I'll get right to the point on this one. As I was preparing my marathon mile list, I knew my inspiration for completing Mile #16 would be my husband, Mike.
For 18 years Mike has served in various capacities with the Indiana State Police. From the moment I said I do, I have been his #1 supporter. I’ve been a proud police wife, and he's always had my respect. But his career never "inspired" me; not until he transferred to a task force. On this task force, he has spent countless of hours hunting down child predators.
In my opinion, child predators are the sickest of the sick. The media is starting to shine a light on how dark and disgusting the world of children pornography and sexual exploitation is and the strategies pedophiles use to prey on children.
My husband, even though I pray this isn't how he spends the rest of his career, works countless hours, day and night thinking through each case to ensure no stone is unturned. Unlike most jobs, he can’t leave his work at the office. It’s in his head and will not depart until the day he dies.
I know that sounds dramatic, but I want you to understand the gravity of what our police officer deal with and observe on a daily basis. What they see changes them. Mike’s drive to put predators behind bars for a very long time and his work ethic inspires me. During marathon mile #16, I prayed for his safety and child pornography and abuse victims. The world of child exploitation is a dark, sad world and it takes dedicated women and men, like my husband, to keep children safe.
For 15 years he has been beside me through good times and the bad. He continually pushes me and well, tells it like it is. If you want to hear the truth...ask my husband.
Honestly, he didn't think I would run the marathon. I quit my training not once, but two times, heck maybe three times! I had medical issues arise, which concerned him so much he thought I should quit. He said, "I want you here a while longer."
But at no time did he prevent me from pursuing my dream, and even though he didn’t agree, he continued to support me. He'd give his opinion, but when I was out on a run, and it started lightning, he was in his truck, looking to pick me up. When I needed water, he brought me water. And when I needed to sleep all afternoon after a long run, he let me rest.
My husband is my number one supporter, and he's always on the sideline as my biggest fan. He and the children he fights for every day got me through marathon mile #16.
Your giving challenge for today is to pray. *Pray for police officers who work child exploitation cases. *Pray for child victims and survivors. *Pray for the children that are being abused. *Pray for children to come forward and tell someone. *Pray for the people in these child’s life to recognize something is not right. *Pray for the child that had the courage to come forward. *And pray for physical and mental healing for their body and mind. that brings them comfort and peace.
If you missed my first 15 miles, you can check out my stories here:
Do you ever wonder why out of the millions of conversations you've had over your lifetime; there are several that remain front and center in your mind?
I was twenty-four and working for the Indiana State Police as a grant administrator and personnel officer. I enjoyed my job but wanted more. A good friend of mine from high school was the head coach at a large school district in Indianapolis. One night we were talking and he offered me a job as the distance coach for the high school girls track team. Since running in high school and college, it was a job I had always wanted, but there was one problem...my day job was a BIG obstacle.
When my friend asked me to consider the position, I immediately thought, "There is no way I can make this work. I would have to leave work two hours earlier than I leave now. My boss is not going to go for it."
But I really wanted to coach!
After several days of being in agony on what to do, I sought counsel from Major Medler.
He had always given me good advice. I shared with him my dilemma. His response changed my life. He said, "Ask. The worst that is going to happen is that your boss is going to say no. But at least you'll know."
After my conversation with Major Medler, it took several hours to get the nerve and "pop" into my boss's office. He was also a Major, but he intimidated me. I hem-hawed around and finally he said, "Stenger (that was my maiden name), what do you want?!"
I stuttered, "Well sir, I have been offered a coaching position. I'd really like to do it, but my current hours won't allow for it. Would it be possible…for me to…um…come in early and work through lunch so I could leave at 2:30?"
Whew...I had done it. I was bracing for the worst case scenario when he said, "Will this affect your work?"
More confidently I responded, "No sir, no it won't."
He grinned and said, "Okay, you can work an adjusted schedule and coach. Have fun!"
I wanted to give him a big bear hug, but that probably wasn't the most appropriate response. I thanked him continuously as I backed out the door. I could have done the Irish jig down the hallway, but no need to draw attention to myself. I couldn't believe it! I was going to be a coach. A dream was coming true!
Over the last 14 years, I have never forgotten that lesson. There are hundreds of opportunities I would have missed out on for the fear of hearing the word no. You know what I learned? That most of the time...people say YES! People want to help other people. People want to give other people chances.
This has become second nature to me, but I thought of it today when I was watching Katie Couric interview Elizabeth Banks. It seems like someone gave her good advice years ago also.
What have you been scared to ask but fear hearing no? Comment below or send me a message. I would love to encourage you as the Major encouraged me so many years ago. Blessings, Stephanie
As I sit here with tears rolling down my face, I'm overwhelmed with the happenings of the past 48 hours.
Let me take you back to last Monday. As I looked at the week ahead, the Indiana Writers Workshop was looming and I was not prepared. I was supposed to pitch two literary agents for two different books I'm writing. I was so tired I considered not going. Then I told myself I would go, but wing the pitches. No creating one-pagers with my book synopsis and bio and no prep. I didn't have the energy.
Fast forward to Thursday and after a meeting with my writing coach Bethany and a massage to relax and clear my mind, I knew I couldn't miss this opportunity. I stayed up until 11:00p.m. working on my one-pagers. I was up early Friday morning to start my research I would need to have prepared for the agents. After work on Friday I made additional edits, scurried to Staples to make copies and then came home to continue my research. I passed out at 10:30p.m.
I stumbled out of bed at 3:30a.m. to again to continue my research, make note cards and record my pitches so I could listen and memorize on the way to Indianapolis. I quickly showered, dressed and packed. I was on the road by 5:00a.m and I arrived in plenty of time to chat with several other writers. What an eclectic and entertaining group of people.
I was so nervous, but I knew I was prepared. What's that saying... "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity?" – Seneca
I knew I didn't have to have everything memorized because what I needed was on my one-pager. I also had a deliverable to give to the agent, if you she would take it. It showed her I was serious!
I wasn't sure what to expect. Each pitch was ten minutes with an agent. My coach was setting proper expectations for me so I wouldn't feel bad if I was rejected. Rejection happens a lot at pitch sessions. Everything I was reading said to be prepared with questions about the industry because if you pitch for a minute and they say no, you don't want sit through nine minutes of awkward silence. Also, the agent probably won't take anything you have prepared, so don't get your hopes up.
I'm happy to report, both pitches went very well and both agents asked me to follow-up with a proposal. Whew!!!
I have a long way to go, but I passed the first hurdle. As I was driving home, I thought about how the day transpired and could have ended differently.
Do you have dream that is sitting on a shelf? If so, decide how important that dream is to you. Evaluate how you are currently spending your time. What sacrifices are you willing to make?
Even if my books never get published, it won't be because I didn't give 100% effort. It won't be because I didn't put in the time required to make things I happen. I won't have regrets.
In a year from now will you regret wasting another year away or will you look back and say, "I have come so far?"
I not only pursue my dreams but I love helping others accomplish their BIG DREAMS. Comment below your big dream or DM me with how I can help!
I want you to look back a year from now and say...WOW I'm doing this. I'm living an extraordinary life!
On my last post someone asked, "Did you split up at mile 13?"
Yes, yes, we did. My mom and I have been running together for years. We have one rule. Never let the other person hold you back. If you are not a runner, this may seem cruel or uncaring. How could you leave someone behind? But if you are a runner, you know that holding someone back or trying to keep up with someone when you're having a bad run can be mentally draining.
If you establish expectations at the start you don't have to worry about it throughout the entire run.
For the most part, in training, we always stick together. Every once in a while one of us will be feeling really good and take off, but we always circle back to make sure the other person is okay. You can't really circle back in a race. So you start together and pray for the best.
Mom and I had decided for the marathon that we would stick together as long as possible. I was going to be the pacer as mom tends to start off faster than I do and with such a long run, that isn't advised. As soon as we hit the start line (which took 45 minutes) she took off and I had to reminder her, "We have 26 miles!"
She reluctantly slowed to my pace. Our first mile was about two minutes slower than our training pace. Not good. Why? Well if we stuck to this pace it would take us almost an hour longer to run the marathon than we had originally planned… six hours instead of five. That is a looooong time to run! Mile after mile we were consistently slow. Mentally though I kept thinking, "I don't care about my time. All I care about is finishing."
For the first 13 miles we stayed together. I would run through Gatorade and water stops grabbing the cup while moving, trying to drink and run at the same time. Mom would stop to grab a cup, drink and walk, but she always caught back up to me.
I can't remember what happened at mile 13 but she took off and I lost her and that was okay. At mile 17 someone came whizzing up from behind me. It was my mom! I was so happy to see her, but couldn't figure out how she had gotten behind me.
I chucked, “Where did you come from?
She said, "I had to stop and stretch. My knees are killing me. I have to walk, stretch, sprint and then walk again. Can you believe this? I've never had knee pain."
I felt so sorry for her. I could see the agony in her face. We still had nine miles to go. I hate that her race was going to be miserable.
That's the one thing I hate about running. It can be so unpredictable, just like many things in life. You can do all the right things, train your heart out, and then on the big day your body has other plans.
As quick as she came up behind me, she was gone again. As she was getting ready to take off, she said, "I've just been praying for people who pop in my mind. Who is #17?"
I won't get to 17 because I have lots to share about #14 and #15. But I'll get to 17 this week:) Here is who inspired me through miles 14 and 15.
Mile 14: Rick and Dick Hoyt- I heard about this father and son duo years ago and their story has always stuck with me. Whenever I'm having a bad run, I think of the Hoyt's and my pity party quickly subsides. They were meant to be with me on Sunday as the duo competed in their first race in 1977, the year I was born. Rick is a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy and Dick is his father who pushes him in a running chair. Over the past 38 years they have completed over 1,000 races, yes I wrote that correctly 1000, including marathons, duathlons and triathlons including six Ironman competitions. They biked and ran across the US, 3,735 miles in 45 days. I was trying to get through six hours of running and this team did 45 days. 45 days...let that one sink in. They remind me that the impossible, is possible! Read their incredible story here.
Mile 15: Holly Dunn- In 2006, I was organizing a Women's Empowerment Conference for high schoolers and looking for a keynote speaker. I came across Holly and thought she was perfect for the event. Her story is one of tragedy, struggle, hope and inspiration. Since meeting Holly I have never forgot her story and we stay connected to this day through social media. Her smile is contagious and knowing what she lived through made mile 15 a walk in the park.
Here is a bit of her story taken from her website. Holly is the only known survivor to the railroad serial killer. Holly and her boyfriend Chris Maier were enjoying an evening close to the campus of the University of Kentucky. Engaged in conversation alongside a railway line, the two began to walk back toward a party they had attended earlier in the evening when suddenly they were approached by a man with a weapon resembling a screwdriver or ice pick. The stranger would not accept their pleas to take their money and spare them harm. Instead, he viciously attacked them, first by tying their hands and feet and ordering them face down on the ground. Holly helplessly watched as her boyfriend Chris was struck first with a 50lb rock, gruesomely taking his young life. Once the killer finished with Chris, he began attacking Holly. Holly was stabbed, raped, then repeatedly beat with a wood object both in the face and on the back of her head, leaving her unconscious. Holly regained consciousness, and miraculously gained enough strength to walk to a nearby street for help. Having been left for dead, Holly narrowly escaped her attacker's intentions and found a home from which to seek help. In the home near the scene of the attack a man assisted Holly and called 911. Holly's life was changed forever.
Holly went on to win numerous awards, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Greatest Public Service and was featured in People's Magazine as a Hero Among Us. She took tragedy into triumph and is the spokesperson for Holly's House, an advocacy center for sexual abuse and domestic violence survivors helping others see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
My mom and I started the race together and we would run together up until mile 13. Every mile I'd yell the name of the person I was running for and she would start praying for that person. Here are the people that got me through Miles 9-13.
Mile 9: Emily Huntington- I never had the opportunity to meet Emily, but if I did, I think we would have share many laughs while eating cupcakes. I'm friends with Emily's mom, aunts, uncles, grandmother and friends. At the age of 18 on December 30, 2011 Emily died texting and driving. A tragic loss of a beautiful life gone too soon.
The life she lived, even though short, inspires me. The pictures I see of her are always full of life, smiles, silliness and fun! Emily had a motto, "Live, Laugh, Learn."
What a great motto for all of us to live by.
During the race there were thousands of signs. Most were hysterical and made me laugh. But one sign at mile 9, the mile I was running for Emily, said, "You live an amazing life."
Immediately tears streamed down my face. It was as if God had placed that sign in the perfect spot so it would be on her mile. Even though I never met Emily I thought, "That is something Emily would say."
Emily..."You lived an amazing life."
Mile 10: Jodi Comer- Jodi is Emily's mother. What she has been through over these past several years in unimaginable. Yet through this tragedy she has been on a mission to make sure other teens and adults don't make the same mistake Emily made.
Besides public education and awareness on the importance of not texting and driving, Jodi started a Pay it Forward campaign in memory of Emily. She had business cards printed with pictures of Emily that shares her story on one side and then the other side states, "I am paying it forward. Please do not text and drive. Please wear your seat belt."
It's a way to pay it forward, but also share Emily's story and to encourage others not to text and drive. Jodi has no doubt saved countless lives and thousands of people have benefit from random acts of kindness in memory of Emily. When something bad happens, we can't change the past, but we can decide how to make a difference moving forward.
Mile 11: Harold Welter-I met Harold eight years ago when he called me to get him organized (I'm a professional organizer). And all these years later we are still working together in various capacities. In his seventies he isn't losing steam. He has been broadcasting radio for over 40 years, he serves his community and church in various capacities and has been married for over 50 years. What inspires me about Harold is his age is just a number. I don't think he is ever going to retire. He's always working to improve himself. He is constantly dreaming and pursuing his dreams. Every time I meet with him he teaches me that no matter the obstacles that come our way, we figure out how to work through them and move on. Our dreams don't die when things get tough, sometimes they get slowed down, but dreams can always be picked back up and accomplished.
Mile 12: Coach Bullock: Coach Bullock was my cross country coach at Taylor University. He had an impact on me that few in my life have. Yes, there are many people that come and go in our lives and many make an impact. But there are those special few that make such a significant impact that no matter where you are, how old you are or what you do, they will always be there in your thoughts, be reflected in how you make decisions and in your heart. Coach Bullock is one of those people. He was there with me day one when I stepped on campus at Taylor University, he was there when I suffered heartbreaking injuries, he was there with me on my wedding day and he was with me on my marathon. He was a marathoner. I'm sad he isn't around to see me accomplish this goal but I know he was looking down on me smiling.
He wasn't only an amazing coach but he was a great friend who expected a lot of us as runners and as Christian women. I think what I liked most about Coach was that he never made a decision for us as a runners. He always gave us choices, the choice to work hard or be lazy or the choice to run extra miles or quit for the day. He made you want to work hard without ever raising his voice or being negative. He was an encourager. I worked hard because the last thing I wanted to do was disappoint Coach. He would have been so proud of me on Sunday.
Mile 13: Brett Stowasser: Brett's the husband of a friend of mine from high school. I don't think I've ever met him, but when he was diagnosed with colon cancer I started following his journey on Caring Bridge.
Through his journey there were three things that stuck out to me about Brett. (1) He was very positive. A positive attitude, no matter what you're going through, seems to get you through a little easier. I'm not saying the struggle is going to go away, but you have a CHOICE in how you're going to deal with the challenge. I loved his positive attitude and figured if he could be positive through 12 rounds of chemo I could for 26 miles. (2) He focused on, in his words, "the light at the end of the tunnel." He acknowledged what he was dealing with on a daily basis, but he set his sights forward. Many times it's hard to see the end, but the more we focus on it, sometimes it's easier to get through the present. And (3) He was thankful. In almost every post he gave gratitude and was thankful for the support of his friends, coworkers, family and most importantly his wife and daughter. No matter what we are going through, good or bad, but especially the hard times, we need to be thankful. The hard times are what make us stronger. They make us appreciate the good times.
Next time you're going through a difficult time emulate Brett by being positive, focus on the future and be thankful!
At this point I was at the half way mark of the marathon. At first it was a bit deflating thinking, oh my gosh...I have to do that again? But then I immediately changed my thinking. I've made it half way! I'm on the backside now. It's the FINAL COUNTDOWN! And I would start picking off miles one at a time.
Can you accomplish your dreams on your own? I know I can't. If I think about everything that I have accomplished in my life those accomplishments had little to do with me, but were more about those surrounding me. I had to do the hard work, but the people that believed in me, opened doors, challenged and encouraged me were the ones that helped me be successful.
When I think about the marathon, I feel the exact same way. Sure, I did the training (and I slacked a bit on that), but it was the people that I had written on my arm that got me through mile by mile. These people steered my focus from the pain, I felt throughout my entire body, to them and their stories. Here is a bit about the people that inspired me on miles five, six, seven and eight.
Mile 5: Carrie Jenkins- Carrie and I lived on the same floor in college and bonded when we had various roommate issues our sophomore year. Out of all my friends that got engaged, her engagement is the only one I remember. Her boyfriend, now husband, use to provide me a ride in his jeep from chapel back to the dorm. He was always jamming to Garth Brooks Two Pina Coladas. Why I remember this, I have no idea. Carrie married her college sweetheart and they had three beautiful boys. We've casually stayed in touch via FB, but I have followed her journey via her blog I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Her blog is an honest and raw look at what it's like to be a mother to a child with special needs. Brayden, her son, has the following diagnoses, Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum (ACC), Microcephaly, Seizure disorder, Cerebral dysgenesis, Pontocerebellar hypoplasia, G-J tube replaced with separate G-tube and separate J-tube, Delayed gastric emptying GERD reflux, Chronic vomiting, Chronic pancreatitis, Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI), Optic nerve hypoplasia, Cerebral palsy and Nonambulatory. As she spends her days caring for Brayden and her family, she helps other mothers and works tirelessly on giving projects for those that need it most. Check out her blog to see why she has been such an inspiration to me and many others.
Mile 6: Jill Behrman- On May 31, 2000 Jill, a soon to be sophomore at Indiana University, went for a bike ride and never returned home. Her body wouldn't be found until three years later. She had been murdered. I can still remember Jill's smile and the heartbreak when finding out about her murder and then again when her remains were found. She was young, vibrant and had so much life ahead of her. Because of her, I rarely go running by myself and if I do I stay in populated areas. I refuse to run in rural Indiana. Her death changed my life. It made me fear things we should not fear. Almost ever run I think of her. For someone that has been with me for 15 years, I had to bring her on my journey.
Mile 7: Don Schweingruber- I met Don several times during my years at Taylor University as he was the father of my good friend Matt. But it wasn't until his death on September 12, 2015 that I learned Don was an incredible man. I read his obituary and couldn't help think, we would all be lucky to live life like Don did. He was married to his beloved Nancy for 50 years. Wow! 50 years is a great accomplishment in a world where divorce seems to be the easy way out nowadays. Don worked for Bluffton University for 33 years and retired as Vice President and Dean of Student Life. Can you imagine working at the same place for 33 years? I can't! During his tenure he won so many awards, I don't have the space to mention. But it wasn't the awards that got me, what struck me most was this, "Don built relationships with the people in his life. He was a good listener and offered thoughtful encouragement and advice. He was respected for his faith, integrity, kindness, intelligence and sense of humor. He shaped the lives of countless Bluffton students, co-workers, family members, friends, and other people in his life. His motto was, "It's all about relationships." I couldn't agree more! I challenge you to live a little more like Don.
Mile 8: James He- When I stepped foot on the Taylor University campus for the first time, I had met my match. The first person I met was Kristin Horn, a blond hair, blue eyed gal who was just as sarcastic as me. We became immediate friends and would become fierce competitors in cross country and racing the 10k in track. She would move away after college and several years later marry James. The first time I met James I loved him. He's soft spoken, attentive and has a heart as big as Texas. In 2014 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and continues to battle as it's now stage 4. I haven't seen James in a while, but I follow his journey through their blog. In reading his story you'll quickly learn he has an unshakable faith, a positive attitude and perseverance like none other. Please take a minute to leave James and his family words of encouragement.
These are the people that got me through miles 5-8. If you haven't read 1-4 they are listed below. I’ll be posting more later in the week.
For 20 years I chased a dream that I never thought would become a reality. My sophomore year in college, after repeated knee, hamstring and back injuries, my running career came to an abrupt halt. I can remember the moment vividly as I was sitting on a table while the athletic trainer told me, “If you don’t quit running you won’t be able to walk when your 38.”
I’m 38 years old and yesterday I completed the Chicago Marathon. I ran all 26.2 miles. Slow yes, but I finished!
God aligned the right doctor and massage therapist to come into my life at the time my mom decided she wanted to run a marathon. I knew if I was ever going to accomplish this goal, I had to do it now. I would have the motivation of knowing that my mom (58) would be doing it with me and I couldn’t let her down. I’d also have an accountability and training partner.
The training was difficult, but if you have ever run a day in your life, you know that running is 10% physical and 90% mental. I knew if I was going to run all 26.2 miles, my run couldn’t be about me. It had to be about others. It had to be about people that inspired me, people that have made incredible sacrifices and people that have lost their life too early and would give anything to be running.
Over the past several months I have been jotting names down… thinking about 26 people that would motivate me mile, by mile, not to quit.
Sitting in bed in the hotel room, prepping for the race I wrote all 26 names on neon labels. The morning of the race I stuck the lables on my arm.
I had one name for each mile. After I completed a mile I’d peel the label off, give it a kiss and toss it over my shoulder. Each mile I prayed for these people and their families. I thought about their journey, how our paths had crossed and how they had inspired me. Before I knew it, I was peeling and kissing another label.
When we focus on others, our big dreams become easier. There is no doubt in my mind that I finished my marathon because of these 26 people.
Mile 1: Trey Stauffer- A nine-year-old living with juvenile diabetes. The daily things this kid has to go through amazes me. He participates in fundraising activities for awareness and research and even has his face on a billboard.
Mile 2: Jaymason Curry- He is the 14 yr old son of a friend of mine from high school. This past year he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and recently completed six months of treatment. His dad would post updates on Jaymason and he always had a smile on his face. He never stopped living life, attended various sporting events and took each day in stride. I’m certain his positive attitude played a big role in successful treatment.
Mile 3: Lauren Spierer- On June 3, 2011, Lauren went missing and has yet to be found. I was reminded of her bright blue eyes and prayed during this mile for her parents, Rob and Charlene, her friends and that those that know what happened to come forward. For more information on Lauren, check out this website.
Mile 4: Mary Margaret Moorehead: Mary recently turned 88 and has been a grandmother figure to me most of my life. She is smart, witty, honest, hard working and has the best laugh. Just thinking about her during mile four made me smile.
These are the people that got me through mile 1-4. Check out who got me through #4-#8.
If you have a dream you have chased for 20 years and you want help accomplishing it, contact me for a complimentary coaching session. I’d loved see you crossing your own finish line in 2017!
Dream. Discover. Do™
About the Author:
Stephanie helps people discover their gifts and boldly pursue their dreams. Her coaching, speaking, and resources create healthy mindset shifts, and helps people accomplish more than they thought possible, in less time than they imagined. Based on Stephanie’s successful career as a top-rated manager in a Fortune 100 company, her workshops help leaders and organizations navigate change, create can-do teams, avoid burnout, and grow their brand through giving. She is a fearless changemaker, in my own life, and in those she serves – challenging others to give daily.
You can contact Stephanie by email at stephanie@GivingGal.com.