A few years ago Run Disney posted on their Facebook page that they wanted runners to share their inspirational stories about why they run. I sent them an email and this is what I wrote. It's a personal story that I'm proud to share and I hope it inspires the rest of you to keep running.
I never considered myself an athlete. While I am a dancer and took gymnastics classes; I just couldn't wrap my head around running anything past 3 miles. It wasn't until someone I was dating said that I should try a Run Disney race. So against my better judgement I decided to run the Inaugural Tinkerbell Half Marathon. Training for my first race was so difficult and I had trouble running for more than 25 minutes but as time went on; I became hooked.
I finished the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in 2 hours and 28 minutes and then wanted to continue with more races. I was so excited about finishing my first half marathon that I shared it with my family when I visited the Philippines later that March. This was the first time in 12 years that I had visited and met the youngest cousin in our family; Rapha Guevara. Over the course of my trip we got very close to one another and became great friends. He learned from me that sticking up for yourself and speaking up is important. He taught me that there is still such ample goodness and kindness on earth and that we should always be mindful of others. During this short trip I got to know one of the kindest most gentle souls around. His humor was just like the rest of the family but even at such a young age he developed a voice and passions all his own. Rapha's leukemia was in remission for almost a year but during the last few days of my trip we found out that his leukemia had come back. It was tough leaving the Philippines knowing that he would be going through this ordeal and that there was very little I could do from so far away.
Several weeks later; Rapha had a bad reaction to his medical treatment and was rushed to the hospital in Metro Manila and became unresponsive after the doctors couldn't revive him. Rapha Guevara died on April 23rd, 2012 and I still miss him to this day.
I was so devastated about this loss that it took a long time to get me out of my depression. Several of my best friends reached out and it was hard for me to do much. The main constant that helped me through was running. I decided it was best to focus on another half marathon and see if I could help make a difference. Since then I started asking people to support by donating to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and to share their support by using the #runforRapha hashtag. I ended up doing the Pasadena Half Marathon, Simi Valley Half Marathon, and San Francisco GIant's Race and consistently breaking my personal bests. It was a few months later that I saw the Run Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon and their support of the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and I knew that I needed to sign up. It was my first trip to Walt Disneyworld and not only was the trip fantastic, I had an amazing race. To this day; the Wine and Dine Half Marathon still holds my personal record 2 hours and 6 minutes.
I was so excited that I kept running and for my next birthday my friends made me a #RunForRapha shirt that I now wear to my races. So during each birthday I ask friends to donate to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society in lieu of presents and that we are all running for something greater than ourselves. I've updated my inspiration wall so that I constantly see Rapha photos and my medals. They are the first things I see when I wake up and the last things I see when I go to bed.
Running has become such a big part of my life that I've now gotten several friends to share this with me. I had two close friends come support me in the Dopey Challenge this year and I have inspired several of my friends to start running as well. In fact, several friends are now Run Disney fans so we are all running the Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare and 5k and Avengers Half. One of my friends and I will be running as Captain America and the Hulk this upcoming race for the Disneyland 5k all the while supporting the #runforRapha cause.
I hope that my story inspires more people to get out and run. I'm also hoping that it proves that anyone can be a Disney fan and learn something more about themselves. But I'm mainly hoping that more people know about how wonderful a person Rapha Guevara was and that he will continue to inspire us so long as people are running.