Last Sunday, after weeks of hard training, the ORBIS Run For Sight team completed the Toronto Half Marathon. Below, I chronicle our experiences on race day, October 19, 2008.
5:30AM: The alarms start going off signaling that the day the ORBIS Run for Sight team has been anticipating for months is finally here. As the team steps out into the crisp 0°C air in our ORBIS running T-Shirts we reflect on our long journey to Toronto:
It all started one day when two ORBIS staff members discovered that ORBIS Canada was a beneficiary of the Toronto Marathon. After some convincing, they were able to create a list of names of potential runners. Little did those of us who signed up know how much this day would change us. We hired a running coach and started training in July. Barely able to run one mile without collapsing, nine of us jogged up and down Manhattan's west side highway every Monday and Wednesday after work. Our colleagues became used to seeing us in our shorts and sneakers, complaining about aches and pains, and talking incessantly about our training. We even lost three of our teammates along the way due to injuries, but the rest of us persevered. We were determined, despite being slightly skeptical, that we would run 13.1 miles on October 19th.
The ORBIS Run for Sight team at a rest stop in Niagara Falls
8AM: The race gun sounds and we are off! Thousands of half marathoners cross the start line and our team quickly begins to split up. HR coordinator, Enrique “Golden Boy” Napoles, takes off ahead of the team, followed closely by Adam Tageldin, web and IT coordinator. For me, those 13.1 miles were not what I expected. Being in a crowd of people who were all experiencing the same things I was kept me going. Fans along the side of the road cheered us on and held signs that said things like, “Pain is only temporary, pride lasts forever,” and “Hills build character.” It sounds cheesy, but it kept me going. The course took us from the north section of Toronto straight into downtown.
10:30AM: I cross the finish line! Stumbling deliriously past unfamiliar faces, I managed to get a beautiful, shiny medal around my neck and a much needed carton of chocolate milk to bring me back to life. After finding the rest of my limping, sweaty, but smiling teammates (and Carmen Chu from the Canada office with another volunteer who completed a 5K walk), we all head over to the finish line. There, decked out in ORBIS gear is Mohan Thazhathu, our organization’s chief operating officer and executive director of ORBIS Canada.
In the meantime, we are still waiting for our star Ethiopian runner to come in. All of a sudden the crowd begins to cheer – the first of the male marathon runners is coming around the final corner! Sure enough, the winning elite runner, a Kenyan, tears across the finish line, and who is right behind him but Djalene Temesgen, ORBIS Ethiopia public relations director! We always knew she would come in with the elite runners - even if she was running half the distance they were!
12PM: We all celebrate together over a delicious lunch - thanks to Mohan - and laugh until we cry when our legs fail us and no one can make it down one flight of stairs.
3PM: My roommates and I pass out in our hotel room while some of our surprisingly energized teammates enjoy the water slides at the hotel. Eventually the team comes together to eat dessert, drink champagne, and sing along to Mamma Mia… all the while thinking of our brave teammate, Daniella Bianchi, ORBIS Canada manager, who is in heels hosting the ORBIS Canada telethon that night!
On Monday morning, our sleepy, happy team once again piles into the SUV and bids farewell to Canada. Ten hours later the New York skyline comes into view. We all cheer – happy to be home at last, carrying with us thrilling stories, shiny medals and aching muscles from our Canadian adventure.
Our official times:
Enrique Napoles (HR Coordinator): 1:44:05
Adam Tageldin (Web and IT Coordinator): 1:55:54
Brooke Johnson (Associate Director, Global Communications and Branding): 2:15:09
Claudia Carravetta (Program Officer): 2:15:12
Rebecca Saxton-Fox (Flying Eye Hospital Coordinator): 2:22:44
Eteena Tadjiogueu (Communications Coordinator): 2:23:47
Daniella Bianchi (Manager, ORBIS Canada): 2:47:18
Djalene Temesgen (Public Relations Director, ORBIS Ethiopia): 3:23:38
I want to thank everyone who supported us along the way! So far, our team has raised over $5000 for ORBIS. If you are inspired by our story, I encourage you to visit our fundraising page, http://www.orbis.org/runforsight!
Bottom Row: Enrique, Rebecca, Carmen