In the spirit of being brave, I thought I would kick off Team Drea 2018 with an excerpt from my forthcoming* memoir about how the Team Drea Challenge came about in the first place. If you already know this story, feel free to skip to the bottom to see how to sign up — Team Drea is not just for those racing anymore…

(*Don’t get excited: forthcoming = 125 pages written and a looooong way to go)

I was driving when the idea hit me. I remember the moment so vividly that I could pick out the stand of trees where it happened along I-95 South between Baltimore and DC. I was participating in a research study at Johns Hopkins so I’d drive the route regularly and whenever I did thereafter, I would look for the exact stand of trees and thank that bolt of lightning that changed my life yet again, forever.

I’d shut the radio off so I could think, something I had been doing a lot recently, now that I could stand to listen to my own thoughts again. For awhile they had just been too painful: “what if…” replaced by “what now?” and “how long?”

But now I had the memory of the Ramblin’ Rose triathlon. I’d replay it over and over in my mind and marvel at the bright, straight line linking 179 to the slow walk to the finish with “We are the Champions” blaring. Jon was dead, but I had carried on his legacy to raise money for research. I wanted to do more, but how? Practically everyone I knew had already donated.

My friend Molly from grad school had come to visit the week before and announced that she had decided to do her first Ironman. She had done a half Ironman that summer, so she knew what she was in for, and her eyes widened and shone with the incredulity of the challenge to which she was committing herself — out loud, to me. 70.3 miles was hard enough; she couldn’t imagine having the stamina to go twice that distance. But thousands of people did it every year, right? So it wasn’t impossible.

“Of course not,” I’d reassured her. “And we will come to Louisville to watch you cross the finish line.” The bright, straight line would now extend even further.

Similarly, my friend Carissa had told me that my story had convinced her to register for her first half marathon. She’d done a 10k a few years ago, but the prospect of going twice that distance made her shake her head. I recognized the same wide-eyed look that Molly had.

In the car, I smiled at the thought of Carissa finishing her race. How clearly I could remember the triumph of the moment I completed my first half marathon…then marathon…then the half Ironman. I knew then that I could do absolutely anything I set my mind to, as long as I was willing to do the work.

Everyone should have that feeling of invincibility at least once in their lives, I thought.

I looked up, saw the stand of trees and stared at it as the ideas collided. What if I challenged my friends to do a race and as a way to raise money for ALS research? I’d already tapped my friends for donations, but all my friends had friends. It didn’t matter what the race was, or how long it was, just that it was a challenge to them — something that they weren’t sure they could do. But I would prove to them that they could. Or, rather, they would prove it to themselves.

And then ALS would create something positive.

I didn’t know how many people would do it, but I thought about it the rest of the way home. Thirty people each raising $250 would mean $7,500 for the Blazeman Foundation. That seemed respectable, and besides, the money was only half the point. The experience and the journey is what mattered.

It was almost January by then, so I announced the Team Drea Challenge on my blog in the spirit of a New Year’s Resolution:

There is no feeling in the world like the moment you cross the finish line of a race you’ve worked so hard for and weren’t at all sure you could finish. But the best part is looking back and realizing it was really the daily grind of training, staying committed, overcoming setbacks, prioritizing your health, breathing hard, pushing through, sweating and just being alive — the journey itself — that was actually the reward all along. That post-race high can just be enough to crack open your accepted image of yourself (with all your self-imposed limitations) to see your life and its possibilities differently. It’s emotional and addictive and quickly becomes something you want to find over and over again.

Within a month, forty people had signed up. There was the variety of distances I’d hoped for, but with creativity and ambition I hadn’t expected. Carrie (who had never done a race before) wanted to do a 5k ninja obstacle race. Ashley and Doug planned to run one event per month with one of them racing while the other pushed their kids in the double stroller. My friend Lauran in Scotland mapped out fifteen races that would add up to 179 miles.

I was floored. Not only would we raise $10,000 for ALS research, I was bringing together an amazing group of people I knew from all corners of my life. I created a Facebook group to connect everyone and waited for the magic to happen.

***

Team Drea 2018

While I originally envisioned it as a team of athletes challenging themselves to take on a race as an opportunity to raise money for ALS (and it still is!)…it’s MORE than that now.

     •   It’s DP’s aunt knitting 100+ hats and headbands to sell.
     •   It’s our friend Em getting her firm to hold a competition to create a logo for our cornhole tournament.
     •   It’s the 20+ volunteers at the cornhole tournament who were judges, raffle ticket sellers, and a face painter.
     •   It’s our friends Shaw, Andrew, Ann, and Ashley who organized a mini-reunion, brewery fundraiser, a silent auction event, and our annual party.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

This year, everyone is invited to join Team Drea. All I ask is that you do SOMETHING during the year to help raise money for ALS. You can:
     •   Race and ask your friends and family to support you with donations
     •   Volunteer at any one of our many fundraisers
     •   Make something to sell to raise money
     •   Organize a fundraising event
     •   Donate $100 or more

“Membership” means entry into our secret Facebook group, where you’ll find the key to happiness where you’ll be inspired by amazing people dedicated to a cause greater than themselves (which IS actually the key to happiness).

All you have to do is be brave and sign up here! Happy 2018!

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