The Sixth Annual “Race to the Rocker” will be held on March 22 in Cuba. The four-mile race from historic uptown Cuba to the site of the World’s Largest Rocking Chair in Fanning is sponsored by JOG, Inc. (Joggers of God, In Cuba). Proceeds from the event go to support local charities.
But it’s not only the running and the gifts to charities that make this a special event in Crawford County. As the race has continued to grow, organizers have heard stories about how deeply it has affected some of the individual participants. So, this year, they sent out a call for personal accounts of what the “Race to the Rocker” has meant to them. These inspirational stories of personal triumph, dogged determination, and life-changing decisions will be shared in the next several weeks as the race approaches. These stories are written by the participants, so readers can hear, in their own words, the impact of this event on their lives.
Angela Williams: “A Goal Realized”
On January 25, 2009, I fell and broke both bones in my lower right leg, which required surgery and placement of a titanium rod and four screws. For approximately the next 16 months, I did as little as possible when it came to any kind of physical exercise (not that I was Jane Fonda or anything, but you get the picture).
Then, I began to notice difficulty in bending over to do something like tie my shoe or pick up a piece of trash. I was up at least two pant sizes and I felt winded just looking at a flight of stairs! At a doctor's appointment in 2010, I realized I had gained over 30 pounds. So I went home that night and decided that, by my 40th birthday, my goal was to run a half-marathon. (I was 38 years old at the time.)
I have a friend who lives in Cuba and she told me about the "Race to the Rocker," so in 2011, I signed up and did my first race! Wow, what an experience it was! Every drop of sweat I earned honestly, and crossing that finishing line was (and still is) one of the most exhilarating things I've ever done! I feel so much better now, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. This year will make my 4th anniversary and I can honestly say I look forward to it EVERY YEAR!
Leslie Loy: “Overcoming Obstacles”
My first “Race to the Rocker” was last year, 2013. Friends at work told me about the race. I debated and debated, only because I had never, ever thought of doing something like it, nor did I think I could. And honestly, the word "race" scared me a little bit.
All my life, I’ve struggled with my weight—ups and downs, the birth of two children, an abusive relationship that broke my inner spirit. I was nearly 298 pounds when I left that relationship in 2011 and it took a little over two years to lose 120 pounds.
So when the girls at work told me about the race, yes, I debated and actually waited until the last possible minute to register. The expo before the race was very exciting and I got to meet a lot of great people and received my neon yellow race shirt and bib, so it was official! I also had the support of my wonderful new boyfriend, who never doubted that I could do it.
I knew I wouldn't be able to "race" anybody, but I wasn't even sure I could WALK four whole miles at one time, let alone run at all. But I also knew that this was going to be a milestone for me.
The day of the race was pretty awesome, standing with all the other participants, my co-workers and my boyfriend (who told me quietly that he was going to beat me). Anticipation was running high... I was pumped!
When the gun sounded for us to "GO,” I put my music in my ears and went. I walked at first, but soon found myself jogging a bit. I would get tired, and then stop. And then jog a bit more. I remember passing the first mile marker and thinking to myself, "Oh my goodness, I'm never going to make it." But I kept going of course. I don't recall seeing a marker at mile two, but I definitely remember passing the third mile marker, and it dawned on me that I was doing this thing, and I only had one more mile to go.
I was by myself, as I had been most of the way, and I think I said out loud to myself, "KEEP GOING LESLIE. You got this!" As I rounded that last slight curve before the Fanning Outpost, I saw the FINISH line. I have never in my life known the feeling of hyperventilating, but I did at that moment. I couldn't breathe! I was exhausted and every emotion, every pain, the burning lungs, every doubt I had in myself, all consumed me at once. The raw emotion of doing something I never thought I could do, seeing the finish line and realizing that I was about to cross it, was completely overwhelming. With all my might, I held the tears back as I gasped for air. My legs hurt, my lungs burned and I saw my co-workers already at the finish line waiting. As I crossed the finish line, I didn't hold back anymore... the tears just came, flowing down my face. One of my co-workers told me that my lips were purple. (I'm guessing from the lack of oxygen as I gasped for air the last 300 yards or so).
I couldn't believe it... I did it. I actually did it. My time wasn't great, four minutes shy of an hour. But that didn't matter. I DID IT! And guess what? My boyfriend didn't beat me! He crossed the finish line about two minutes after me. That was the icing on the cake.
I'm so glad I did the “Race to the Rocker” last year. It gave me such a sense of accomplishment, something I hadn't felt in a very long time. It inspired me and motivated me to do more. Since then, I've done four 5K races and improved my time at each one. I'm registered for two more 5K races within the next two months. And, of course, I cannot wait for this year's “Race to the Rocker” on March 22. My goal this year is to beat my time by 10 minutes.... I GOT THIS!
Thanks so much... it truly did change my life.