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?

242.196.118.39

Earlier this week my roommate greeted me at the door with a huge, inviting hug. I backed out of it. “Wow, I rarely ever see you grumpy” was his comment. Instantly I was filled with remorse. How many people receive that kind of loving “welcome home” greeting?

“I feel like I’m shriveling up inside.” I said. “I feel as though parts of me, some of the best parts of me, are shutting down, closing up, dying.” For the next 30 min my roommate listened as I spilled my soul. Transitions are difficult times for me, I don’t cope with the stress well. I struggle to adjust to new semesters, new clinical’s, new schedules, new expectations. Two and a half weeks ago I transitioned into a new clinical…its been hard to catch my breath since. I have felt myself closing up and growing distant from friendships, self-love, and the optimism I characteristically live my life by.

I have been shutting down the parts of me that make me uniquely LEAH.

My capacity to befriend and love others AND myself shrinks. My capacity to live with a sense of ambition and adventure , my willingness to dive into different experiences, dwindles.

“Priorities” my roommate said. “You need to set priorities so you don’t feel swallowed up on everything you are juggling.”

As C.S. Lewis once said (and my mother reminded me ❤️) — “the moment you wake up each morning… All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job of each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that Other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing through.”

Listening. Surrendering. Because when I cannot, He can.

My days are full. My life is busy.

 I am privileged. I am blessed.

I am GRATEFUL for a clinical experience that exposes me to some of the most complex cases while under the supervision of some of the most incredible therapists. 

I am GRATEFUL for the opportunity to combine my passion for running with my passion for helping the least of these in a tangible, meaningful, life-changing way. 

I am grateful for an understanding and thoughtful roommate, for generous donors, for the opportunity to hug my Mom in just 39 days. 

I am grateful that even though sleep evades me this evening, there is a pot of coffee on autopour for my 4:30am alarm. 
I am especially grateful that somehow, someway, the tasks of EACH day are completed in some shape or form…and I owe it all to the One who promises to give me the strength I need for whatever comes my way. 

242 days till graduation.

39 days till the marathon. 

Roughly 169 more training miles till I cross that start line. 

118 lives still waiting for clean water. 

Time helps shrink some of these numberical goals, but access to clean water comes only from taking action. Together, we can provide for the hydration, sanitation and hygiene of 200 individuals. The combination of our efforts will forever change a PERSON, a FAMILY, a COMMUNITY. 

Will you join me?

Teamworldvision.org. Search Leah Nichols. 

Perspective

As someone who struggles with asking for help, setting a $10,000 fundraising goal for clean water for 200 individuals is mentally and emotionally stretching for me.

This past week I have been so discouraged. With only 59 days till marathon Sunday  and the mountain of $6800 dollars left to raise, my fundraising goal slowly grew from feeling intimidating, to overwhelming, to almost impossible. All in the matter of a few days.

I started telling myself it wouldn’t happen. I started believing it couldn’t happen.

Then I got a letter.

I have been sponsoring Noria since she was 2 years old. I saw her precious face in a sponsorship pamphlet and could not get her beautiful, soulful eyes off my mind. Over the years we have exchanged letters (a community worker transcribes her words as she is still learning to write) photos, and in Noria’s case–artwork. Typically she draws her favorite toy, various sizes of patterned balls.

In yesterday’s letter package I received a photo of Noria with a family member proudly showing off the fertilizer and maize they bought with some of my Christmas gift donation. Noria also showed off her developing artistic ability with three pictures using her favorite new pencils. A house and tree, a very realistic bird and a fun patterned ball. My highly inartistic self was impressed!  Look out world! Noria the Artist is coming for you.

After proudly admiring her artistic work, I started reading her letter.

In my last letter I had elaborated a bit more on my life here in Chicago–my school, my friends, my roommates etc. Tears came to my eyes as I read the words, “You are my role model, I am trying to put in all my effort at school so that I can achieve as you are already doing.”

I was touched.

It is a privilege and joy to watch this beautiful girl develop into a HEALTHY, EDUCATED, AMBITIOUS individual. Her kindness and determination inspire me.

Realizing the impact my small monthly donation has on her life and FUTURE fills me with the desire to provide EVERY child with the same opportunities.

Opportunities like education. Opportunities to dream for and achieve goals. Opportunities to draw birds and balls with pencils.

These opportunities cannot exist when basic needs go unmet.

FOOD, SHELTER, CLOTHING, MEDICAL CARE.

CLEAN WATER.

Without these basic necessities, children are unable to reach for the stars, hope for a future, establish a better life for themselves.

In most areas of the world, 50% of children die before the age of 5 due to lack of clean water. In most areas, no one is drawing birds and balls.

So I laced up my shoes this morning and ran 9.28 miles to the beach. Because we have the opportunity to TANGIBLY improve the quality of life these children face.

Rereading Noria’s letter and sitting on the beach changed my perspective.

I am no longer discouraged. I am motivated. I am determined.

Because no child should go without clean water.

135 individuals. $6800.

26.2 miles in 59 days.

Go to teamworldvision.org to learn more about the impact of clean water. Search “Leah Nichols” in the fundraiser search box to donate today.

 

 

 

JUST A SEASON

  • Moving. Is not fun. The process began last week with packing before finally climaxing this past Monday. Beginning at 4:58am and ending at 11pm, I fell onto a sheetless bed after a hectic day consisting of a training run, clinical’s, and three U-haul trips. Juggling the responsibilities of being an adult can be stressful at times. This is one such time. As I attempted to plan ahead last week I grew overwhelmed. When was I going to have time to unpack? When would I have time to train? Thinking about waking up for 6am patient slots was stressful for me in itself.
  • You want to know something? I (we rather) did it. I survived. Time arrived when I least expected it and priorities were rearranged accordingly. As my heartbeat slowly calmed down Tuesday evening, a revelation came to mind. God WILL provide. To be honest, I’ve had this revelation several times but I always seemed to forget it when life becomes hectic. As I walked to my clinical Wednesday morning with the Sunrise flowing through the windows, I had an incredible urge to breathe deeply, slowly. God had come through. We were able to move everything in on Monday and I gained a new friend through the process. My room was still filled with unpacked boxes, but little by little I have been able to begin the overwhelming process of moving in. Fitting in training has been tough, but I’ve been able to keep up. Sleeping is short and interrupted, but I have energy throughout the day. And four individuals received clean water so far this week. I am blessed. I am provided for. I am so grateful my Father above has what sometimes appears to be a topsy-turvy world in His hands. So I can breathe. Are you feeling stressed? Discouraged? Take a minute and just exhale. It’s going to be ok. This season is just a season and will end. Don’t forget God is there, ready to hold your hand

Asking.

Isn’t it funny how our greatest strength often functions as our greatest crutch? This seemingly oxymoron is quite true in my own life. One of my strengths is embracing adventure and new life experiences. However this sense of independence has not always been positive in my development.
My independence is a mask.
It took me awhile to face that unnerving fact. Hidden behind my adventurous, “can do” attitude is an unhealthy combination of fear, pain, and pride. One of the hardest things was realizing my vulnerability and need for others. Asking for help has never been something that comes naturally to me.

 

But we weren’t designed to have it all together and be invincible. Uniquely equipped with different skill-sets, we were built to rely on and help one another. This give-and-take model balances our inherent need for relationships and community. It took me a longtime to discover this truth and realize it was not healthy to continue to keep others at arm’s length.

 On my first 18 mile run last year—I just wanted to quit. It hurt. I was hot, tired and unmotivated. I needed support. I finally spoke up and admitted to my friend and running partner, Steven Rexroth, that I was struggling. Instead of running ahead as he so easily could have done, Steven stayed right by my side, attempted to distract me from my momentary pain and gave me the encouragement I needed to finish. He was also the first person to high-five me with congratulations when I completed an awesome 20miler run the next week.

There is an African proverb Team World Vision uses often simply states “If you want to go FAST, go alone. If you want to go FARTHER, go TOGETHER.” While this clearly applies to the challenge of running 26.2 miles, we have to recognize it also clearly applies to LIFE. Life is a journey, far more like a marathon than a short sprint. We all need each other as we face life’s hurdles and valleys.

 

So I’ve done one marathon.

I’m learning how to ask for help and support.

It doesn’t mean either are easy or a breeze for me.

This marathon season I went for a life goal -$10,000, 200 lives. Not only am I challenging myself physically, I continue to challenge myself to live vulnerably, humbly, honestly. I can’t run 26.2 miles without the cheers of the crowd and support of my team. I can’t raise $10,000 wishing on a cloud. So here I am on a journey of growth—and guess what?? I am continually blown away by the generosity and support of others who have already helped me raise 28% of my fundraising goal! With $7200 left to go, will you help me complete this goal? Let’s bring clean water to each and everyone!
Search teamworldvision.org->Leah Nichols. I’ll be there waiting, training, and asking.

 

 

An honest thought

In my last post I talked about breathing. We often ignore this powerful exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxid–until that is, a moment occurs. I mentioned a recent moment of knee pain, when my attention returned back to basic physiological processes to help me maintain composure. Other examples of moments scale the spectrum from delightful, to thrilling, to gripping, to sorrowful, to enraging. The past month the world’s attention has closed even more closely into the stories flashed about on TV screens and social media newsfeeds. In the past month we have all felt moments in some way, shape or form. We have all been reminded of the pulse of our heartbeats, the rhythm of respiration in our lungs as we grapple with emotions surrounding the seemingly never ending succession of tragedy.
In the past month entire communities have been singled out, ridiculed, attacked. Black, blue, rainbow and religiously covered blood has been spilled in the name of justice or “duty” but the true undertones ring of hatred, vengeance, fear. Our world is broken, our cities are crippled by the ignorance, hatred and lack of appreciation of the reality each life is PRECIOUS. 
The truth is we are all different. From the lifestyle we choose, the beliefs we value, the uniforms we wear, the texture of our hair, the shape of our eyes, the span of our hips, the pigmentation of our skin–WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT. Somewhere along the way we have stopped appreciating the colorful attributes of diversity. Somewhere along the way we forgot each of our uniqueness was divinely designed. 
Underneath all of our differences lays the similarity that we are all creates to BE loved and TO love. These INHERENT truths level whatever playing field we allow societal values of worth rank up. May we never grow so preoccupied with comparing our differences that we lose sight of the fact each of our hearts pulsate blood through our bodies roughly 80-100beats per minute. May we never forget each set of lungs exchanges oxygen 16-20 times a minute. 
This societal attitude of discrimination and indifference cannot change unless WE do. In order to change we need to consciously examine the emotions of our hearts and thoughts of our minds to realize our own prejudices preventing us from valuing the life of another. I have spent sometime this past week examining myself and am quite disturbed by my judgements of others in my soul. It’s embarrassing. It’s discouraging. Change is not possible without honesty however, and so I would like to share with you my prejudices and apologize for my thoughts and actions.  
I am sorry for playing into the belief that I must be alert and cave into anxiety when an individual dressed a certain way sits down next to me on a plane. That is wrong. The truth is, this ethnic and religious community practices teachings of love, kindness and generosity- a far cry from the radical mindset of torture and terror I am guilty of assuming about them. 
I am sorry that I assume stories of selfishness, conceitedness, and general horribleness on individuals who carry themselves with cocky, materialistic airs. I, myself, am a prideful person and have been selfish and horrible on multiple occasions. My negative assumption of you leaves me guilty of cocky, conceited airs. While we may have different priorities and definitions of success, I should not make accusations of your character without getting to know you. And regardless if you are cocky or not, I should concern myself with looking for the incredibly cool parts I can appreciate about you.
 I am sorry for judging individuals who struggle to love, accept and appreciate individuals with any disabilities on the physical, emotional, mental and cognitive spectrums. Just as I struggle to appreciate the overly confident, ego-centric personality-type populations, so must I also recognize others struggle to appreciate certain populations. That being said, just as I am going on a hunt to appreciate the uniqueness of the populations I struggle with, I urge you to look for the beauty in this population. I don’t think you will have to search for long. 
We are all imperfect humans with individually awesome characteristics. Time to embrace that truth.
 

Breathe

Breathe. In. Out. Breathe. In…Out. ..Just breathe. Sometimes I must consciously live moment by moment with this dialogue playing in my mind. When stress is high and it’s hard to manage, I resort to mindfully engaging in the rhythmic exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

 Inhale 1-2, exhale 1-2. Breathe. 

Focusing on this life-giving transaction has always calmed whatever storms rage on in my soul. 

Last week my inner storms were ignited by the possibility of outcomes from the hypothetical question of “What if–” During my run last Monday a sharp pain in my knee stopped me mid-stride. As I hobbled home my attention was fixed on maintaining an even chest rise-and-fall movement, attempting to distract myself from the achy pain shooting around my kneecap and the overwhelming stream of alarming thoughts muddling my brain.

In one instant it appeared as though my world had come crumbling down. My slowly-building confidence in my marathon training and physical abilities were crushed as my mind became riddled with thoughts of doubt, anxiety, fear, catastrophixing. 

I hate being injured. 

I don’t think I have ever met anyone who enjoys the experience, nor the painfully slow process of healing and regaining. My past injuries have built this potentially debilitating fear of getting injured in my spirit. Last year this anxiety almost prevented me from signing up from the marathon. While I have been striving to conquer this fear, I got to a point early last week where I began questioning my knee pain as a sign I should quit, questioning my ability to complete 26.2 miles, questioning my ability to raise $10,000. 

Last week however, 3 individuals received access to clean water and 7 individuals separately contacted me with words of encouragement and perseverance. This marathon is so much more than MY knees, MY marathon, MY momentary pain. This marathon is NOT about MY finish line. This marathon is about 200 OTHERS and THEIR water lines. I am forever grateful for the prayers, inspiring words and generosity of others who helped me regain this perspective. 

Training and fundraising is growing me as an individual on physical, mental and spiritual levels. I am being stretched outside of the comfort zone of preoccupation with MY life, MY needs, My desires and realizing to a greater extent the needs of OTHERS. Because regardless of WHEN or HOW I cross that finish line–millions all over the world are struggling to MAKE IT to the water line. So it’s time to stop being scared of a little pain, stop worrying about my prideful desire to beat all the guys I train with, and start concerning myself more with the 200 individuals I have set out to bring clean water to. Currently I am at 15% of my goal. 12 weeks left. 170 lives still in need. This week my goal is to bring 20 more individuals water. $1,000. Will you consider donating??