Running and Track & Field have always been a huge part of my life, despite having breathing issues due to my cystic fibrosis (CF). So, when I first started volunteering at the Boomer Esiason Foundation I wanted to share this passion with the CF community. I was fortunate to have Boomer’s blessing and created an “Exercise for Life” scholarship for people with CF. In 2006, this morphed into Team Boomer, a program that encourages all individuals, especially those within the CF community, to incorporate exercise into their everyday lives, provides an avenue for individual athletes in a variety of sports to raise money for CF, and assists grassroots athletic events looking for a cause to support.
While things were going well for Team Boomer, I really felt it was important to create something more specific to help people understand the program better. What came next was a very clear vision of thousands of people doing a Team Boomer run in New York City’s Central Park. And, just like that, Run to Breathe was born. I along with my colleagues at the foundation and the great city of New York worked tirelessly to bring this event to life. On July 11, 2011 this dream was realized with a sellout crowd of six thousand runners making their way up and down the steep hills in one of the greatest parks in the world!
There was no doubt I would run in every single Run to Breathe races, no matter the challenges, including 2011 when my lungs were declining rapidly. Less than a year later I had a double lung transplant, and three months after receiving my new lungs in 2012, I crossed another Run to Breathe Finish Line. It was beyond surreal.
Unfortunately, my knees finally gave in to the wear and tear of my lifelong dedication to track and field and as a result I’ve had two knee replacements – in fact I had one just four weeks ago! So, while it’s hasn’t been possible for me to be on the course the last couple of years with the field of runners, I’m very much a part of the runs, cheering on every runner and getting to know people in the CF community. Look, I couldn’t be bothered with wallowing in self-pity about my knees. Life’s way too short. Instead I shifted my athletic focus to biking, which took the stress off my knees, and I created Bike to Breathe (B2B). This year we’ll be celebrating B2B’s fifth year anniversary as “Heartland of America.” More to come on this in a later blog posting…
This Sunday, April 8th, the eighth sold out Run to Breathe race will once again take place in Central Park. Since the first race in 2011, it’s grown into a big event – more than what I ever could’ve imagined. Now there’s a band, prizes, press and fans along the course. I have so much gratitude for all the people that have embraced this run and made it their own. The participants always come out ready to conquer the course. They’ve run in 80-degree temps, freezing temps and rainstorms. They’re unstoppable. I love each one of these people for their consistency, perseverance and resiliency – they’re all living, breathing and succeeding – not just on race day, but every day!
Even if you’re not running this Sunday, come out anyway to cheer on the runners! On you mark, get set, GO TEAM BOOMER!
*Exercise of the week – Set a goal this week. Plan to run around the block, a 5K, or even a 10K. Spending each day working toward achieving that goal!
*Quote of the week – “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift…” – Steve Prefontaine