This morning marked the first official REALLY COLD run of the season. “Really cold” is the nice way of saying it is colder than ______ or it is so _______’ cold (insert your favorite profanities). As I ran to meet my friend on this bone chilling morning, I watched my footing to avoid slick patches and dangerous black ice. Although challenging, I loved every step. Feeling the crisp air on my face, seeing the snow on the early morning trees, and listening to bits of snow crackle under my feet made me quickly forget the relationship I struggled to break off with my snooze button just minutes ago. It was great to be out.
As usual, my friend and I filled our run with nonstop chatter. Just before we got to the point where we went our separate ways, she told me an inspirational story. She ended it with, “I don’t know, I thought maybe that would be a good runnerchica starter.” No pressure of course. 😉 Although I tried to “work” her topic idea on my run home, I just wasn’t having luck with it. Instead, my mind wandered to about six million other topics… no focus for this chica so early in the morning. In the midst of my brain chatter, I noticed the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. Again, it felt rhythmic and therapeutic. After awhile I realized the crackling could lead to falling, so I moved to the snow, leaving a trail of my Brooks’ footprints for a good mile.
After noticing these prints, one thought led to another, and I began to think of the global warming talk of “Carbon Footprints.” Completely logical to ponder global warming when you’re freezing, right? Right. And, truth be told, I usually don’t give global warming a lot of direct thought. Sorry, folks! I try to be a good earth lover, really. But, my dedication to saving our planet is sparked mostly by common sense (I reuse, recycle, and walk vs. drive when I can!), and my energy-conserving husband who has been trying to remind me to close doors and turn off lights. I’m not one to think about carbon footprints or the planet’s temperature on a daily basis.
I decided to do some Googling about these footprints; my search sent me to treehugger.com (actual site) where I learned that everyone has a carbon footprint. It’s defined as a way to measure the relative impact of our actions- as individuals, businesses, communities and countries, as we eat, work, travel, play, etc. – in terms of the contribution made to global climate change. It’s sort of a measure of how the bad things we do (wasting gas, leaving lights on, etc.) leave a negative impact on the environment.
After making a mental note to lighten my own carbon footprint, I considered the fact that much information about this is dispelled in a “don’t’ do this, don’t do that” sort of way that suggests that if we keep leaving such deep imprints, man oh man is our planet going to be in trouble. Now, this is fine advice. It is great advice, actually. However, I thought about how the tone of these messages was more negative than positive, as are many other messages we read and hear daily. I realized many of our local (and global) news reports focus on the doom and gloom- of warming, the economy, the wars, and everything else bad and ugly. Sort of depressing stuff. I then wondered- what if, for one day, we just called attention to the positive things that are happening? The good things we are doing to leave our mark on the world, but often get ignored? What if we even gave these things a name? For this runnerchica, let’s call these positive contributions our Carbon-less footprints.
Carbon-less footprints are powerful. They are everywhere and are left in the places we least expect them, by the people we least expect to be leaving them. Carbon-less footprints happen every moment of every day…and the only negative about them is that we often underestimate our ability to leave them. There are a million or so different footprints we can leave- from a smile to someone we pass on the street to support we give to a friend in need to a relentless search for the cure to a serious disease. There’s no maximum or minimum to what our footprint, or prints have to be. That’s the beauty of them. It’s just a matter of us deciding how and where we’re going to leave them.
Take my parents, for example. They are in their early 80’s- they could be just kickin’ back and enjoying life. Instead, they are leaving some serious footprints. My mom has been president of her library board for over 20 years, and is currently spearheading the efforts to build a new library. She is fundraising, running meetings, emailing clients…with the vim and vigor of a 30 year old… so that her community can have one fabulous library when all is said and done. Among other things, my dad has worked many years to put together a day care center for adults with Alzheimer’s. Neither of them had to do these things; yet they did because they are driven with the desire to make a difference. These are the things they choose to do.
As I’ve been runnerchica-ing for the past year, I’ve tried to think of a way to incorporate the cause I’m passionate about, and what I think is one of the best ways to make a “Carbon-less footprint” if you’re a runner who wants to make a difference. Solution: run for a charity. There are many, many charities that runners, walkers, and bikers can choose to support to make a difference. My charity of choice happens to be celebrating their 20th anniversary this year.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program began 20 years ago when a man from New York got some friends together to run a marathon in honor of his daughter, a leukemia survivor. This man did this because he decided he had to do something to put a dent in this disease. He couldn’t stand the thought of other fathers, other families going through a similar situation. His solution was to get a group of like-minded runners together to participate in the New York City Marathon. They asked people to sponsor them, in hopes of raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This group wasn’t planning on changing the world; they were just looking at a problem in front of them, and were passionately doing whatever they could to make a difference. Their efforts yielded two very important results- first, they raised $322,000 at that marathon. Second, they began Team in Training- an organization devoted to raising money to eradicate leukemia and other blood cancers. 380,000 participants later, the organization has raised approximately $900 million dollars!
Twenty years later, unfortunately, blood cancers aren’t wiped out yet, but with each person that participates in, donates to, or even hears of Team in Training… that goal is getting closer to being realized. The best part of Team in Training is that it brings hope and energy to those running, and more importantly, those who have leukemia or other blood cancers. When it comes to race day, Team in Training runners from all around the country, join together in a sea of runners donning purple Team in Training jerseys. The participants in these full and half marathons have one special thing in common- they run with hope, and spread it to all watching and all involved with this fabulous program. Every participant whose feet hit the pavement leaves a mark that says… together, we can do this. By simply caring enough to want to make a difference… a difference can be made.
The great thing is that when we are doing all we can to bring good into the world, it tends to drown out all of the other negative messages. That makes it all the more worth it! So… whether you make your imprint by putting one foot in front of the other in a race for charity, or in ways that you don’t even realize, remember one thing. Positive things are happening in the world and will continue to… regardless of what the news is telling us each day.
We all have the power to leave a unique imprint on this world… so, find your passion and go with it, friends… and get the world talking about the positive changes that are everywhere!