Featured anyBODY Runner Maryalicia V.

July 2012

Part 1. Getting Started!
When I found out we were expecting a child, I tried to reign in the bad eating habits. I was determined not to gain extra weight just because I was pregnant. When my daughter, Katie, was born, I had only gained 15lbs. resting at 195lbs. in March of 2008. Within three and a half weeks of delivering, I was down below my pre-pregnancy weight at 175lbs. and I was resolute to lose even more. However, a few days later, when my daughter was four weeks old, my life changed for me.

Maryalicia one year after baby
My daughter started to have these tremors and twitches that did not appear normal. Although we went to the doctor, and he said she was fine, they continued. Five days later we found ourselves in the ICU with the Pediatric Neurologist showing us two pictures. 'This is a normal scan of a five week old baby's brain.' She said ' ..And this is your daughter's scan'. I did not know what I was looking at, nor understand any of the facts they gave us. Three days later, more confusing facts were piled upon us when they gave us what might be our daughter's diagnosis; Aicardi's Syndrome. The diagnosis would be confirmed two days later with an eye scan. So what was the diagnosis? Very severe seizure disorder, with brain abnormalities, and eye issues.
We had a huge celebration when Katie turned one 
I took the diagnosis pretty hard. Here we were with a special-needs child, and my perfect daughter was no longer perfect.  Too make it worse, she wasn't just any special-needs child, she had a diagnosis so rare, I had to go to an ultra rare link off of the March of Dimes page to look up her diagnosis. 1:12,000,000 and it only affected girls. Moderate to severe intellectual disabilities and physical delays. But that was not the worst part, the worst part was the mortality rate; lifespan of Aicardi girls was approximately eight years of life. I was devastated. Having already lost my mom to a car accident, my dad to stroke, and my brother to cancer, now I had to deal with my daughter's eventual demise.

This was too much to take, as I battled a functional depression and turned to food, I gained 20 pounds within that next year. I had always been a strong personality and prided myself in the ability to get through things; thick and thin. I always tried to remain positive and upbeat and look for the rainbows behind the rain clouds. (It's amazing when you think you are ok, but you really are not). Buying size 16 jeans in 2009 was a wake-up call. I knew, if I did not get my life together, the military was going to discharge me for my weight issues. Fast forward one year later, I lost 15lbs., but it was still not enough to pass military standards. Soon, my life would change. I joined a 5K Fun walk called the ARC in Motion through the ARC of SW Washington in June of 2010. It was supported by my daughter's therapy center, and I decided to go out and give it a try. I asked if I could run it pushing my daughter and they reluctantly said yes, and 35:12 minutes later my life would never be the same.

Michael James Photography; 
Maryalicia and her twin Michael G. Allen at the 2012 Vancouver USA Marathon 
I loved it! I left that day determined to do a 10K just to see if I could do it. I started training. My personality started to come back. My flair for life and the positives. Good things happen to good people, bad things happen too, but there is always good in it too, you just have to look a little harder. I took joy in something new again; the living. I stopped focusing on death and focused on life and what running meant for me. They meant a new social life, the thrill of the race, the festive atmosphere. I got so excited, that before I even got to that 10K (scheduled July 4, 2010) I began thinking crazy thoughts like 'Maybe I could do a Half Marathon!’

I started looking up Half Marathons in the area, and found out there was one Labor Day Weekend; The Inaugural Wine Country Half Marathon. I would have just ten weeks to train, but I could do it! What a perfect first event too; a fun run and unlimited wine tasting afterwards? I was looking forward to it. I trained like I never had before, and the pounds started to come off. By the day of the race, I was down to 175lbs., and much of it muscle. I ran that race in 2:02 minutes - when I had been afraid just ten weeks earlier that I might not even make the 3:30 cut off.

I was hooked (my twin brother, Michael Allen became hooked too). The fun, excitement, meeting people, and the BLING! Nobody told me about the bling! A year later, I finished my 13th Half Marathon at the Eugene Women's Half Marathon and still had race scheduled till the end of the year. I loved the differences and uniqueness of each race. I started to determine what I liked about a race, and what I didn't like. I decided I was not much for 5Ks and 10Ks, but half marathons were my new love! To date I have run nineteen Half Marathons and one Marathon, with about ten races between the distances of 5K and 15K.

Maryalicia before the Holiday Half 2011 Half Marathon 
To date my favorite race has to be the Vancouver USA Marathon. The support I received on and off the course from family, friends, and energy events is the best to date. However if I had to choose a second, it would be a tossup between The Runaway Pumpkin and The Holiday Half by Foot Traffic. I love holiday races and I love to dress up! My dream race would be to either run The Lochness Marathon in Scotland or the Goofy Challenge with Disney! (I really need to get a Tutu!)

Now, two years later, I love running. I take pride in being a 'Penguin' Runner who enjoys the journey. I still stay positive, and try to have fun. I gave up trying for PRs, and started trying for new friends and new inspirations to keep me running. I take inspiration from everyone around me and let it fuel my love for running. Like my family, My twin brother, Michael Allen, who just ran a marathon in under 3 hours and 30 minutes and is already changing his half to a full for the 4th of July to seek the ultimate Boston Qualifier Achievement. My daughter, who doesn't know she is special and never ceases to amaze me by overcoming challenges she was never supposed to be able to do and my hubby, he allows me to do my racing instead of his (autocross). I am inspired by every  Run Oregon profile I have ever written and this just motivates me to learn about more people (I wish I could name you all but you know who you are!) And finally, the Run Oregon Readers - you amaze me every day with the challenges you take on and complete on a daily basis! I love writing for and about you!

Do not be sad or feel sorry for me, for I am not sad or sorry for myself. Life's little serendipitous events that will surprise you! There are no 30 seconds of life I would take back or change, because they have made me who I am today. My daughter is doing well after having had an amazing brain surgery, called a hemispherectomy, performed on her in 2010. Although we don't know how long this lengthens her life, her seizures have been reduced by 80-90%, and her quality of life is 100%+ better which ensure a longer life in the years to come. She has opened my eyes to the best world I never wanted to belong to, and I am a better person for it. I am Stronger, more compassionate, more patient, and best of all, I am alright! I'll never be a skinny mini, but I am happy and healthy and have an outlet like running for my frustrations and energies.

So several people asked me how I came to run a marathon, and it all started by running a 5K, from the birth of my child who would eventually lead me to this world of running. I never thought I could run six miles, let alone a half marathon, yet I did both! But I digress, why the marathon? Well peer pressure; from friends and family, and all of you in the Run Oregon community with your implied and outspoken encouragements and ribbing. If 13.1 was the perfect distance would more miles be better? Would I love marathons? I decided to sign up for my first Marathon in February, and with life's little changes I just completed my first marathon and had a great time despite the challenges of the heat and distance!

Part 2. My First Marathon / Race Review
Vancouver USA Marathon’s Expo meant my race was officially upon us! I was excited for my race, but also the festivities that came along with it; the expo with all the vendors, as well as meet Bart Yasso again. There were plenty of clinics, a group fun run, and a 'Kick off your shoes' event in the expo center. The expo had tons of booths, too many to mention, but I loved seeing the 'One More Mile' booth again this year! I proceeded to buy myself two shirts, two tattoos, and a bumper magnet that said '26.2 miles because I am full of crazy' and came back for another shirt the next day ‘I am only here so I can post a picture on Face Book’. The food served for the event was so tasty and a little nicer than expected. They also brought out a couple of servings, so I know they spent a pretty penny on that spread! I thought it was a great and classy touch to add to this event. My only disappointment was that the shirts were sized to small. I received an XL female shirt and it was too small, I mean kids size small! Add to that the extra gear they had for sale was sized small too. I didn't need a compression jacket, no matter how nice they looked. I did enjoy running into several of my friends picking up their packets. Later in the evening, 23 of us piled into Uptown Pasta Restaurant with Bart Yasso to have our pre-race dinner. They did a great job accommodating us!

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1 comment:

  1. WOW! You are an inspiration. What a story. Thanks for sharing! You are amazing, and I am so glad your daughter is doing well. May she have many happy years ahead of her.