Fight for those who are fighting a harder battle

 

Gwendolyn Strong Foundation (GSF) is one of our three fundraising partners for She.is.beautiful Santa Barbara. Over 100 ladies have signed up to bring more awareness to this cause. Learn more about Spinal Muscular Atrophy (the #1 genetic killer of young children) and GSF here as well as from Gwendolyn’s mom shares her story below:

Name: Victoria Strong

Occupation: Mother/Nonprofit founder

How did The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation come about?  The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation (theGSF) was born out of our firsthand experience after our daughter, Gwendolyn, was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy or SMA at just 6-months-old. We had no family history, had a perfectly “healthy” pregnancy, and had never heard of SMA, but soon learned SMA is the leading genetic killer of young children. Gwendolyn was given mere months to live, would lose all physical abilities, and doctor’s said there was nothing we could do. We formed theGSF as our something we CAN do. In just a matter of years, theGSF has funded over 20 research programs, several of which are now making their way through the clinical trial process as viable treatments, granted over 250+ iPads to open the world to those with limited movement, built an iPad communication app downloaded by 100,000 people with non-verbal communication struggles, worked to get SMA/rare disease legislation passed to increase NIH funding, and have helped families around the world facing the impossible. We also created the nonprofit NEVER GIVE UP. apparel brand to motivate, support, and give courage.

What did Gwendolyn teach you?  To NEVER GIVE UP. Gwendolyn was severely disabled. She couldn’t walk or stand or move her arms or breathe without a machine or tell me she loved me in the traditional way. But she was fiercely independent and determined to live a life of adventure alongside her able-bodied peers. She was proud of who she was and approached each day with enthusiasm. Gwendolyn passed away last summer at the age of 7 and she didn’t just live longer than expected, she lived a big and beautiful life. She defined NEVER GIVE UP.

What did Gwendolyn love most about running?  Gwendolyn said running made her feel free. She was also a daredevil and loved going fast.

When did running first become a regular part of your life?  My husband decided to start running to become healthier. He soon turned that into training for a marathon. Gwendolyn and I cheered for him during his training races and soon she decided she wanted to be out there running, too. I’m not a runner. I was the girl who made every excuse in the book during “Mile Day” in high school. But when my daughter wanted something, I did anything to make it happen. So… I started running. It is because of Gwendolyn that I ran She.Is.Beautiful. In fact, this race was the first time in my life that I ran as far as a 10K. And, I got to run the last mile pushing Gwendolyn. I’ve never felt so strong. We soon completely the SB Half Marathon together and holding her hand while we ran was the best thing in the world. It made me feel invincible.

What was/is the biggest challenge in working out consistently?  Gwendolyn required around-the-clock care and the frequent medical emergencies that became part of our life were very stressful, so I was tired. Bone tired, all the time. Getting out there to run was always hard, but once I did I always felt a renewed energy. It was also a good source of therapy to sweat, cry, and sometimes even scream as I ran.

What are you future goals in both running and life?  I’m currently expecting our third child, and I’m not running much these days. But my goal is to always live a healthy and active life. It is such a gift to be able to move one’s body in any capacity!

What do you like to do when you are not running?  Juggling our nonprofit and advocacy work with motherhood keeps me pretty busy. As for fitness, I love hiking through beautiful Santa Barbara, walking along the coast, and doing yoga.

How did you first hear about the she.is.beautiful race series and why do you keep coming back each year?  The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation and our nonprofit NEVER GIVE UP. apparel brand share the same positive and empowering values as She.Is.Beautiful.

What’s one word you would use to describe how running makes you feel?  STRONG.

What keeps you going?  Gwendolyn. She will always be my reason to NEVER GIVE UP.

What does healthy look like to you?  Being authentic, being kind, doing your best, and living a life that makes the world a better place.

Along your own life journey, what’s one truth you have uncovered?  There is always something to be grateful for. And in the bleakest of times, that gratitude is a lifeline.

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But in truth, it’s where we connect.

A song, a conversation, a movie. When the narrator has revealed their true self. Pulled back the layers and taken off their shield, exposing who they are without extra flair. These are the moments that ping my heart and no matter how different I am from that person, I can relate to that feeling of exposure to truth.

We grow up trying to keep “it all” together. To be brave and focused. But what we often fail to remember is that although being brave is associated with being tough, it’s also often paired with being vulnerable. There’s few things I love more than when people I admire and who are doing inspiring things stands up and says, “this is fucking scary and hard but I’m doing it anyway.”

The older I get the more I realize how hard it is for me to have close friends that only let you believe that “everything’s great.” It’s the ones that say, “today feels like a disaster”  or ” I’m really proud of myself because that was hard!” that I’m like- yes, I get it! This is real life.

One of the elements that I love about running, is the way it reminds me to be vulnerable. In knowing it’s going to be hard, admitting it, and accepting it. The way running seems to strip you of your layers, mile by mile. You feel lighter and a little more free. Often times your thoughts become deeper. Running to me, demonstrates life in so many ways.

In a time when the world feels segregated, it comforts me to remember the human element. Vulnerability is often uncomfortable. It’s saying, “this is me, fully…and it’s not always shiny.” But in fact, this is the place that most of us connect and can relate. In the space where we feel a little broken or unsure, that’s where the light shines through. Accountability, saying this is me cracked open, sometimes standing still and other times moving forward. Vulnerability is beautiful, inspiring, and brave.

 

Because running is universal.

In Ghana, I’ve watched them run. Their faces so beautiful and free. So careless, their bodies move with inspiring ease. In school uniforms, in authentic patterned clothes, and shirtless.

In Europe, I’ve ran though cobblestone streets and the nooks and crannies of cities both big and small. Through parks I’ve watched locals do laps before work, with friends or alone.

In New York City, I’ve battled crowds and humidity in Central Park. Amazed at the way one moment you feel like you’re on a forest path and the next you’re reminded of the heart, the sky scrappers, and the city life that surrounds you.

In Thailand, on my honeymoon most mornings I made my husband get up and run laps around islands. Waving at other tourists from all over the globe that too got the running itch.

In California, I have witnessed the way running can changed both young kids lives and 60+ year olds lives. Not only reminding them of their strength in that moment, but their potential for their future. It’s not just about running. It’s about aspiring to something more.

There’s something so beautiful about running. It’s so individual, yet if you talk to someone who enjoys running there is this universal feeling we can all share. It’s much more than a workout. It’s a reminder of who you are. It’s a place to reflect, to problem solve. It’s a reminder of what’s possible.

Above all, to me running is a feeling. It’s something  that once we make running a part of our lives, I think it’s something we all feel. It’s freedom. It’s vulnerability. It’s… love.

10 questions with Tori Tyler; Winner of (many) She.is.beautiful races

We think Tori Tyler is awesome. She’s humble, kind, and really fast. We are honored she keeps coming back to She.is.beautiful year after year! We wanted to take a few moments and learn a little bit about this fabulous lady…because normally she’s running so fast we can’t keep up to hear her story.
SIB: How long have you been running?
TT: I started running on the soccer field at age 5, and played a variety of sports growing up. My mom was an active runner, and she did road races that I’d also partake in. I remember running my first road race, “Run to the Farside” in San Francisco at age 10, and have been running ever since.
SIB: What is your favorite distance to run?
TT: Half- Marathon. It’s the perfect distance to get in a groove, but it doesn’t totally wreck your body like a marathon.
SIB: What makes you love running so much?
TT: Breaking a sweat. It clears my mind and feeds happiness into my adventurous soul. 
SIB: What’s your average weekly mileage?
TT: 50-60 miles per week pretty consistently throughout the year.
SIB: Do you run with a team or solo?
TT: Mostly solo on the trail systems at Redwood Regional Park in the mornings. It’s my zen.
SIB: Are you sponsored?
TT: Yeah, Skechers
SIB:  What are you future goals in both running and life?
TT: I’d like to keep running for as long as I can. I’d probably be the woman doing trail adventures and road races until I’m 90 years old.
SIB: What do you like to do when you are not running?
TT: Camping, weekend getaways, relaxing with friends and family, rock climbing, pick up soccer games.
SIB: How did you first hear about the she.is.beautiful race series and why do you keep coming back each year (besides the prize money:)
TT: Five years ago, I was working and living in Santa Barbara on my own and I thought it’d be a nice opportunity to meet fellow runners in the area. I was browsing in the Santa Barbara Running store, and coincidentally saw sign ups for the race that was the next day.  So I signed up right then and there, and I’ve been running She is Beautiful race ever since. It’s an empowering race for all women runners, and I enjoy reading the signs along the course.
SIB: What’s one word you would use to describe how running makes you feel.
TT: It makes me feel confident. I naturally come off as a quiet and soft spoken individual, but when I run it’s an opportunity for me to show my true fierceness and inner confidence.
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The highest honor

What does it mean to be a woman race founder and director of an all women’s race?

It’s seeing your dreams in motion. It’s realizing your dreams of having a space where inspiration, kindness, and fierceness prospers, is in line with many other women’s dreams as well. It’s an experiment putting together what you believe will make the world a better place and see how people react to that environment. This race was created to be filled with love and support from start to finish. To add the extra touches and flare, but also hold the street cred of fast legs and strong bodies. Strong bodies of all shapes, abilities, and sizes. The actuality of what the race has turned out to be has by far exceeded our expectations.

Women and girls have made this event their own. They have made this event part of their journey. That itself is the highest honor our team could ever receive. To create an event that means so much to people.

The laughter and smiles of people arriving to the event with their moms, sisters, and girl friends. They are holding hands, high fiving, and taking photos before the race. They are waiting in lines for porta potties, jogging to warm up, easing any pre race jitters. They are looking around at the 6000 women that surround them knowing they are fully supported. They can release any insecurities of feeling out of place. This positivity is contagious and reminds me once again that we are all just energy feeding off each other. It reminds me to always take responsibility of whatever energy I am bringing to each day.

All women’s races are unique and I’m going to put myself on the line to say She.is.beautiful brings some of the best energy around. In a world that often puts us up against other women wanting us to tear each other down, this event asks each of us to lift each other up. Not only for the good of our own self esteem, but for the young girls we will inspire. We are in fact stronger together.

She.is.beautiful winds along some of the most beautiful coasts in Northern California and we fill our course with many custom quotes and inspirational sayings. Some women race for prize money ( top 3 women in 5k and 10k), others to run their own personal best, but many run and walk to share the memories of this beautiful movement of self love and sweat with their family and friends.

We are constantly asking for feedback and listening to our participants to learn ways to improve the event and experience. We are not perfect, we too are humans. We are a small company, not a franchise or owned by a large brand. We want to hear from you.

If this race truly was an experiment the findings would be that when you put 6,000 women in one place with so much visual and vocal positivity around them, they won’t just thrive- they become more alive than ever. They leave feeling proud, capable, inspired, and dream bigger than ever before. Big dreams; not just for their fitness goals but for their life and how they want it to feel.

Wake up grateful; you’re alive.

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It’s like a yellow Starburst, my favorite candy that I very rarely eat, that’s what races are to me. I love them, I don’t do them often but when I do, I savor the flavor.

In a world that has gone so far into the social media and tech world, there’s something truly beautiful about human connection at events that I hold onto like an old blanket. For me it’s more than just the running element. I love laying my outfit out the night before and sometimes painting my nails a fun color (it’s the little things!).  I love waking up, pinning on a number, and sipping coffee with anticipation of a great morning ahead.

Showing up to the starting line to sometimes find myself among old friends and then other times I don’t know a soul in the area. Both experiences are unique, but it’s pretty special running into old friends and co workers, whether or not you are actually planning to do the race with them.

I love watching the people around me, some cruising with their friends and others pouring out all the strength they have that morning into their legs. Taking in the sights, noticing your own self talk during the race, and embracing the energy around you.

When you see the finish line approach, you feel pride. No matter if it was the first or worst race of your life or the fastest you’ve ever completed a race, that finish line is the best thing you’ve seen all morning.

I could stand at a finish line for hours. Watching the faces of every age, size, and ability inspires me from the winner to the last participant. Courage, strength, faith.All the other stuff going on in their life that they have put on hold to just soak up this moment. THAT sparks my heart.

Inspiration to live more fully and the positive energy from races stays with you…it’s juicy and chewy and gets stuck in your teeth like a yellow Starburst. It’s memories stay with you and creep into your heart to remind you why you keep showing up. Not just for the start lines, but for your life.

See you next Saturday!

 

Happy is (still) the new hot

Happy because although some days it feels like chaos is all around you but you have found a way to proceed with calmness.

Happy because you have found the positive connection between your mind and your body.

Happy because you have let go of your feelings of shame and understand that we all have struggled in some aspect of our lives.

Happy because after all these years you do not let someone else’s thoughts of  who they think you are, define your self worth.

Happy because you have chosen to walk forward in your life when some days it’s been a challenge just getting out of bed.

Happy because you are grateful to be alive.

Happy because you continue to learn how powerful your thoughts can be.

Happy, truly happy. Not “put a smile on your face happy” but ” this is me, all the mess and all the beauty, happy.”

Happy because you have learned how to balance having standards while also letting go of expectations.

Happy because you are proud of who you are.

Happy because no one else can define your happiness.

Happy is (still) the new hot.

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Because of her and her and him

Yesterday I ran along the ocean, felt the warm sun on my back, and took a huge breath of gratitude for that moment of freedom. The sun glittered on the ocean. I said a silent thank you for my health, one I’ve learned from others to never take for granted.

A little over a year ago, I met with a woman Michelle who had started Mama’s Night Out, a fundraising event to benefit pediatric cancer. Michelle has 3 healthy kids but was inspired to raise awareness towards this underfunded terminal disease and shed light on the real stories and families it affects. Let’s repeat that, these are real people and to be honest, I hope you don’t know any of them but I bet some of you do. I met with Michelle and she fought (I love the fighters) to start a fundraising team through She.is.beautiful.

And just like that, Team Glitter was created. Michelle connected us with Unravel Pediatric Cancer, a new non profit that was created in honor of a beautiful girl Jennifer Lynn. At the time of our meeting, Jennifer had passed away less than a year ago, leaving her parents and 3 siblings at more than a loss…it was a hole of the space she took up in their world. She was six.

Last year they raised over $50,000 through Team Glitter’s fundraising in a few short months leading up to She.is.beautiful. This blew my mind and my heart. Funds raised go directly to Pediatric Cancer research and to support local families going through this unimaginable experience.

As I have learned more about Pediatric Cancer, the life that Jennifer’s family is still living,  other kids and families it’s affecting; it’s sad, horrific, and unimaginable. Seeing photos of kids that have lost their life to this terminal disease, they look just like the kids I see playing on the beach or at the park. They are those kids.

So if you’re like me and feel it’s easier to sometimes look away from these painful stories, I understand. I believe the majority of us are good people, but as humans we don’t like sad endings. As humans it’s natural for us to not look and carry on with our day, our schedules, our own families.

But as I get out of bed before the sun comes up to go for a run, these families and stories have slipped into my head. They don’t only remind me to be grateful, they remind me to take action. Maybe for you, taking action means telling more people about this horrible disease. For some, taking action means fundraising on your own or reaching out to these non profits to see what you can do. The more we talk about it and acknowledge that it’s real, the more people know, the more chances are that someone may know have connections to someone with the right resources or be inspired enough to find a cure.

Thank you Michelle, Unravel Pediatric Cancer, and Jennifer. You have taught me that 36 children a day are diagnosed with pediatric cancer. 7 children a day die from pediatric cancer. The American Cancer Society only give 1 cent of every 1 dollar raised to pediatric cancer.

These statistics and stories make me uncomfortable. Because sometimes I feel like it’s so big, where do we start. Team Glitter is giving you a chance to start here: https://unravelpediatriccancer.org/events/teamglitter/

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NEW course, start time, and energy… same ol’ sass

As one of the largest all women’s races in the USA, She.is.beautiful Santa Cruz is constantly working on ways to improve safety of our participants. There are many factors we consider when planning a course. We often propose our dream course, but that doesn’t always get approved by local jurisdictions. For those of you that have ever lived in a place where your road has been closed down for a race, please know that your city officials are looking out for you. Many times courses that we want don’t get approved due to City Officials priority of respecting local residents and traffic. As a race director, sometimes it can be frustrating, but as a human it’s refreshing.

Every year, as the race goes off we say a little prayer for the fun and safety for all the participants. As our field has grown, it now takes about 15 minutes for all participants to cross over the start line. In past years, our start line and finish line have been in the same location so as the last group of people are starting the race, sometimes the fastest woman in the 5k is just about to finish (can you see how that could be a disaster?) Luckily, every year in the past these groups have been like ships in the night, passing at the perfect moment so no collisions have ever happened. But year after year it’s one of our greatest worries.

We are THRILLED (as in I jumped up and down when I got the news!) to announce that this year, She.is.beautiful Santa Cruz will be starting on Beach St. in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (in front of the Log ride to be exact!) and finishing where the finish line has been in past years. Please check out the NEW course here.

You know what else is new, the race time. We are pushing back the race 30 minutes. The start time of BOTH the 5k and 10k (yes they start together as usual) is 8:30am. Why is this? To be honest, sound compliance for events is 8am. Each year we have broken this rule, and I cringe as I turn our music at 7:30am as I know someone is going to be upset. But you have to have music at a start line (it would be like going to a club with no music- how would you dance?!) So instead of breaking rules, we are going to let you sleep in a little longer AND give you a little extra something to wake up for. You should plan on arriving no later than 7:30am! Besides having the sassy, amazing, happy, and bad ass Jenny Schatzle take our stage for the warm up, we’ve got another great way to make your morning the best, ever. Guess you’ll have to show up to the start line to find out;)

I can’t end this post without saying how RAD our finish festival is going to be either.

This race is currently 87% full and projected to sell out in the beginning of March. If you haven’t registered yet: https://register.racepartner.com/she.is.beautifulsantacruz/

Here are some of the anticipated common questions we’re imagining:

Where do we park?

There’s a lot of options. Parking in the Santa Cruz Boardwalk is probably your best best (we have shuttled people from here to the old starting line in the past). It’s located a few blocks from the NEW starting line and we will be offering shuttles from 9am-noon after the race , from our finish festival location back to this lot. So you would park at the Boardwalk, walk or jog to the starting line, run or walk the race, enjoy the post race festival and then grab the shuttle and get a ride back to your car.

If I want to walk back to my car after the race, how far is the Santa Cruz Boardwalk parking lot from the finish area?

It’s about 1.5 miles along the coast! If you are planning to get some breakfast at Ideal Bar and Grill afterwards, this walk or jog could be split up by an omelet 🙂

Will there be a lot of port-a-potties at the start line, like there normally is?

Heck yes.

Where should my family and friends go to watch?

We recommend they watch somewhere near the Dream Inn, by the Surfer Statue (located at the corner of  West Cliff Drive and Pelton Ave), or go directly to the finish line.

Any other questions please send to SassSquad@runsheisbeautiful.com so we can add them to our list. If you have a questions, chances are someone else probably does too!15793030_race_0.15403005708417172.display

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