LEE ANNE GRACE: Courageous children good motivation for marathon trainer

Life can be full of surprises and unexpected twists and turns. If someone had told me five years ago I would be training to run a marathon in the fall of 2010 I would have been howling with laughter. The idea of not only running 26.2 miles, but actually doing it on purpose, was preposterous. It would have seemed more likely that I would become an astronaut or race car driver.
I started becoming physically active several years ago, starting with a walk to the end of my driveway and back. With each passing month I tried to raise the bar just a little bit higher, pushing myself just a little bit harder. After walking regularly for a little more than a year, I started running.
A goal in sight has always helped to keep me focused, so I started entering local 5K races (3.1 miles). I completed my first 10K (6.2 miles) in May 2009. The next thing I set my sights on was completing a half marathon (13.1 miles.) Five completed half marathons later, I decided to take the plunge and train to achieve a major goal: to complete a full marathon.
When I first started marathon training late this spring, I didn’t realize training would affect me in far more many ways than I had anticipated. The structure of training has slowly seeped into areas of my life other than the actual training and gradual build up of miles. Time management, nutrition and even making sure I get enough sleep have all benefited from marathon training. My existence has become more disciplined, and I’ve learned to focus on the moment I’m in.
A wise, dear friend once told me, “Training becomes a paradigm for the discipline of life and racing becomes a paradigm for the trials of life.” During the past few months I have discovered there is a lot of powerful wisdom in this statement.
On most days I do an acceptable job with the discipline of training. It’s the racing and in turn, the trials of life in which I’m likely to crash and burn. Historically, I am not known for my spectacular race day performances. I tend to talk myself out of being able to perform the best I can. I am usually not the most calm, cool and collected person during trying situations.
As my weekly training time increases and the clock ticks closer to the day of the Marine Corps Marathon, the butterflies flittering about inside of me wax and wane much like the moon of the steamy summer nights. Doubts wash over me as to whether I, a former 300-pound introvert who was miserably lacking in the self-esteem department, can actually finish a marathon.
I have made an important discovery that alleviates a lot of the doubts and focus on myself. I am running for a cause, which turns the entire marathon experience into something much bigger than me. By participating in the marathon as a St. Jude Hero, I will be raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Many children and their families in Lee County have turned to St. Jude when faced with a diagnosis of childhood cancer.
When I step up to the starting line on October 31, not only will I be celebrating the newly discovered gift of health and fitness, but my focus will be on the St. Jude children whose lives have touched mine. Jorden, Harrison, Layla, Sam, Nathaniel and Will, this race is for you!

Lee Anne Grace is an elementary music teacher for Tupelo Public Schools. After reaching a weight of almost 300 pounds and failing at numerous diets for over 25 years, she has been successful at losing weight and maintaining her weight loss for two years. She continues overhauling her eating, fitness, mental and spiritual well-being, and still considers herself a “work in progress.” She is passionate about helping others who struggle with the same issues she does. She is the proud mother of two teenage daughters and enjoys running in her spare time.

On the Web
■ If you would like to donate to St. Jude through the Heroes program, visit Lee Anne’s Heroes website. Please log on to
www.stjudeheroes.org. Click on “donate to a hero,” then “find a participant.”
Enter Grace in the last name field. Her goal is to raise $1,000 for St. Jude by Sept. 10. The page can be directly accessed by going to
Click here for link to more information on how to help.

Lee Anne Grace