My First Marathon Will Be…

I’m excited to announce that in 352 short days I’ll be running my first marathon…..


I’m very excited about the idea of training for and running the Chicago Marathon.  I know that the next almost year is going to be quite the adventure as I train for Chicago.  I’m excited, I’m scared, I’m overwhelmed, but most importantly, I’m eager about what lies ahead for me in this journey.

When I started exploring the idea of running my first marathon, I knew that I wanted to make it a meaningful experience.  Chicago has always been on my short list of potential marathons, and a number of factors led to me wanting to make it my first marathon.  I’ve heard from several people that its a great first marathon to run because of the flat course and incredible crowd support.  Most importantly, running Chicago will allow me to make my first marathon a truly meaningful experience.

On October 8, 2017, I’ll be running the streets of Chicago in memory of my friend, Tammy.  Tammy and I first met in seventh grade.  We were on the same academic team, had most of our classes together that year, and quickly became friends.  In the summer of 2000, the summer before we started high school, Tammy was diagnosed with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, which is a rare form of cancer that attacks the body’s muscular tissues.  While many 14 year olds would approach such a diagnosis as though it were the end of the world, Tammy held her head high throughout her treatment.  Like most other cancer patients, her hair quickly fell out as a result of her chemotherapy treatments, but despite this and the other side effects she experienced she never once let herself feel depressed by the challenge she faced.

Despite her own illness, Tammy continued to always put others first.  Shortly after she was first diagnosed I had an emergency appendectomy.  While recovering at home, I received a card in the mail from Tammy, saying that so many of us had come to her house to cheer her up while she was sick and that now they needed to do the same for me.  This was just one of the many examples of Tammy’s selfless character and how she never used her battle with cancer as an excuse for continuing to persevere and enjoy life.

Tammy (third from the left), myself, and some of friends at our Sophomore Homecoming Dance in September 2001

Tammy (third from the left), myself, and some of friends at our Sophomore Homecoming Dance in September 2001

During our freshman year of high school, Tammy’s time was split between home and Memphis, where she received her treatment at St. Jude.  As her cancer spread, her time at St. Jude increased, and by the middle of our sophomore year Tammy was too sick to continue making the trip between Memphis and our hometown, and she began receiving home bound instruction in Memphis.  Tammy’s focus was on one thing – to do whatever was necessary to graduate high school and walk across the stage at graduation with the rest of our class.  Her focus on her education helped distract her from the pain she endured.  Tammy graduated with a 5.0 GPA, as well as as a member of National Honor Society.  She continued to remain focused on walking across the stage at graduation, and it wasn’t until three days before graduation that her doctors told her and her mom that it wasn’t in Tammy’s best interest to make the nearly seven hour drive back from Memphis for graduation.

Throughout her treatment, Tammy never wanted to give up. She was willing to try various treatments, and kept herself busy with studying and crafting. She always said she would rather die doing something she enjoyed as opposed to just lying in a hospital bed feeling sorry for herself.

During our senior year, our school started the “Tabs for Tammy” campaign.  While in Memphis, Tammy and her mom stayed at the Ronald McDonald House, and the purpose of the campaign was to fill milk jugs with soda tabs, which the House would then recycle and use the money from in order to support its ministries.  The goal was to fill 334 jugs, one for each member of our Senior class, but the school and community’s response to the campaign was beyond anybody’s expectations, and our school received enough tabs to fill 800 milk jugs.  Many of the jugs were decorated by members of our Senior class, and many of us also wrote messages to Tammy and her mom on the jugs.

As many of our classmates were starting their first semester of college, Tammy’s condition continued to worsen.  Sadly, Tammy’s battle came to an end on September 20, 2004, when she passed away from complications from her chemotherapy treatments and two stem cell transplants.

On October 8th, I’ll be running the Chicago Memory in Tammy’s memory as part of Team Ronald McDonald House Charities.  If you want to support RMHC, please visit my fundraising page.

QOTD: What is your next goal race?

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71 Responses to My First Marathon Will Be…

  1. Pam says:

    How wonderful that you are running Chicago and for your friend Tammy, You have chosen a great first marathon and hopefully you will enjoy the training and most of all your victory lap next October when you run through the streets of Chicago. It really is a fantastic race and perfect for your first because it is so flat!

  2. Coco says:

    What a great tribute to your friend. I have no desire to run a marathon, but Chicago tempts me!

  3. What a wonderful tribute to your friend!

    I have heard great things about Chicago . ….you will do great!

  4. Jennifer says:

    What a great tribute to your friend. I’m running my first half in January at Disney and am doing it for charity – Team Fox for Parkinson’s Research – for my mom who was diagnosed with Pd in 2005. If I ever do a marathon, I will definitely want to do it as a member of the Team Fox family. Great work!

  5. I’m excited for you! You couldn’t have picked a better marathon to make your debut, in my opinion, than Chicago! Looking forward to following your progress!

  6. OH Kathryn! I’m in tears reading about your sweet friend! What an amazing tribute to her! And I’ve heard the Chicago Marathon is amazing! So excited for you!!!

  7. Lesley says:

    Congrats on your decision, and what a great way to do it. I remember we did the soda tab drive in middle school for one of the teachers. Her son had leukemia and was staying at the Ronald McDonald house in Minneapolis.

  8. I can’t think of a better reason to take this on. I’m sure Tammy will be the proverbial wings on your feet!

  9. Chaitali says:

    How exciting, and how meaningful that you’ll be running in her memory. She sounds like an amazing person! I’m sure this extra layer of meaning will make it easier to push through when things get tough.

  10. Karen :0) says:

    Oh goodness…thank you for sharing tammy’s story! (You have me in tears by the way…) I love how your senior class and school came together with the tabs/milk jugs for her! Best of luck with your training!

  11. Congratulations, and a beautiful way to pay tribute to your friend. Let me know if you want some insider info on the course!

  12. I. Am. SO EXCITED for you! And I’m so happy you found such a wonderful cause. I’m sure Tammy is proud of you and so grateful! This is going to be a wonderful journey 🙂

  13. I’m thrilled for you and you will LOVE running for RMHC. Working on a post explaining the experience – they are the best. Happy to support you!

  14. So excited for you and look forward to following your journey!

  15. What a great tribute to Tammy! I have both chills and tears as I think about how connected to her you still are. I lost a friend that I grew up with to bone cancer our freshman year in college. I know when you need her that Chicago day, Tammy will be there running right beside you helping you cross that finish line and celebrate your first marathon victory!

  16. Juliana says:

    what a wonderful tribute and it really touched me. I donated to your fundraising-it looks like you are on your way already!
    and you will love Chicago. I am getting the marathon bug again and I am debating what fall marathon lottery i want to enter-Chicago is definitely on the list!

  17. What a wonderful way to honor your friend! Look forward to cheering you on through your training and the big day!

  18. acbrandt says:

    What a beautiful story and tribute. I’ve heard so many great things about the Chicago marathon. Can’t wait to follow your story!

  19. That is an amazing way to celebrate your friend. Chicago is going to be amazing!

  20. What an incredible story, that is awesome of you to decide to run your first in honor of her!
    Congrats on deciding to run your first marathon. I’ve never done Chicago, but I bet the thrill of the crowds and the setting you’re going to have an awesome time and something awesome to look forward to next year as you begin the training towards it!

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  22. MB Jackson says:

    Awesome story, thank you for sharing! Chicago will be an awesome adventure for you and worthwhile as well. Good luck in your training and fundraising!

  23. Kerry says:

    I can’t wait to hear about your marathon and training. That is an amazing tribute to your friend. She would be proud.

  24. triandtrue says:

    Good luck with your first marathon! I’ve done 3 and officially retired after the last one cause I’m not a fan of the distance, or the training! I hope you love it or at least enjoy the journey!!

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  26. That is such a wonderful reason to run – in honor of your friend. I hope that you have a blast training and running your first marathon. 🙂

  27. Lindsay Clements says:

    Kathryn! I have this crazy feeling that you might be from my hometown of Bloomington-Normal. I went to your fundraising site and I “think” I went to the same high school (if you’re from central IL) that is. Congrats on choosing to run Chicago! I am running the St. Jude Marathon next weekend, I am a little nervous! But I’ve got this~

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  30. How exciting! I plan to run my first marathon in April 2017. I’m excited to follow your journey!

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