March 30th, 2017. I woke up first thing, with a little head of blonde curls next to me. Around 7:15 in the morning, the head began to move, little arms started to stretch from underneath the covers, and I started to sing Happy Birthday to my daughter who had turned five just hours before.
About six hours later I learned that, the very same morning, one of my closest friends from college, Lindsay, was saying her final goodbye to her father.
Lindsay's father had been fighting cancer; we all "knew" that this day would happen, yet I do not pretend to know what it must feel like to say goodbye to a parent. And when Lindsay's mother passed away from an entirely different form of cancer just shy of four weeks later, it was clear how unfair- and how utterly cruel- life truly can be.
There are times when words just don't suffice. This is one of those times. Yet I will tell you that I do remember JoEllen and Marvin Kipnes very well. I remember meeting them my freshman year at Cornell; I remember staying at their home in New Jersey over that Christmas break. I remember their personalities, her mother strong, blunt and deeply loving; her father witty, charming, and the life of the party. I remember his epic toast on Lindsay and Nick's wedding day ten years ago.
While I cannot imagine what their children and grandchildren are going through, I can say that their presence is deeply missed.
Running of Marathons: The History
I was twenty years old- my junior year of college- when I ran my first marathon. At this time, Lindsay was one of my roommates. At age 20, I truly was more focused on college life and fun, and primarily relied on my youth and natural athletic ability to pull me through the 26.2 miles. My longest training run being just 16 miles and doing no other cross training, it is no surprise that while I finished, I ended up with my slowest marathon time as well as tendinites in both knees and a stress fracture in my right tibia. Needless to say, I spent the beginning of my junior semester abroad in Florence, Italy hobbling on the cobblestone streets in a walking boot.
Almost a decade later, in 2007, Lindsay had decided she wanted to take on the grueling 26.2. She asked me to do it with her. I hesitated. But friends don't let friends run alone. Learning from my previous mistakes, I took the training a lot more seriously, and included cross training such as yoga and high intensity interval training. I ran a much faster, injury free race, and chose to do another NYC marathon in 2010 and my first post-baby marathon by running Houston in 2015.
Running This Marathon
For better or for worse, in good times and in bad, running has been a constant in my life. Growing up in a household where some of my earliest memories are of my parents coming home on a Saturdaymorning after a run, running is as integrated as my daily meals. Lucky for me, my parents, who are both turning 70, are still healthy and running.
This February, I will turn 40. What this means depends on the context of the question. Here, it means I have been friends with Lindsay for more than half my life. It means that for almost 40 years, starting when I was at the finish line greeting my mom as she finished the 1979 NYC marathon that running has been a huge part of my life. It means that for almost half my life I have been running marathons. It means that for way over half my life- from age 8 when I was the only girl in our after school sports league where I then evolved to a three sport varsity captain in high school to then a fitness business owner- bringing people together through fitness and movement has been my lifelong journey. As I get closer to the big 4-0, more and more friends and colleagues of mine are losing their beloved parents way too early to cancer. When words fail, which they do at these times, I know I can move. I can run. I can honor.
As I run the 2017 NYC Marathon, I will be doing so in honor of Marvin and JoEllen Kipnes who's lives were cut way too short.
Please consider helping me honor their lives through my run by donating to their charities of choice.
In honor of Marvin Kipnes:
Allyson Ocean's research at Weill Cornell Medicine. The instructions are at follows:
In the “about your gift” section, please tell people to check “other” and specify it is for Dr. Allyson Ocean’s research.
And in the “Tribute” section, please tell people to write in Marvin Kipnes.
In honor of JoEllen Kipnes
JoEllen had Luekemia and was under the care of Dr. Gail J. Roboz at Cornell Hospital. Dr. Roboz was great throughout all of this and does amazing work. She runs a program called Leukemia Fighters devoted to the clinical and translational research projects of the Weill Cornell Leukemia Program.
Information on how to donate to that program can be found at the following link: https://cornellleukemia.com/leukemia-fighters/
PS Does This Make Me a Marathon Runner?
For those of you who were at Marvin's funeral and heard the beautiful eulogy delivered by Lindsay, you know we would have to ask Marvin. He would likely have said yes.