Saturday Spotlight- Marie Travis

Name – Marie Travis
Age – 28 (29 on August 7…Leo Crew!)
Boyfriend – Joey Sander (sometimes called “The Big Guy”)
Nieces/Nephew – 2/1 – Victoria Rose and Ana Sofia, and Michael Alexander<3 love those 3 like crazy!

Mid-summer last year (ish…), Lou messaged me about something unrelated to WOTW, but accidentally messaged me something that was supposed to go to that week’s WOTW. When he realized his mistake (which was great, because I was confused as hell), he apologized, which wasn’t necessary, and then said that my time would come…I asked if that was a threat and he laughed.

While I was in the hospital (more on that later…), he made good on that threat and asked if I’d like to take my turn as Warrior of the Week…and well, here I am!

Something I’ve noticed about a lot of our stories is that they start pretty similarly, and I feel like I’m right up there with everyone else.

I was born in Brooklyn, NY, and I’m quite proud to say that I have one of the easiest birth dates to remember. Not very remarkable with siblings, I have one older brother (yup, youngest of 2). What is remarkable about my brother, is that he’s always been one of my biggest advocates, starting from the time I was born. No, really…he didn’t like how one of the nurses was handling me while she was dressing me, so he punched her (“tapped” is more like it, being that he was 7 years old) and told her to be careful because that was HIS baby sister.

For as long as I can remember, doctors, nurses, school nurses, anyone in the medical field, always told me not to run and be careful playing because I had something called “azma,” whatever that means. When I was older, I realized that asthma meant that, if I did too much, or smelled something funny, I wouldn’t be able to breathe. So, for the longest time, I avoided physical activity like it was the plague. I used my asthma as an excuse to get out of COUNTLESS gym classes, simply because I didn’t feel like participating, or I would wear a dress to school and wouldn’t want to get it dirty. Later in school (once locker rooms were involved), I’d use my asthma as an out if I forgot a change of clothes or if I didn’t feel like participating for any other reason. I also had one gym teacher in high school who wrote me up for having an asthma attack in the middle of gym class one time, claiming that I was faking it. I liked phys ed even less after that. Between the lack of physical activity, and a love of food, I was also very overweight my entire life.

When I was 8, my parents moved my brother and I out to Long Island. I wasn’t happy about this because, even thought I finally had my own room (my brother and I shared a room in Brooklyn), it was new and unfamiliar and I didn’t like it. Moved into the Sachem school district, and started making friends when my 4th grade year started. In 6th grade, I met the girl who would become (and remain) my best friend. She was skinny and fit, and everything that my chubby self wanted to be.

Somewhere in middle school or so, my best friend joined one of the running teams (neither of us remember if it was track or cross country). After a few meets, she told me that I should come to a meet with her and join the team. I told her that I wasn’t interested, but good for her that she enjoyed it! I didn’t want to walk to the end of the driveway to get the mail, why would I join a team that wanted me to run? Was I being chased? Were there cookies involved? Why not take a bus or a bike? WHYYYY would you run for fun??? I knew I had cousins who ran, but the whole thing made no sense to me.

The rest of my school career was fairly uneventful. I was a dancer in a school near my parents’ house for 10 years, taking jazz and hip hop, because the slower styles (mainly ballet) bored me. I enjoyed the fast paced dances because I felt like they were more fun. Oddly, I could dance as hard as I wanted for the 2 1/2 minutes for a dance song without any problems (doctors still weren’t happy with dance and the asthma). One thing that I really miss from my childhood is dancing, which is why I love Zumba. Despite all the dancing I did, and the kind of physical shape I was in while dancing, I was still very overweight.

I was overweight through college, and gained even more after I graduated and started working full time, sitting behind a desk. I quickly ballooned up over 200 pounds (yes, I do admit that). I’m not sure what I weighed at my highest, because I would say that I was allergic to the scale. I didn’t like how I looked or how I felt, but I didn’t know what to do about it. My best friend and I (the same girl who tried to get me to start running) decided to join a gym together. So, we both paid our membership fees, we both paid our dues, we’d go together a few times per week, and then we’d go to McDonald’s after the gym…why wasn’t I losing any weight??? So frustrating…something must be wrong with the gym.

In January of 2012, I joined Weight Watchers, and stepped on the scale for the first time in years. I was disappointed, but not surprised at what the number was. But now, I had a plan and I had the tools to finally make myself feel better. I went back to the gym, but would have protein shakes and chicken and salad after, not a Big Mac with large fries and a diet coke (I also stopped drinking all types of soda in 2009).

One morning around April or May of 2012, I decided that I wanted to run a 5K by the end of the year. 5K, I mean…that’s some crazy distance, right??? It’s a HUGE accomplishment! It’s really far to go on foot! I did a little bit of research (how do I start running?), picked a Couch to 5K program on my iPod, and told my boyfriend that I had this goal, and that I wanted him to meet me at the finish line. He told me that he wouldn’t. After a couple minutes, I guess he’d had enough of the heartbroken look on my face and he said that he’d cross the finish line with me. A couple days later, we opened the C25K program that I’d downloaded and we started running! Our first 5K would come in the middle of October, the Seatuck Owl Prowl in Islip. We finished together, in a respectable 36 and some seconds. We did a few more 5K’s together in November, and one in December. He sprained his ankle after one of them, and I did our last 5K of the year by myself, in just under 32 minutes.

The following year, after getting in touch with one of my runner cousins, I started training for my first Half Marathon! I mean, 13.1 miles, now THAT’S an insane distance to do on foot! I still didn’t consider myself a runner at this point, so I figured that, by doing a half marathon, then I could really call myself a runner. I signed up for the Divas Half Marathon, which ended up being 2 weeks before a friend’s wedding. The training went well, up until the last 2 weeks. The transmission in my car blew, and I missed my last 2 long runs (11 and 12 miles). I was so nervous that, by missing those 2 runs, I’d just signed myself up for disaster, so much so, that I considered skipping the race…but I didn’t. The morning of, I missed the last shuttle bus to the starting line…oops! So, I ran a mile from the Marriott next to Nassau Coliseum to the starting line, including climbing a fence for the first time. I was the last person to start, and still finished in the middle of the pack. My goal was 2:30, I finished in 2:32:36. That was it, I was a runner!

The one thing I was always hunting for online (besides new races) was a local running group (meaning, near my parents…GLIRC was in Nassau, that’s too far to drive). In the spring of 2014, I was planning my summer race calendar, hoping to do at least 1 a month through the end of the year. It was then that I noticed the Sayville Summer Series. Three in June, one in July, and one a few days before my birthday in August. I asked my financial advisor (see also: mom) if I should just sign up for all 5 now. “Well, how many are you planning on doing?” Um…3 or 4. “OK, so do all 5…you may as well.” Best. Advice. Ever.

Because, after the Community Ambulance 5K (at the finish line), I decided that this patch of grass looked comfortable, so I laid down, just to catch my breath. A woman with a camera in a red shirt looked at me and asked if I was OK. Yes, thank you, just catching my breath…wow, it’s humid! My mom came back with a bottle of water for me, and somehow, the 3 of us started chatting. My mom mentions to her that I’m looking for a group to run with. “Oh, you should come check out the group I run with! We’re the Selden Hills Warriors, our course isn’t far from you! We have group runs every Wednesday, here’s my cell number. Text me when you’re planning to go and I’ll make sure someone is there for you!” And that is how I met Eileen Donlon!

I came down to the hills for the first time a couple weeks later, and was shown around by Debbi O’Connor Hole. I guess she didn’t recognize me, figured that I was new, and offered to stay with me. That first run was difficult, and brutal, and exhausting, and exhilarating! I was hooked! And the people were so welcoming and so supportive. I knew I’d found the group I was supposed to.

I went to one race alone after that (something I’d done a couple times before and hated), but when I got there, I recognized a couple of people, and realized that I’d never be at a race alone again.

Because of the support and inspiration of the group, I decided to sign up for my first full marathon for 2015. It was inspiring to see everyone finish their marathons, and I decided I was ready to tackle the beast…plus, I wanted a piece of that bling! After signing up for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, I put my name in the lottery for the New York City marathon. There’s a TON of people in that, there’s no way in hell I’ll get picked! Yea…famous last words.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do NYC after getting picked in the lottery my first year trying, but I wanted to say that my first marathon was in another country! Ugh…well, I’m the nutcase that did my first 2 marathons, 2 weeks apart. A lot of people (runners and non-runners alike) told me that it was a bad idea. And yes, it probably was, but I’d never know what my limits were unless I pushed myself to them. I’ve always been that way. Tell me I can’t do something, and that’ll make me want to do it even more. I finished both marathons, with NYC being almost 15 minutes faster than Toronto. Fun fact about this to follow, stay tuned for Fun Fact Friday. I figured NYC would be a one and done race for me, but I enjoyed it so much that I’m fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society this year (donations are graciously accepted! Hehehe). But I also decided that I’d work towards guaranteed entry for 2017…lottery day is just too stressful.

After the More/Shape Women’s Half on April 17, I felt very tired. Didn’t think anything of it, it was a little warmer than I’d expected and it took me forever. That Tuesday, I started having some trouble walking. My legs felt very heavy, and I knew this wasn’t normal for me after a half. My legs kept feeling worse and worse, that I had to cancel 2 runs with friends from SHW. I felt bad, but if I could barely walk straight, how was I supposed to run? By the Sunday after MORE, I couldn’t walk unassisted, I couldn’t feel my feet, my legs weren’t listening, and my face was droopy. What the hell was wrong with me??? I was terrified. I’m a long distance runner, and I can’t walk. I went to Mather hospital, and was almost immediately admitted. Two days later, I started some treatment, and received my diagnosis; Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune syndrome that attacks the peripheral nervous system, causing paralysis from the extremities, inward. If left untreated, it can attack the heart and lungs. Horrifying, but equally treatable. The neurologist was very confident, even where I was at the time of diagnosis, that I’d make a full recovery. I asked him about NYC, and he very confidently said yes, I’d be ready. The 2 main reasons why he was so confident in my recovery; my age, and the fact that I’m as athletic as I am (please note; that was shocking to hear…me? Athletic? Um…I’m the fat asthmatic kid…I’m not an athlete…except, now I am, remember? I’m a runner…I’m an endurance athlete). Remember that brother I mentioned? Yea…again, remarkable. He stayed with me in the hospital every single night for over 2 weeks, until I had a room mate. He made sure that I was taken care of, to the point of dismissing 2 aides and a physical therapist because I didn’t like them or their attitudes, and he didn’t like how they were treating me.

At this point, I’m still recovering. I’m out of work on disability, but my work right now is concentrating on getting back to where I was. I’m improving gradually, and I have a race picked out to do as a “first race back.” I’m hopeful for it, and I feel like I will be ready.

Well, that’s where my story is right now. Taking it day by day, which is all I can do. I’d like to thank Lou for picking me to be the WOTW this week. I’m sorry if that was a bit long, it was longer than I was expecting haha. I hope everyone enjoys the next few days with me! Cheers!

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