarusso knew she had to pick up her pace. During the last ten years, she has almost single handedly provided the means for a now self-sustaining boys’ school, built a home for widows and orphans, created an Internet café at Kozito School giving access to its 500 students, and in January 2007, opened an AIDS/HIV Clinic and Hospice Center. Mrs. Colarusso is affectionately called “Mama Africa” in Nigeria because of the nurturing she has given to so many who must face death and poverty on a daily basis.
At 72 years young, Mrs. Colarusso has begun the largest project to date; the Dr. William J. Kupiec Memorial School for Girls which will educate 400 girls. She understands the life-changing, historical significance a girls’ school will make in this part of the world. In Nigeria, poor girls are rarely educated past the sixth grade and this school will be the first of its kind to educate poor girls 7th grade through college preparation.
Mrs. Colarusso is indeed a hero for the great improvements she has made to the lives of the people of Nigeria. She has worked tirelessly and accomplished so much without the advantage of being a media mogul, famous actress, or a rock star.
She will be doing the Half Marathon this year but her real marathon will continue with no finish line as she continues to be a voice and a hand-up for the people of Nigeria.
I believe all those who are organ or tissue donors and their families are HEROES. The San Diego Fair agreed and honored donor families at the 2007 San Diego Fair. The 13th happened to be my son, Christopher’s (shown in photo with Donna)10-year anniversary of his heart transplant. They honored his donor’s mom, Donna. Even though she was present at the then San Diego Marathon when Christopher walked the last mile of the marathon with the relay team of people who had helped save his life, Donna did not run. This year she is participating by walking the half marathon with Christopher. Christopher’s donor, Tommy died at the age of ten in a car accident. He fought for his life for 7 days at Children’s Hospital in Orange County. When he was pronounced brain dead his mother and father consented to organ donation. Tommy did what none of the doctors could do for Christopher, he saved his life. In his last hour, he gave a lifetime. Donna has always participated with us to help educate people on the importance of organ and tissue donation. I believe she is truly a hero. Definition of a hero is someone who has great strength. I believe her strength comes from the inside as well as the outside, making a decision in your darkest hour. A hero is one who shows courage. This too describes Donna. She has always been there for our family and opened her heart to include us as part of her family. She is a courageous mother who made a decision that changed our lives. And for that our hearts will forever be together, we are family.
Dr. Landon Pryor may hail from the cold Midwest but these days he calls our sunny California home and we are lucky to have him. Dr. Pryor is running in this year’s Carlsbad Half Marathon on behalf of Fresh Start Surgical Gifts where he is their resident fellow. As the latest addition to the organization’s team of dedicated medical volunteers, Dr. Pryor will be volunteering alongside some of San Diego’s foremost experts in pediatric craniofacial surgery for the next 12 months.
Landon opened his medical school application with the quote, “We are here to add what we can to life, not get what we can from it.” As you quickly get to know this young doctor, you realize he truly takes this quote to heart. Throughout his undergraduate and graduate studies, during a time when most medical students are just trying to make their grades, Landon has tirelessly lent his time and energies toward bettering the world around him. In his first years of medical school in Illinois, Dr. Pryor traveled to Guatemala to provide medical care to underdeveloped communities. Upon return he joined a tutoring program for children in a local hospital and took part in a “Students teaching AIDS to students” program where he provided education and awareness on the disease to underprivileged teens. In 1999, Landon also became involved in the Special Friends Program of the American Cancer Society where he served as a Big Brother for children with cancer.
Dr. Pryor recognizes that his education and training put him in a unique position to give back in a very significant way. “I am fortunate to have found a field of medicine that I am very enthusiastic about, and know that this passion for plastic surgery will only continue to grow stronger.” Since his busy academic career, Landon has continued to pursue his passion for giving back. As Fresh Start’s Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery Clinical Fellow, he is involved with complex and demanding cases of children suffering from physical deformities. Since these children have no way of paying for the medical care they so desperately need on their own, they receive all of their treatment at no cost. Landon is inspired by their courage and their gratitude for the care they receive. In addition to volunteering for the organization in a medical capacity, Dr. Pryor wanted to serve as an inspiration and champion for the young patients in the community. So, when asked if he would like to walk or run in this year’s Carlsbad Half Marathon, he did not hesitate. To date Dr. Pryor has raised over $600 for Fresh Start and is counting on the smiles of the Fresh Start patients to help pull him through those tough 13.1 miles. Go Landon!