Mountain Mayhem: Empire state of mind
“It Will Move You,” the slogan for the New York City Marathon, perfectly summed up the emotion I felt last Sunday running among 50,000 others and being supported by 2 million spectators on a gorgeous fall day in the Empire State.
As my fourth time running the NYC Marathon, this one held a special significance for me as a member of the fundraising team for the Chris Klug Foundation (CKF) with a mission to raise awareness of and funds for organ, eye, and tissue donation.
The history of the organization and the important work they accomplish are moving. When Chris Klug was 21, working as a professional snowboarder, he was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis – a rare degenerative bile duct condition – and was placed on the National Transplant Waiting List. After six years on the waiting list and three months at a critical stage, the day came in July of 2000, when he received a liver transplant. Six weeks later, he was back on his snowboard, and in 2002, he had the opportunity to represent the U.S. at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he won a bronze medal. During his time on the waiting list, he promised himself he would do everything he could to spread the message of organ and tissue donation once he was able. In 2003, he founded CKF and has gone on to lead an inspiring life as an athlete, devoted husband and father, and successful real estate agent.
CKF has had a NYC marathon team for a number of years, with participants committing to meet a fundraising minimum – all of which is directed to the non-profit’s lifesaving mission. In addition to the team, this was the first time CKF also had a presence at the race expo at the Javits Center. Executive Director Jessi Rochel and Program and Communications Director Anna Morgan-Palardy manned the CKF booth over the weekend and coordinated a team meet-up there for our running crew comprised of Max Rispoli, Matt Cavanaugh, Erica Rasmussen, Jason Anderson, Rocio de la Cruz, Hillary Baude, Jill Canning, Christy Mahon, Sarah Cole, Charlie Lucarelli, David Galbenski, and me. Connecting in person gave us all a chance to recognize one another’s efforts with training and fundraising and wish everyone well in the marathon.
After gaining an extra hour of sleep with daylight saving time ending on Sunday, race day started bright and early. My friend Christy and I took a sunrise ferry ride from downtown Manhattan to Staten Island with views of the Statue of Liberty in one direction and One World Trade Center the other way. Once there, everyone made their move to the start, either on the upper or lower deck of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. With the blast of a cannon, each wave was sent off with a bang to crisscross the city and all five boroughs of the racecourse – Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan – connected by five bridges and 26. 2 miles.
Many variables go into a distance race, and despite miles of training and lots of preparation, I encountered issues with my orthotics. Instead of getting frustrated, I slowed my pace to mitigate pain and shifted gears from having a specific goal time to just taking it all in, feeding off of the crowd’s energy and seeing the race through to the end. It provided a chance to reflect and be ever-so-appreciative. I felt grateful to all who helped me reach my fundraising goal; to all the fellow athletes out there doing their best running the race; to all the volunteers handing out compostable cups of water and energy drinks at the aid stations; to all the fans hoisting clever signs, jumping, dancing and cheering us on; to all the bands and DJs playing classic rock, hip-hop, EDM and other genres; to all the first responders keeping everyone’s safety top of mind; to Team CKF for the impact they make on a daily basis; and the list goes on. As I head back home to Aspen, I truly have a sense of fulfillment from a meaningful journey and being connected to a worthy cause. And now, it’s time to recuperate, recover, recharge, and march ahead to the next endeavor.
To learn more, offer support, and get involved with CKF, visit chrisklugfoundation.org.