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Marathon recap!

 

Hey all!

Here is a recap of Sunday’s marathon-
Woke up before my alarm at 4:20am and saw the notification 3 more individuals received clean water! What a motivating start to marathon day!

I arrived at Charity village around 5:30am for our team’s pep rally. It has been a blast getting to know some of the new team members–one of them I recently found out is the daughter of one of my Father’s groomsmen! Two of my fellow teammates, Tyler and Zeke, were hoping to run the same pace as I and we agreed to try and run together at the starting line. The plan worked for the majority of the race and I am grateful to both of them for pushing me to keep moving when it began to hurt around mile 6.

Marathon start–7:30am.

The race–
The first few miles were a lot of fun. The crowd was energizing and the weather was perfect. Around mile 2, I saw my friends Jackie and Janet for the first time. These girls chased me and several of our classmates all over the city! Their screams rejuvenated my spirits multiple times throughout the race. At mile 6 I realized opting to run the race differently than my original strategy was probably a mistake, however there was nothing I could do about it at that point. For the next 17 miles, every time I took gel (runners fuel) my stomach would cramp up and I would feel nauseous for the next 1.5-2 miles. Realizing my body wasn’t digesting properly, I switched to Gatorade early and began pouring water over myself at each hydration station.

Throughout the middle of the race, I was encouraged by seeing so many friends and family come out to cheer me on! Thank you Orah, Alia, Amena, Tim, Mr and Mrs Hayes, Hans, Allie, Shiela, Sarah, and everyone else I may have forgotten (my brain is still refueling.) My parent’s and youngest sister, Lydia, had come to Chicago to cheer me on and were able to find me twice throughout the course. Zeke’s first reaction when he saw Lydia was, “she looks just like you.” I may have spent too much energy laughing at that comment and all the political signs spectators held up throughout the race. Around mile 17, Zeke had an incredible second wind and started speeding up (Tyler had fallen back a few miles before due to some knee pain that my Advil couldn’t help) At that point I opted to listen to my body and slowed up.

I truly hit the wall around mile 21/22. I began praying that God would give me wings to finish this race and provide someone to cheer me on every .5 mile. It was taking every mental game I knew to not stop and walk. Guess what? For the next 4-5miles every 4-5 minutes someone cheered for me by name! Besides spectators, I saw my family once more, my dear friends Josh and Chloe twice, my classmate/teammate Sarah, and got a shout-out from Jansen over a loud speaker.

Mile 25– I perked up. I felt a bit of a kick starting and began to really focus on my arms and breathing. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” “Water. Hope. Life” and “Try hard, do good, finish strong” were the thoughts rolling through my head. I was able to charge up the hill at 26.05miles and pick up the pace a tad bit at the end.

3:07:14. I didn’t walk, I didn’t stop, and I ran 9 minutes faster than last year!

The first text I saw after crossing the finish line was from my older sister, Emily, saying she was watching me finish online which meant a lot! A few steps off the finish line, another runner approached me by name and said some very nice, encouraging things to me. It took me a second to remember we ran together a few times last year at group runs. Since last year, this individual has clipped minutes off his time and finished at 3:00:30 this year! Couldn’t be more proud of his determination and dedication to the sport and providing services for adolescents struggling with depression.

Battle wounds–Lost a toenail.
Besides having difficulty with descending stairs and sitting down/standing up from most surface levels–I feel energized and recovered! I even learned a country line dance last night per roommates request.
The best part–Currently $8,220.40 has been raised. Clean water for life has been secured for 164 individuals!! I will continue to fundraise for the 36 individuals still waiting this next week before my fundraising page closes on Sunday! Would you consider joining the fight to end this clean water crisis?

The hardest thing about friendships= the goodbyes

This week I have the misfortune of saying goodbye to two amazing women.
Lisa-
The second human I met in 3B. She loves eggs, sweet potatoes and ice cream (my soul sister) She is open, brave and strong. She gives the best hugs and creates the best snap chat stories. I have never seen a woman so good at practicing self-love. Thank you for inviting me into your life and being my friend. I am already missing your Facebook messages asking if I have any chips and salsa, oatmeal, or bananas to satisfy your cravings. I’m already missing your hugs. One month of time with you is to short!
Xristina-I know few girls who WILLINGLY participate in my INCREDIBLY brilliant ideas. This girl however, readily throws on her swimsuit and boots to run outside in negative degrees and throw a snowball at my back. I love it!
She is feisty, smart and sassy. Her shoe collection is unbelievable (in the best way) She celebrates, feels and encourages without abandon. She’s a world changer and I can’t wait to see where life takes her! Thanks for making me feel so at home my friend!

Commutes, Kaffe and Swedish rap

IMG_8273.PNGWell…it happened. A few mornings ago I caught the wrong train, distracted by an academic article (thrilling, I know.) I ended up heading back in the direction of home. Crap.

By the time I realized my mistake we had traveled back several stops, lengthening my typical 1:30 hour commute to 2 hours. There was no better way to diminish my cocky confidence in navigating the train-train-bus process like a Swede.

Thankfully, I was only 4 minutes late to the first patient appointment. I’ve never been more grateful for the laid-back Swedish attitude and the even more laid-back and gracious personality of my instructor who greeted me with a cup of coffee.

I cannot believe there is only one week left till I transition to my next rotation (I hear I will be in nursing home but no information yet) I have had the best possible first abroad rotation. The private practice is situated inside a gym and Tennis training center where EVERYONE has made me feel welcomed and accepted. I will say this many times, but I believe I have met EVERY exception to the “polite-yet-reserved” Swedish stereotype.

I will miss this place.

I will miss these people.

On the potential bright side, I don’t think Stockholm is big enough to have a longer commute. Hopefully, my next one will be a bit shorter. That is all.

–Written on my commute while listening to the Swedish rap Spotify playlist a patient graciously made my CI and I 👌

Can.Do.

I can. I am. I do.
The past year I have tried to live consciously concerning myself with how I finish these sentences. Far to often I’ve allowed word combinations like “should have,” “could have,” “wouldn’t,” and ” what if?” dictate my thought patterns and actions. While reflecting on the past and anticipating the future have valid purposes, I have come to believe concentrating on how I am living in the present moment is of greater importance.
Life is an opportunity. It is a gift. HOW am I living? WHAT am I doing? WHAT can I do? Answering these questions changed my priorities.

I want to live with purpose. I want to act with intention. I want to see the unseen. I want to love the unloved. I want to serve others.

Currently, 598million individuals do not have access to clean water. Each day they walk for miles to bring home water for hydration, sanitation, hygiene. For those that search in vain–disease and death tolls constantly grow. For those that successfully meet their daily need, tomorrow brings the same challenge, and the next day and the next. Little time is left for education, household and community advancement, future opportunities.

I can’t end the clean water crisis. Not on my own.
But I CAN DO something.
I CAN run a marathon.
I CAN tell you about the clean water crisis
I CAN uncomfortably ask you to help.

$50 provides clean water for life.

I believe clean water is not a privilege, but a human right.
I believe clean water saves lives. Will you consider providing access for another?
Link-http://www.teamworldvision.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=66531
Maybe you are working to make the world a better place in some other way–I support you. I want to hear about it! There is nothing more encouraging for me than hearing about HOW others are changing lives and communities. Never limit the extent of your reach because others are reaching too and suddenly the impact changes the world.

The roomie.

Wietske. (Pronounced kinda like “Veet-skah”)

The roomie.
I’m a big fan of this girl already and my fondness continually grows even though we don’t see each other all the time. When I do see her, I try my best to remember to compliment her smarts and humor for they are quite worthy of praise. Case in point- 5 seconds after we met she showed me a photo book her friends had made of goofy pictures of herself. I can’t think of a better introduction.

Her chill balances my excitement. Her logic and reasoning balances my irrational and sporadic. Her love for kaffe and tea surpasses my own. She is the ultimate cool and puts up with me and my love for vacuuming (no easy task) She also has scissors when I need to cut things out of my hair (and give myself an accidental haircut)

Wietske may not be down for a swimsuit snowball fight (Yes, this happened. Yes Mom, it was my idea) but she is down to play “sardines” in the scary basement with old hospital beds, a morgue and a bike hooked up to a sewing machine. 👍

She is always up to visit a museum, always up for a movie and always up to welcome a new friend. There are few kinder people than she. Her presence helps create the essence of the 3B corridor: friendly, welcoming, always-playing-music-in-the-only-clean kitchen.

Her dance moves are superb. Her cooking skills are on par. Finally, she gives me a more hopeful perspective every time I start fretting for my country’s future. Did I mention she plays the bass and cello?

 

Gio

As my family and friends back in America have already realized, I am having a hard time staying on top of communication. For those that are interested in hearing about my life here in Sweden, I figured a blog post would be the easiest way for me to communicate.

Friends. I like to think all experiences in life are made exponentially better or worse by the human interactions we have. Thankfully, throughout all of my travels I have made at least one incredible friend and met loads of incredible people in each place.

I’d like to tell you about them!

First–Gio.
Gio is a tiger. She is fiercely independent, driven, loyal, compassionate, open-minded, spirited and magnificent. She is strong, intelligent and beautiful from the inside out. Gio was the first friend I made in Sweden. She met me at the central station when I arrived with a highlighted map of Stockholm. She helped me get my SL (public transit) card and graciously lugged one of my bags all the way to my new home! Her welcoming smile and kindness went above and beyond what was necessary. She checks in with me throughout the week and introduces me to all her friends (and willingly comes out to meet mine!) There is no better person to dance the night away with💃

Last Friday I texted her with a heavy heart of news from back home. Her immediate response, asking me to hang out that night for some much needed distraction, meant the world. Sometimes pizza and friendship is the perfect recipe to cheer up a sad heart.

I can’t wait to celebrate when she wins a Nobel prize one day for her work with infectious diseases. Till then, I am content blocking creepy guys from dancing with her (they literally clap 👏 behind her 😂) and marching for women’s rights alongside her.

2017.

img_7773Hi and Happy New Year!
2016 was one of the most important and transforming years of my life. It began with a decision in early January to run the 2016 Chicago marathon for Team World Vision. In April I was given the opportunity of a lifetime and flew to California for a trapeze lesson (an item on my list of dreams.) While there, I was inspired to further develop my life goals list with raising $10,000 for Team World Vision claiming the #2 spot. My inner dialogue went something like this–
“Wow, that will be cool to pursue in a few years”
“Why wait?”
“This is crazy! There is no way I can do that right now!
“Why not?”
“I don’t know enough people and my social demographic consists of young professionals, college and graduate students”
“Excuses”
“Fine”
“Why NOT?”

$10,000 equates to 200 individuals with clean water access for life. Sustainable projects extending beyond collapsible wells and enabling community leadership to preserve and maintain is something I’m all about.

Clean water is a necessity I take for granted every day. Access to an unlimited supply has ensured I have every opportunity for hydration and am spared from the disease and death associated with unclean water. Unfortunately, this privilege is not granted to every life in our current world (hence why I use “privilege” in place of a spot I believe is best described by the definition of “human right”)

The journey to #200 was challenging, inspiring and life-changing. It was a leap outside my comfort zone and forced me to grow mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

I grew in appreciation for my circumstances, I grew in physical and mental strength and stamina. I grew in the embrace of my limitations while embracing a limitless lifestyle through faith in the One above. I became more willing to ask for help, admit my weaknesses and more readily see the possibility in the word “WE

Afterall,
$10,000 didn’t happen because of ME.

Thanks to the compassion and generosity of 168 individuals from all over the world, 200 more individuals received clean water for life last year. As a team, this number climbed to 38,000.

INCREDIBLE. This number impacts CITIES, VILLAGES, and FAMILIES from an INDIVIDUAL core.
2017 is starting off with every impression of having an impact of similar caliber. I’ve signed up for both the Boston and NYC marathons with TWV in hopes of providing clean water to 100 more individuals, and raising $5,000 for child protection services.

I’ve never trained for two marathons in one year. I’ve never trained for a marathon in Winter. I’ve never trained for a marathon in another country (or LIVED in another country.) I’ve also never desired to run for causes more dear to my heart. Im thrilled to see what will happen, nervous about the challenges ahead and incredibly grateful for the opportunity to combine my passions for adventure, running, and helping the less fortunate in their most basic of needs.
Once again I realize I can’t meet these goals on my own but am ready and willing to move these clean water mountains (REALIZING the Man upstairs will orchestrate the move) Will you be a mountain mover too?

Go to teamworldvision.org to learn more about their clean water projects. Search for “Leah Nichols” in the fundraiser search tab to join me in fighting against the clean water crisis.

Cheers!

It happened.

img_5449I don’t cry often– almost never. Even more rare are the times I have cried in public–previously I could only recall 5 instances. Today makes 6. When I looked at my phone and saw the notification my goal of clean water for 200 individuals HAPPENED–floodgates opened up. I mentioned I was in a public place, but let me provide context. There happened to be a guy in either side of me during this reaction ( and many more in my vicinity.) I’m fairly certain they assumed something tragic was happening in my life-a death or break-up perhaps. One kept giving me sympathetic looks, the other stared quite openly in disbelief and scooted a little farther away. I didn’t care. Slowly the tears dried up, replaced with a giddy grin I just haven’t been able to shake off since.

It happened!!

155 individuals came together and donated their resources for strangers across the globe–strangers they most likely will never meet. 200 individuals are no longer included in the devastating statistic of 600 million living without access to the most basic of necessities (598 million actually thanks to the combined efforts of Team World Vision’s Chicago marathon team!)

Clean water.

It seems so basic, my reality has never lacked access to copious amounts of it. It’s hard to relate to the millions without–it’s hard to RECOGNIZE there are millions living without. Their stories don’t seem to make the newsroom cut. They exist however, and they MATTER.

I’m forever grateful for the selfless generosity and compassion so many have shown to help this often forgotten population. I’m so grateful for the awareness that is spreading ABOUT this population and the clean water crisis. I am looking forward to continuing to take on goals to shut this crisis down. Marathon #3 is already in the work….Boston ’17 here I come! Goal-clean water for 100 more individuals! #cleanwaterforall #teamworldvision #marathontraining