Liz Dooley of Portland, Ore. began a Couch-to-5K program, running on a treadmill during nap time, weeks after her infant daughter came home from the NICU. The 37-year-old mom of two previously had run, but fell away from the sport because of injuries. Her daughter Finley's determination and fighting spirit inspired her to lace up her running shoes again. Dooley and her family founded the Ladybug CDH Foundation and recently held a run to raise funds and awareness of CDH, or congenital diaphragmatic hernia.
Best recent run: That’s easy – we were in San Francisco last week and I was able to get out by myself and run during nap times and first thing in the morning while my husband stayed at the house with the girls. My favorite run was probably running through the streets of Noe Valley, Mission District – past the gorgeous houses and hilly roads. It was so much fun just exploring the city while I ran. I had an idea of my route from looking at other runners' routes on MapMyRun.com, but the streets are crazy in SF and I always ended up missing a turn. But it was so much fun just running around somewhere new. Plus it didn’t hurt that SF has perfect running temperatures. I kept reminding myself that ‘hills make you strong’ as my running coach/friend says!
A long road: I think going through the storm [of learning your unborn child has a birth defect] changes you. In my case, I think I am a better person for this experience. I learned a lot about waiting and trusting God. About having to let go of things I couldn’t control, and to pray. I learned about what is truly important and how each day truly is a gift. None of us knows how long we have with our children. I just became hyper-aware of this because of her diagnosis and because we were blessed that she gets to stay with us longer (we were told there was a 50 percent chance she wouldn’t make it past birth). I will try to not take a minute for granted. She was in the NICU for 49 days (and for congenital diaphragmatic herniathis, or CDH, this is actually pretty short) and I started Couch-to 5K a few weeks after she came home. I had given up running a few years earlier because of IT Band and hamstring issue,s but watching Finley fight for each breath in the NICU just made me think so much about breath and breathing and doing what is hard. I had a dream about running and I just decided I would try again. And if it was hard and I felt like I was fighting to breath or something hurt, I would think about her and all she fought through.
Race Director: I can’t believe it--the Ladybug Run was a huge success! I am still buzzing from the high of the event. We ended up with 237 registrants for the 5K and 10K and probably 50-60 kids (we didn’t charge for the run, only for the T-shirt if they wanted one). We were told again and again how well organized it was and how much fun people had. And as I sat and reflected on it, I just welled up with tears because it was such a powerful day. I met many other CDH parents, of both survivors and angels. And I am just so excited about the money we raised that will go toward research and to helping families. I will actually be bringing a gift card to a family I just heard about that has a three-week baby undergoing a repair soon. While I was in the NICU, I listened to old sermons from our pastor and in one he says we are blessed to be a blessing. That really struck me and is what drives me. I started thinking about this race while were still in the NICU. I didn’t think of the name until about a year ago out on a run. I just kept talking about it and putting it out there and I really feel like God just provided all the people and things we needed. The fact that it was such a success doesn’t have as much to do with me as it does with the community of people that came together to help me bring this to reality. We are so incredibly blessed. Finley is truly a best-case scenario in many ways – a long road from a point around 12 days where one neo-natologist sat me down trying to explain we didn’t have many options if her pulmonary hypertension didn’t improve quickly.
Can’t run without: My Garmin. I feel completely naked without it and I hate not knowing my mileage.
Getting over IT Band issues: I feel like the biggest things have been starting with the Couch 25k, building slowly and listening to my body instead of just tacking on miles willy-nilly. Using training plans, but modifying them, walking for a bit if something really hurts and if that doesn’t resolve it, then shortening the run. The foam roller helps, and actually doing the PT exercises like leg lifts, clam shell, etc. And using the IT strap when needed.
On the horizon: I hope to break a one-hour 10K. My last 10K was a community race and I did it in 1:00:30 so I am close and hope to do that in September at Pints to Pasta. Also, I am currently following a friends training plan for a faster half-marathon (for me – hoping to do sub 2 hours 15 minutes). I am a middle-of-the- pack kind of gal – and proud of it! The fact that I am even running the mileage I am today (about 25 miles a week) is something that I am so amazed and proud about. Maybe another thing that came out of our journey is that I have a lot more grace for myself. As long as I am happy and healthy – that is what matters. The goals are fun, but my baby is alive ... what can beat that?
Follow This Mother at her blog, 1012 Miles: www.onethousandtwelvemiles.blogspot.com/