Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Do Day: Running for a Cause

I could not think of a better way to kick off the "Do Day" profile series than with an interview with Jen Giroux. Running has been top of mind recently for me with recent resolutions ("run more" - I keep 'em pretty simple) and the purchase of my Nike +. But more than that device or even looking at pictures of my marathon-ready self from September 2006, Jen provides the motivation I need to get out there and run! I love receiving her update emails, and upon receipt of the last I asked if I could feature her here. Thankfully she agreed and the rest, as they say, is below...

In July of 2006, Jen decided to run a marathon in memory of her friend, Steven Bouvier (Bouv), who was lost to lymphoma in 2005 at the age of 29. She had never run more than "maybe three miles...with walk breaks," let alone a marathon. But on January 14, 2007, she ran her first marathon and raised OVER $10,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with Team In Training to help fight against blood cancers.

She didn't stop there. In June 2007, she ran her second marathon in San Diego, mentoring others and helping in their fundraising efforts. And Jen is now training for her third Paris! Oui, it's true. She once again has ambitious goals: 1. to raise $20,000 and 2. to cut 20 minutes off her time. If anyone can do it, Jen can—and that's why I had to ask her a few questions.

But before I get into that, I urge you to take a look at her running blog, which gives an inside (and fun) look at her past and present training/fund raising, and if you feel compelled, DONATE.

(Note: Rather than "bold" the questions, I used it to highlight some points that I found particularly interesting/insightful. Let me know if you're not feeling that move. And also, since this is my first time doing one of these blog interviews you may find the questions random or lame or something else not good. Feel free to leave a constructive criticism in the comments as well. It's a learning process, and thanks Jen for bearing with me!) Okay, now here we go.

---What was your first step (no pun intended) in transforming idea into action?
I guess the first thing for me was research (as boring as that sounds). I got the itch to "do something good", and I knew I wanted to do something for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, because my friend died as a result of Hodgkin's. So for me, it ended up being really easy because as soon as I searched the LLS + charity events, I learned about Team in Training. I signed up for an info session intending to participate in a bike ride, and by the end of the session I found myself signing up for a marathon. I remember my friend asking "Aren't you even going to think about it?" and I answered "If I think about it, I'm going to talk myself out of it" and passed in my paperwork. Thus the running & fundraising madness began.

---Where is your favorite place to run in NYC?
The upper loop of central park in the evening.

---What is the most surprising thing that happened since you've been running for a cause?
I think the overwhelming support of both people I know and complete strangers. I would say am not an overly or overtly emotional person, but I would often find myself misty-eyed over a lot of the emails I would get back from people.

Also the impact of a lot of people doing a little - of the $10,000 or so I raised, there were no donations over $200.
That was really special to me - how many people had taken the time and effort to be involved.

Finally, that I'm now running my third marathon. I used to hate running and now, well, it still doesn't come easy, but its something I really enjoy. Oops, that's three things, isn't it.

---Totally fine. What's the song that keeps you going (during running and/or off)?
Sunday Bloody Sunday. It makes me think of bigger things than how much my feet/legs hurt.

---How do you find the time to train, fund raise, do it all?
Honestly, sometimes I'm not sure. I think you have to make the time for things that mean a lot to you, especially living in NYC where there's always a million things to do. I try to do my solo runs in the morning because that's really the only way that I can truly assure they get done. Fundraising and blogging happens after hours since I'm a bit of a night owl. I actually do a lot of the thinking about what's going to be in my emails and other ideas while I'm running. I probably pay the biggest price in sleep.

---How did you decide on this years fund raising goal? Last year's?
Last year I initially was only going for five. After my first letter I think I raised almost $3,000 and I decided, what the hell, I've got 6 more months, let's go for double digits. As far as this year, I kind of just pulled it out of the air. I probably would have been more prudent sticking with the same or maybe going for $15,000, but I don't feel like I have anything to lose by aiming high (except for maybe a little blow to my ego). This year is going to be more challenging because people know that I can actually run a marathon so I think that effects the fundraising. But, I'm planning on some other things - more outreach to my hometown local organizations, a few events, and a more organized E-bay bum auction.

---What is the key to maintaining momentum?
Setting up a plan/calendar for whatever you're doing helps immensely. I send updates roughly every 3-4 weeks or around training and fundraising milestones like big races. If you give yourself little deadlines, it makes it less likely that you'll find yourself waiting until the last minute.

Also, I really really try to keep my blog enjoyable/fun to read, and not completely focused on "give me your money!" (although that is of course is the end goal). Most of the people I'm writing to are probably never going to run a marathon or similar so I really try to write about things that are inspiring, exciting, frustrating - a genuine account of my experience doing this. Then I hope that people find the stories interesting. I think when that happens, people are more than happy to contribute.

---What do you credit most for your success?
There's a lot of little things - a self-depreciating sense of humor, a broad email list full of good people, a great charity all have something to do with it. But I'd give the most credit to doing something I'm very passionate about and really believe in. Even though all this began because of something of very sad and painful, the "ripple effect" of good things and how many people have been touched as a result...all the people donating, and reading the blog, helping other people fund raise, makes me very proud. Being the catalyst for all that was something I could personally could do to (for lack of a better term) honor our friendship and helped me deal with Bouv's death in the best possible way I could.

And where ever he is, I'm sure he gets a good laugh at the sight of me out running every Saturday morning. I usually do.

---Can't follow that up with anything except, thanks so much Jen!


euroskip said...

Jen, you rock. Can't wait to see how you work it on this year (for those that don't know she was going to tattoo her butt for charity).

Keep it up, we're all proud of you.


El Gaffney said...

true that. thanks for coming by euroskip (or A).