What do you say about the day that was a year in the making and tested every ounce of my willpower, but rewarded with me with some of the happiest tears that I’ve ever cried?
On 10.10.10, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to eat oatmeal and half a bagel, chug lemon-lime Gatorade, down Jelly Belly Sport Beans, and make my way to Grant Park to line up with 45,000 other runners for the Chicago Marathon. In my quest for personal marathon glory, I wanted to show that women are so strong.
At the 2009 Chicago Marathon, I vowed never to be a spectator again. The next morning I got on the treadmill to huff out five miles that I had no business doing. I joined a running club, set intermediate goals, and lost 70 pounds in the process.
As I did my long runs around Chicago, I thought about my maternal grandmother, a woman much before her time who went to the University of Chicago when women weren’t supposed to be educated. I thought about my mother, who when she first went into the job market was told, “We’re interviewing you just because we need to say we’re interviewing women.” Today, she is an extremely successful CFO. It’s because of these two women that I am strong.
When I lived in Washington, D.C., I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Prize winner for Economics, at a Vital Voices event.
Yunus is my personal hero and the grandfather of the microfinance. By giving small loans – $25 or $100 – to women in Bangladesh, he allowed them to start businesses. When those businesses grew, so did their economy and their spirit. Through these mini-loans, he changed lives forever, and not just for moments by giving them $25 of food that would be depleted.
He’s a living reminder that small things can make a huge impact. When I decided to raise money in honor of my marathon, I wanted it to go to an organization that empowered women and built strong women, so I chose Vital Voices. I then went to FirstGiving.com and set up an account so that my supporters could make a donation that went directly to Vital Voices. With their generous support, I raised more than $4,000 to further VV’s impact around the world.
I knew the marathon would be hard, ugly, brutal, but I never anticipated running the race I did. My time, around 5:30 hours, was not what I planned, but the 2010 Chicago Marathon and the weather gods had a different race in mind for me, and that was the race that I completed in almost 90 degree temperatures.
Many times over the course of the race, I thought about the women that Vital Voices introduced me to, such as Mukhtar Mai from Pakistan, who was supposed to commit suicide after being gang raped, but refused and stood up to her attackers and won. I thought about all of the women that Yunus helped to make strong in Bangladesh.
Running the 2010 Chicago Marathon was my way proving to myself that I am strong, and through the thousands raised for Vital Voices, I hope to make other women even stronger. I hope you do the same.
*Pictured above: Katie and her sister, Abby, who also ran the marathon.*