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Halfs for Hope

Proceeds are being collected by Stephanie Berry


Based on 105 miles, each worth $76.33

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Raising hope and sharing God's love one mile at a time

October 21, 2018 changed my life. The story below is long, but I encourage you to read it.

“For your aunt,” my best friend said as we hugged each other before going our separate ways at the start line of the Columbus Marathon. She was on her way to do her first full marathon, and I was headed to my corral to do another (one of many…) half marathon. Fighting back tears, I checked my phone one more time, hoping for a text from my Mom before the start of the race. Nope… nothing from Mom. So I sent her a quick text, “Hi Mom, I’m pretty sure I know what your late night missed call means… I’m about to start the race, let me know if I’m right.”

RUNNERS, TAKE YOUR MARKS! The next thing I knew, the race had begun. As I crossed the start line, my heart was beating so fiercely I could feel it in my throat - don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry I continued telling myself. So I started thinking about anything else that I could, ”Look at all of these people!” “Look around at the buildings!” “See all the fun posters kids and families have made?” But my usual tactics to distract myself were not working this time…. so all I could think of to do was pray. I had a full-on conversation with God and I remember distinctly telling Him, “OK, You are seriously going to have to help me on this one. I can’t do it. I’m not going to make it.” And then I began singing a few songs that I’d been listening to on the Worship Now Spotify playlist that I had been listening to all week. Michael W. Smith - if you ever read this - thank you for writing Surrounded, as it was the main song I continued to sing to myself.

And then it began. “Come on Stephanie, you can do it!” hollered a youngster in the crowd. I turned and tried to spot him (or her) but there were so many people I couldn’t tell where it had come from. Another mile later, “You got this Stephanie!” and another mile in, “Looking good!” What I haven’t told you yet, is that I didn’t know these people. They didn’t know me. We’ve never met, and never have. (They knew my name because first names are now printed on your race bib number.) But each new mile, someone in the crowd was shouting words of encouragement to me. It was exactly what I needed, and God knew it. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that He was speaking to me through those bystanders.

Mile 10! Yes, Mile 10! Only three more to go. So I checked my phone to see what time it was. And there it was…. a text back from Mom. I didn’t want to open it, afraid of what it was going to tell me, but I did. (Yes, I occasionally read texts while running, but this is the first I’ve read one during a race.) Yes, Steph, your aunt passed away last night around 11:30. The tears were no longer just tied up in knots in my throat. A few started to fall down my cheeks. “Don’t quit! Don’t you dare give up on this race! It’s only three more miles. Keep it together for three more miles!” I was screaming those words in my head - so I kept going. Mile 11…. mile 12…. 12.5 “Come on Steph! You got this girl! Come on baby!!” And then I saw them, my two best friends who live in Columbus were standing at mile 12.5 to cheer me on. By this point, the tears were streaming down my face. ”Don’t give up! Just finish! Keep singing! Keep praying!” Finally, the finish line was visible. I could hear the announcer calling out people’s names as they were crossing the line… “Kick it in now Steph, kick it in and bring it home. Your absolute best!” I told myself. “Stephanie Berry from Cuyahoga Falls finishing up a half marathon,” said the announcer. I crossed the finish line and looked up at my time. A 1:56:16, the fastest race of my life. I did it. I finished. And then, I cried. I mean, I cried…I bawled my eyes out in the corner of the finishing corral. My aunt just passed away and I was crying alone. Granted a few people gave me an awkward look and walked away, but I didn’t care. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that everything felt like a blur.

So what is this all about? Why does this story matter? What cause am I asking you to donate to? And why should you donate to my cause over others? Firstly, because God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good. I will be the first one to tell you that I could not have finished that race on my own. I felt defeated before it even began. He also knew that I was going to need support, so I don’t think it’s any coincidence that my two best friends were there. And now I will also be the first to say that God does exist, He is real and He does hear you when you’re praying and crying out for a miracle. I know many of you are probably sitting there thinking, “If God works miracles, then why did your aunt pass away and why wasn’t she saved?” Well, the first answer is that life is NOT about us; it’s about serving God and bringing glory to His name. Secondly, often times in life, things do not work out how we would like them to. Of course I wish my aunt was still here with her family, but that decision was not mine to make. My aunt was a firm believer in God and an amazing testament to His power and love for us. God’s glory was shown to others through her life, and that is what it’s all about. If nothing else, please hear that message.

To give you some insight into the week leading up to the marathon, my aunt had been suffering from cancer (adenocarcinoma that began in her fallopian tubes) for years. That Monday, she had been placed in hospice care. Fast forward a few days to Saturday afternoon when I had to leave for the race Sunday morning. My Mom had tried to call me late Saturday night, but my phone was on silent so my friend and I wouldn’t be disturbed. For those who may not know how large races work, you do your best to go to bed early because you need to be awake at 4, 4:30 am (race time is usually 7 or 7:30 am…yikes!) I had missed her call, and was continuing to try and call her, right up until the race started. Hence, the text message I received at mile 10.

Friends, I am raising money to donate to the Foundation for Women’s Cancer. The Foundation for Women’s Cancer (FWC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that steadily pursues its mission of supporting research, education and public awareness of gynecologic cancers. The FWC is the official foundation of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO), the premier medical specialty society for healthcare professionals trained in the comprehensive management of gynecologic cancers. I will be devoting the entirety of all funds raised during my 2019 half marathon season to the FWC with continuing hope that one day there will be a cure.


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