"Winning has nothing to do with racing. Most days don't have races anyway. Winning is about struggle and effort and optimism, and never, ever, ever giving up."

Friday, April 25, 2014

One Year Later - Returning to Boston

I really ought to have written a blog post prior to my return to Boston. If I had written a post prior to leaving for Boston, I would have told you that I almost didn't go back. I would have told you I booked my flight two weeks before the race. I would have told you I was nervous about leaving Reagan. I would have also told you I didn't train well - partly because of our ugly winter, but mostly because I wasn't sure I was ready to return to Boston. I went back and forth between feeling as though I had to return, and fearing the return. My husband will vouch for the indecisiveness. Every other week we came to a different conclusion about whether we were going. Had I written a post before I left for Boston, I would have told you how I intentionally avoided all forms of media on April 15th, which marked the 1 year anniversary of a long-term dream, followed by events that scarred my heart, and much of humanity. I also would have told you about an amazing community I have surrounding me, who stepped up and offered to watch Reagan so I could return to Boston, and find whatever it was my heart was seeking.

It's interesting how emotion is experienced. Sometimes immediate. But sometimes delayed, and appearing out of nowhere. A feeling that's been pushed down so far, just waiting for the opportune time to come back up. A moment of vulnerability, brokenness, and yet wholeness. Moments came and went throughout our trip. We visited the finish line on Easter morning. I found it strangely paralleled to the day we were celebrating. On Good Friday, Jesus declared "it is finished," but it wasn't the end of the story. We just had to get to Sunday - Easter. Jesus, coming back to life. Restoration. Wholeness. Last year, I finished the race, and safely returned home, but it wasn't over. I needed to return to Boston and finish the story. I took pictures at the finish line on Easter morning. The very line I crossed last year, unharmed, while so many others didn't experience the same fortune. I stared at the fresh coat of paint on the street, boldly declaring FINISH, and I started thinking about why I was running. I wasn't running for an organization. I wasn't running for some noble cause. I wasn't running to raise money for victims who had been injured last year. Selfishly, I was running for me. I was running because I needed it. Because I felt broken by last year's events, and thought running again might repair some of the damage to my spirit. There were moments throughout the weekend where I felt sad, and I had to let it out - I realized that what is denied cannot be healed.
While there were sad moments, there were far more joyous moments. I was able to appreciate the gift of running. I was surrounded by fans and fellow runners who wanted to reclaim the city, restore hope, and add to the beauty. 

I would love to be able to say I had a fantastic race, and PR'd. But I didn't. I wish I could say I loved the race, and every moment of it. But I didn't. Nothing went as planned. I ran 20 minutes slower than my marathon last October. I threw up 3 times along the course, and I cried for almost the entire last 9 miles. I knew the world was watching this race, and I knew I had amazing friends/family praying and cheering me on. I wanted to give this race my best. I had made such a big deal over returning this year. And there I was, in my filth - sweaty, sunburned, puke-y, and walking. I wanted to walk right off the course. Once I realized I could still finish, even if I walked more than I ran, I decided completing the race was attainable. I oscillated between walking and running, and eventually made it to the finish line. There's so much more I could share, given all the beauty I saw during the race but it's too lengthy to type.

Last year broke me emotionally. This year broke me physically, But I'm learning to be ok with that.

"My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness....I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift...and so the weaker I get, the stronger I become." 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Boston Marathon-How do I Respond?

I have been writing and re-writing this blog in my mind, trying to decide where to start with the events that took place last Monday (April 15th, 2013).  How do I capture everything I felt, saw, and now dwell on from home?  This post merely scratches at the surface of the race and the events that took place post-race.  If you want even more details, let's do coffee.  After years of dreaming about what this day would be like, I can honestly say it was nothing like I had imagined.  So here is a recap of Boston Marathon Monday (feel free to skip the race recap if you're not interested).

Trading my soft blankets and abundance of pillows for calve sleeves and arm warmers, I anxiously prepared to leave for what would be the longest day of my entire life.  I hopped on the hotel shuttle to get to the T (train).  We, the runners, did what all marathoners do when we're nervous, we talk about the number of marathons we've run, and how we've trained for this one, somehow hoping to convince ourselves that we were ready to tackle the Boston Marathon.  I met my training buddy, Aileen, downtown, and we began the long bus ride to Hopkinton.  Knowing the marathon course was 26.2 miles, I was surprised by how long the bus ride took.  We exited the bus and began the trek to Athlete's Village.  The clout around Athlete's Village was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  I felt like an Olympian.  I half expected trumpets to be announcing our arrival.  We did our last minute race preparations, you know, bathroom stops and body glide application, and made our way to our starting corral.

I remember the gun going off at 10:20, and before I knew it, I was crossing the start line.  I was running the Boston Marathon!  I had been told one, no 100 too many times to take the first 4 miles easy because it was a rigorous downhill, so I did just that.  The pounding of my quads as my feet struck the pavement reminded me to hold back.  I knew I needed reserves to get through the four hills at miles 16-21.  Aileen and I started together and at some point we lost each other.  I was alone in a sea of 23,000 other runners.  I felt free.  I felt alive.  I felt inspired.  I reminded myself that less than 5 months ago I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl, Reagan Elyse.  I told myself this marathon may hurt more than labor (I still haven't decided which was worse).  I was reminded of the generous people who supported my fundraising efforts to fight human trafficking (https://ventureexpeditions.missionsconnex.com/BreeWilliamson).  I was reminded of my husband, who helped me complete my training on very little sleep with a newborn.  And so I ran.  And I didn't stop running.  At one point I ran past Team Hoyt-the father son duo (if you don't know about Team Hoyt, look them up on youtube, you'll be inspired, I promise).  I was overcome with emotion as I saw the father pushing his full grown son.  I clapped, teared up, cheered for him, and continued running.  People told me your arms get tired at Boston because there are so many kids who want to give high fives.  They were right.  I playfully high-fived kids when I could.  At mile 11, the stomach ache set in.  Dang, I've never had digestive issues during a marathon.  Why now?  And why at mile 11?  I figured maybe if I squeezed my cheeks and tried to ignore it, it would go away.  No such luck.

Everyone talks about Heartbreak Hill at mile 21.  Nobody talks about the three giant hills leading up to Heartbreak Hill-those three hills are what make that fourth hill a heartbreaker!  But I reminded myself that I didn't come to Boston to walk.  I came to Boston to do work.  So I ran.  At about mile 21.5 I could no longer ignore the fact that I needed to go to the bathroom.  I bee-lined it to an empty port-o-potty and bee-lined it back on the course.  I felt so much better and wished I would have stopped to go sooner.  Here's one thing I learned while on the course--everyone wants to be kissed.  I saw so many signs reading, "Kiss me I'm Venezuelan", "Kiss me I'm a BC student", "Kiss me I'm single", "Kiss me I'm a runner", "Kiss me I'm Irish".  Does anyone really stop to kiss these spectators?!  Anyway, I digress.  The miles were flying by, and soon enough I was turning onto Boylston Street.  I looked at my watch and realized, "OMG, I'm going to freaking PR!"  I gave it my last push and crossed the line in 3:29:22--a new PR.  The hardest marathon course I had ever run, less than 5 months after a baby, and I PR'd.  I cried as I slowly hobbled to get water.  I had completed one of my biggest dreams, and done it well!  I'm pretty sure pure joy was pumping through my veins.

The volunteers continued to lead us through the finish line to get our snacks, heat sheets, and medals.  I waited in line to retrieve my drop bag, and as I was making my way to the family area I was stopped by medic personnel.  I was told that I needed to go to the medic tent as my face was purple (from being cold, and maybe a little in shock).  I told her I was fine, and just needed to find my people so I could go home and change, but she said no.  She instructed another medic to get a wheelchair for me.  I pleaded with her telling her I was fine, but that if I had to go to the medic tent, I could walk.  Ignoring my protests, a wheelchair swept me off my feet, and the medic went running with me to the tent.  I was checked in, my vitals were taken, and I was soon slurping hot salt water (yum, right?!), as the chicken broth was not gluten free.  I believe I stayed in this tent for about 25 minutes before I was released.  While I was in the tent, two blocks from the finish line, I heard the boom.  It sounded like a giant canon.  Too be honest, I didn't think too much of it--it was Patriot's Day--I was in Boston.  It seemed only fitting for some reenactment to be taking place to entertain spectators.

Thinking very little of the boom, I moved on to meet my party.  Aileen and I found each other and watched ambulance after ambulance fly by.  What was going on?  I thought maybe someone had collapsed at the finish line.  Whatever happened, it wasn't good.  We were still waiting for my friend Shannon, and Aileen's husband, sister, and sister's boyfriend to meet us.  Shannon called me to say a bomb had gone off and they were forced to get off the T.  A bomb?  What was going on?  A nearby runner piped in that a bomb had gone off nearby and there was a lot of blood.  I pulled out my phone to text Jeremy and my parents, and I had 67 text messages, and numerous missed calls.  Ambulances continued to scream by as we waited for Aileen's husband to meet up with the rest of us.  I texted Jeremy and my parents to let them know I was safe but instructed them not to call me because I didn't want my battery to die.  Phone service was cut off, and my battery continued to dwindle.  Law enforcement was urging everyone to get out of the city.  We still didn't have Aileen's husband, and we couldn't call him.  The T was shut down, taxis were scarce, and people were anxiously scuffling out of the city.  Shannon and I weren't able to get to our hotel, so we walked with Aileen and her family to their hotel about two miles away.  Walking might be overstating it, Aileen and I were hobbling.  So we hobbled, staring at the S.W.A.T. team, armored vehicles, brushing shoulders with FBI personnel, and trying to figure out the best route to their hotel.  Minus the screaming sirens and police shouting instructions over loud speakers, the city was still filled with an eerie silence.  Not many pedestrians truly knew what was going on.  We still didn't know the full extent of what happened.  We made it back to Aileen's hotel, turned on the TV and watched the replay of the bombings going off at the finish line.  I couldn't believe that just happened.  We were right there.  I had crossed that same finish line.  People were dead.  People were hurt.  My phone started working again and I called Jeremy and my parents to let them know I was two miles out of the city.  Tears stung my cheeks as I showered, replaying everything in my mind.

Those tears continued this past week every time I thought about what happened.  My heart grieves for those who lost loved ones, those who lost limbs, and those who lost hope in humanity.  My heart grieves for those who are responsible.  People have asked me if I'm tired of sharing my story with everyone who asks, and the answer is no.  I imagine people asking me what I experienced because they want to put themselves there with me, and walk with me through this.  And I think that's what Jesus did.  He met people where they were at, and walked with them.  So thank you for asking, and thank you for walking with me.  Thank you for allowing me to talk through it all.  This blog post feels void of emotion.  I think I may still be somewhat numb to all that took place.

Now I am back at home, away from everything, but not really.  I don't think the experience will ever go away.  I think I will carry this experience with me forever.  I'm not struggling with fear, I'm struggling with confusion.  Now that the bombers have been captured, I'm left wrestling with the dichotomy of love and justice.  What does justice look like for everyone involved?  At the same time I look to scripture.  In the book Love Does, by Bob Goff he says, "I don't think Bible verses were meant to be thrown like grenades at each other.  They were meant for us to use to point each other toward love and grace and invite us into something much bigger."  I think he's right.  To throw Scripture like grenades would make us no different from the marathon bombers themselves.

  Everything Jesus did was motivated by love--I love that about Him.  So how do we, as Christians, being motivated by love, respond to this tragedy?  How do love and justice work together in God's Kingdom?  I know that Jesus went to the cross, even for people He knew would never love him back.  That being said, what should our response be?  I don't have that answer yet.  I'm still processing.  But here are some things I do know.  I know that Jesus was motivated by love, I know that Jesus has called me to follow Him, and do what He did.  I'm just trying to figure out what that looks like...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Call to Action

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Those verses challenge me for so many reasons. They challenge me because they are verses that guide my life. Many people think I'm just a health nut, but there's more to it. We are told that are bodies are temples that house the living God! What an honor! That He would CHOOSE to dwell IN US. Wow. We are not our own, we belong to Him, we were bought at a price, and that bill of sale is the cross of Jesus Christ. Honor God with our bodies--that's what He asks of us. I'm thankful for this freedom. We were bought so we could be free.
I love those verses. But I hate those verses. I hate that not everybody experiences the freedom that was intended for them. As I pour my heart out before the Lord, regarding those who are being sex trafficked, I'm angry that they don't experience this freedom. I'm angry that while it is true that they are not their own, and they too, were bought at a price, yet their price is of monetary value, and comes with slavery, battery, sexual abuse, and severe torture. How can this be? I was bought at a price (the cross of Christ). These women have also been bought at a price (money/slavery). It's a dichotomy that I cannot piece together. I'm angry. And while my anger doesn't paralyze me, it calls me to action.
I want them to be free. I want them to know they are beautiful. I want them to know they are cared for. I want them to know, that they too, have been bought with a price (of immeasurable value), and that payment was Jesus on the cross. I want them to know that although I've never met them, and I've never heard their story, I'm praying for their freedom.
And so I will run. I will take 10 days off of work, and I will run. I will run 20 miles a day, for 10 days across the state of Minnesota, so people will hear of their stories. I will run, so they can be free.
I'm not sure if anybody is reading this. But if you are, would you prayerfully consider partnering with me?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Call Me the Whistleblower

This weekend I had the opportunity to watch the movie, The Whistleblower.  Wow.  It's not one of those movies you walk away saying, "that was really good."  Rather, it's one of those movies you walk away saying, "wow, I can't believe this is happening.  I must do something about it."  The movie, The Whistleblower, is about a human trafficking ring in Bosnia that is being funded, protected, and engaged by U.S. personnel as well as members of the U.N. international police.  Throughout the movie, the main female police officer discovers that the U.N. is aware of the human trafficking ring, and are covering it up to prevent further war in Bosnia.  It's shocking to see these women, as slaves, and yet the ones who are supposed to be rescuing them are contributing to their nightmare.  It's so hard for me to believe that this is based on a true story...but it is.  It's one of those movies that forces you to ask the question, "now that I know about it, what am I going to do about it?"  I will be a whistleblower.  I will continue to blow my whistle, to raise awareness to the injustices of human trafficking that are taking place.  I cannot sit back and let it happen to my sisters all over the world.

And so it further encourages my pursuit of RunFreeMN.  This summer, I am taking 10 days, and I will be running 200 miles, across the state of Minnesota, to raise awareness and funds to help the fight against global human trafficking.  I will continue to push the issue.  I want people to know.  I want people to feel uncomfortable. I want people to know that people are hurting, while this industry is thriving.  I want to run, because they can't.  I want to run so they can be free.  I want to run because I know my trip can engage others in the story of hope. 

Throughout the month of March, I will be posting one statistic on human trafficking, along with a scripture verse relating to justice.

Will you be a whistleblower?  Please consider donating to my RunFreeMN trip here: https://ventureexpeditions.missionsconnex.com/BreeWilliamson

Thank you for believing in me.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


This summer (last week of June, through the first week of July), I will be running across the state of Minnesota. Call me crazy, because really, it is. I will be starting in Watertown, SD, and running eastward, ending near Prescott, WI, totaling over 200 miles, in two weeks. Why? Why am I doing this? I am doing this because all over the world (including the U.S.--we are NOT exempt), women and children are illegally being bought and sold into sex slavery, everyday. The largest number of women sent to Las Vegas, and forced into sex slavery in the United States, come from my backyard, Minneapolis. There are more human slaves today, than when slavery was legal. Rather than running miles and miles because I love running, I have the opportunity to run for the joy of helping those affected by human trafficking. There is an organization in China call Eden Ministries, which provides support to women who have been rescued and delivered from human trafficking. They provide resources and an opportunity for a new life. They teach women a trade, such as weaving, jewelry making, etc, so they may become self-sustaining women, and not have to return to their former life. I can run. And I want to make a difference.

I am running through an organization called Venture Expeditions, which is a non-profit organization that provides an opportunity to raise awareness and funds that benefit social justice causes, and make a difference in the world. You can see the kind of miles I'll be running through this link: http://www.ventureexpeditions.org/page/runfree-1
If you would like to join me on this run, I would LOVE it!!!

If you are interested in supporting me in this journey, here's how you can help. First, you can be praying. Pray for the people who are affected by human trafficking. Pray for the offenders who are running the sex trafficking business. Pray for me, that I would remain healthy, strong, and smart as I embark on this journey. Second, you can donate money! 100% of the donations will be going to Eden Ministries to help these women. You can donate here: https://ventureexpeditions.missionsconnex.com/BreeWilliamson

Third, you can spread the word. The more we can make people aware, the greater chance we have at putting an end to human trafficking. And fourth, if you'd like to buy me a pair of running shoes, hey, I wouldn't turn them down, as I'm going through a pair every two months! ;)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Day 26: Two Days to Go!

We've reached day 26 of our Engine 2 eating, which has consisted of no meat, dairy, eggs, oil, and of course gluten!  Days have looked similar to this:

Breakfast: GF rolled oats stuffed squash with cinnamon.  Very filling, warm, and energizing.

Lunch: Spinach salad topped with edammame, yellow bell peppers, onions, cucumbers, carrots, quinoa, pinto beans, with fresh lemon juice to taste. 

Dinner: Romain lettuce wraps filled with onions, peppers, green lentils, and salsa, with garlicy brussel sprouts on the side.

I'm by no means going hungry these days!  I'm learning to fuel my body with quinoa/brown rice and beans/lentils/legumes, and I'm loving it!

Another dinner consisted of Salsa and black bean soup, with home made corn tortilla chips topped with Mrs. Dash Spicy Chipotle Seasoning.  Warms this soul, especially during the cold nights we've had this week.  From start to finish, this recipe took a whopping 15 minutes!  I love it!!!

Another favorite I've discovered....

Yep, you've guessed it!  Mashed cauliflower!! I added nutritional yeast, rosemary, salt and pepper.  I'm not a huge fan of cauliflower to begin with, but I thought I'd give this recipe a try!  I'm so glad I did.  It has quickly become a favorite.  Simply steam the califlower until it falls apart, drain, puree in blender, add nutritional yeast, rosemary, salt and pepper, continue pureeing, and done!  If the blender gets stuck, simply add a little water.  If you want an extra flaky crust, you can pop it in the over for about 20 minutes-DELISH!!!
All of this good eating has been coupled with awesome training runs.  Here's the week rundown so far:
Monday: 9 miles
Tuesday: 13 miles
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 14 miles
Friday: We'll see...today is going to be a two-a-day kind of day.  I ran 9 miles this morning.  We'll see what lunch brings.  I'm hoping to have today count as my "long run" day, so I don't have to go long in the cold and fierce winds tomorrow.

All of this running, it is preparing my legs, my lungs, and my heart for my Run Free MN trip!  Some mornings are harder to roll out of bed than others.  I continue to remind myself that I'm running for reasons beyond myself.  As I put on the layers, and lace up my kicks, I pray for the women who are being trafficked.  As I drive to St. Paul to meet up with running buddies, I pray for a change of heart in the pimps organizing these trades.  And during many of my runs, I pray for the men who continue to fund this slavery.  And then I thank God that I am able to be a part of the solution.  The hope story.  Please consider supporting me here: https://ventureexpeditions.missionsconnex.com/BreeWilliamson  Thank you for believing that I can do this!!!

You too can be a part of the hope story!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 21: Many Days of Gratitude

We're nearing the end of our 28-day challenge!  I can't believe we've almost accomplished it!  Jeremy and I have been feeling healthy, strong, and encouraged.  This is definitely the longest challenge I've ever done.  I've been encouraged by how well I've been able to eat.  I've learned so many new recipes, and enjoyed the process.  I've also been impressed by how energized I've been for my runs.  I have been logging 60-70 miles a week, and this plant-strong diet has definitely been helping me on my way.  The protein from beans and legumes has been great.  As well as the healthy carbs coming from brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal. 

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats with blackberries, blue berries and banana slices, tossed with cinnamon and almond milk.  This has been a great breakfast, and easy to make at my desk.  It has left me full until lunch time-for which I am grateful!

Jeremy read a statistic that many people consume as many as 1,200 calories while watching the Superbowl!!!  We were not a part of that statistic.  Instead, we made healthy "pizzas" if you can call them that.  Regardless, they were yummy. 

Corn tortillas, with roasted red pepper hummus, spinach, onions, peppers, mushrooms, avacados, and nutritional yeast, all baked in the oven!  It tasted great!  For a snack during the game, we had airpopped popcorn with Mrs. Dash seasoning.  I chose to spray my popcorn with vegetable broth which helped the seasoning stick to the kernels.  That too was great.  Again, we were not a part of the statistic, but still ate well.

Nutrition is feeling wonderful.  For that I am grateful.  My training has been awesome as well!  I ran 21 miles on Saturday and it felt great!!!  A friend and I went out for 18 miles, and were able to maintain a 7:36 pace.  I then went home and did 3 more miles on the treadmill, so I could run with Jeremy, and those miles felt great too!  Sunday was followed by a 5 mile run at an average pace of 7:08, which surprised me given the miles I had logged the day before.  This morning, we went out for a hilly 9 mile run, and were able to maintain a 7:21 average pace!!!  I can feel myself getting stronger every week.  I really do believe this new eating plan has something to do with it!  I am not running all of these miles simply because I'm training for a marathon.  Yes, it's true, I'm running the Fargo Marathon in the middle of May, but there is a greater agenda on my heart.  I'm beating my body into submission for reasons beyond myself.  It's not simply navel-gazing and wanting to become a better runner (although that never hurts if it's a byproduct).  Instead, I look to the adventure that awaits me this summer.  Again, another reason to be grateful.

Sometimes I still get stuck in "Wow-Land" over the fact that this summer I will be running across the state of Minnesota!  From Watertown, SD, to Wisconsin.  Over 200 miles, in less than two weeks time!  To raise awareness and funds for human trafficking.  As I continue to educate myself with information on this sad reality, it only fuels the fire for which I will be running.  Two weeks ago, Jeremy and I were able to attend Banquet for the Broken, which was a banquet supporting a ministry that works with former trafficked women in Moldova.  Just hearing their stories makes everything so much more real.  It's really happening.  Women are really being forced/tricked into sex slavery.  It is not their choice.  What's more alarming to most people is that it is also happening in the US--we are not immune!  Last year I learned that the largest volume of women in the U.S. who are trafficked, come from Minneapolis, and are sent to Las Vegas, where prostitution is legal, and are forced into that lifestyle.  Yes, Minneapolis.  It's happening here.  But we can make a difference!  And so I go to bed at 8:30pm.  I get up at 4:15am.  I run a ton of miles.  And then I go to work.  And I dream about freedom for these women.  I dream about restoration.  I dream about running.  I dream about making a difference.  And in a few months, I will be taking part in this adventure.  I will be a part of the hope story.  I am grateful for the opportunity.  I am grateful for my health.  I am grateful for my encouraging support system.  If you're interested, you can support me here: https://ventureexpeditions.missionsconnex.com/BreeWilliamson