I am posting this as I hit mile 300 into my trek. At this point of my journey I am riding on pure emotion. Telling my story, all of these stories, reaching my fundraising goal of $14,000, and just the physical accomplishment is beyond my full comprehension now. But I can not finish without mentioning the ultimate reason- My friend Kelly La Bare who was lost many years ago, but I am one of many who gained a lot keeping her spirit alive.
A year after I graduated college, I ended up in Binghamton, NY to work at WBNG-TV. I had been in Syracuse, but this was my first ‘real gig’. I felt like I was unstoppable. I stopped running track at Cornell, but during my senior year a friend of mine and I started competing in bench press competitions. I actually took 3rd place in the NY State Bench Press Wars (I weighed 164 lbs and benched 305 lbs). My I did not want to be a meat-head. Ha! So I got back to running, but this time long distance races.
I was a sprinter, as I mentioned in my story about high school. But endurance races eluded me. I often stopped from fatigue and had my demons tell me I could not go on.
I met Kelly who happened to graduate Cornell as well, and she insisted on training me and wouldn’t take no for an answer! Unfortunately I injured my ITB a month before my marathon, and figured I’d just rest it and be fine. Well, I wasn’t. I ran the Buffalo Marathon in May of 1996, while ice was still floating on Lake Erie. It was chilly, and despite a good start, I felt the chill of my ITB tearing after mile eight. Somehow I made it halfway to where a friend was waiting for me. I made it just past him and stopped at mile 14. *If you read my story ‘By the numbers’, this is even more surreal.
I felt like I let Kelly down but not finishing, but she was as supportive as ever. Needless to say, I considered my running career over.
A few months later, the ultimate surprise- Kelly LaBare, the nicest and most fit person I had ever known, was found dead on her kitchen floor. She was supposed to run in a mother/daughter race the next week that her and her mom had won a few years in a row. How could this happen?
She had a rare undetectable genetic hear condition that killed her aunt. There was no way to prevent it (at least at that time). It was just her time. She was the kind of person Shawn Madden was. Just overly happy with life, so happy, so giving, it was infectious.
Why do these people get taken from us so early? Perhaps because it further inspires many they touch to carry their torch much farther.
Months later, I ended up in Baltimore and vowed to run again for Kelly. So I raced in the Annapolis 10 Miler with a shirt filled with her name for support. After that race, I lost contact with her family, but I kept running. She has always been in my heart and soul carrying me along the way and past the walls. But, I never ran another marathon. I was afraid to. So that is why this week, I hiked a marathon for each Cool Kid. Besides the fact that it has been 27 years since I almost lost my leg, it is the distance of a marathon (26.2 miles) and a little more to honor Kelly.
Crossing Maryland and finishing for Kelly!
When I committed I really was going to do this, I wanted to reach out to the LaBare family, but did not know how. It’s been ages. Somehow an ex-girlfriend was inspired to tell me that there was a 5K race in Kelly’s honor at Spiedie –Fest in Binghamton. A big deal there. This was the same weekend I planned to visit my family in the Poconos. So I was able to make it up there and share the news.
The craziest thing of all- This 5K course record was set last year with an incredible time of 14:41! The numbers that started my trek in the first place. WOW!
Her brother Byron runs her Facebook Page. Her parents Nancy and Gene were quick to remember me. It was an emotional reunion and I am honored that I am able to make this tribute to her. She really is the person that brought the love of distance running into my acceptance. Her drive to be the best combined with compassion go hand in hand and truly is how I not only want to continue to live my life, but share with anyone around me as well. It does not have to be fitness. It is whatever you have in your soul that just needs an avenue to shine through.
Kelly- I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race- Many times over. Today I end in you family’s vacation spot: Ocean City, MD!
Thank you for being such an influence on me and so many others. It is my privilege and responsibility to use my social media audience to continue the work you started. Shawn started. My parents started. So many have started. Stay positive. Push your limits. Encourage others. Never stop!
On my playlist today:
Out Loud (live) by Dispatch.
“Would you be the wind to blow me home
Would you be a dream
On the wings of a poem
And if we were walking through a crowd
Well you know I’d be proud
If you call my name out loud
Do you suppose that I would come running
Do you suppose I’d come at all
I suppose I would“
Trek Recap By The Days below…
About my friend Kelly LaBare
Kelly Marie LaBare was an education advocate and premiere road runner in the area who died unexpectedly of a heart condition in 1997 at age 25. Family, friends, children, and running were central to Kelly’s life and the annual Kelly LaBare 5K Run & Walk celebrates each of these things.
Kelly had an innate ability to easily connect with individuals through her welcoming smile and infectious personality. She was very gracious, humble and encouraging to others. Kelly’s deep spiritual foundation was manifested in everything she did and those lives she touched. Kelly cherished her family, friends and the long talks with her best friend and brother, Byron.
Kelly had a passion for excellence and it was manifested in numerous athletic awards and scholarship achievements. She graduated from Union Endicott High School and was:
♥ A celebrated 3-sport athletic (Soccer, Basketball, Softball) standout from 1985-1990 and selected to first team ALL-STAC squads for each team
♥ Athlete of the Year for the 1989-1990 academic year
♥ Inducted into the National Honor Society
♥ A New York State Regents Scholarship recipient
♥ WBNG TV Academic All-Star in 1990
Kelly graduated from Cornell University (3.9) with a B.S. in Communications, Summa Cum Laude. At Cornell, she was inducted into the Golden Key National Honor Society.
After graduating from Cornell University, Kelly was employed at Keith Clark as a Business Process Analyst and then at Broome Tioga BOCES as a Public Information Specialist. She then decided to become a teacher and was in her last semester of pursuing a Masters degree in Secondary Education in the field of biology at SUNY Cortland.
Kelly along with her two SUNY Cortland Professors, Dr. Larry Klotz and Dr. Steve Broyles, published the following for the American Biology Teacher:
♥ “Exploring Nectar Biology To Learn About Pollinations” (April 2000)
♥ “Using Online databases to teach Ecological Concepts” (February 2000)
Kelly was inducted into the Union Endicott High School Hall of Fame in 2000 and the New York State Section IV Hall of Fame in 2003.
Kelly’s blonde swinging ponytail, radiant energy and beautiful smile were immediately recognized at many area road races. She was among the top female road runners in the area for various distances. She was a member of the Triple Cities Runner’s Club.
Kelly had many talents. She was very smart, with a near photographic memory. She was a tremendous athlete with a positive attitude. But what will be remembered most of all about her, was her gift of giving of these talents. She spent much of her time giving assistance and words of encouragement to friends, family members or anyone she met. It is fitting that her memory still beats strong through this event since a portion of the proceeds go to causes close to Kelly’s heart: three High School Scholarship Funds and Mom’s House, which offers free child care to children of single parents who are pursuing educational opportunities. Mom’s house motto is synonymous with Kelly’s life-long goals, “To Live, To Love, to Learn”.
Kelly’s love for others was only matched by the love others had toward her. She embodied joy, grace, and elegance. Kelly made a profound difference in the lives of those privileged to have known her beauty and warmth and her legacy lives on through them. We have this race today not because Kelly died but because she lived….
“…And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us…” (12 Heb 1-3). “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race…” (2 Timothy 4:7).
The beach touches the Atlantic at mile 321!
Trek People Recap:
- By The Numbers
- Day 1 Jackson Buck
- Day 2 for Bohde Henley
- –>Day 2 Biking for my dad
- Day 3 Emily Kolenda
- –>Day 3 Biking for my mother
- Day 4 Ride for Shawn Madden
- –>We ride for Shawn Madden
- –>Day 4 ending with an angel/hero
- Day 5 for Cora Dalik
- –>Day 5 biking for Jennifer Jurik
- Day 6 for Jaxsen Palmer
- –>Day 6 Bike Ride for Mark Rosen
- Day 7 for Brooke Mulder
- –> Day 7 Finishing for Kelly LaBare
- Crossing Maryland done but I’m not done