November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Gratitude and We Finish Together Organization

A couple weeks ago I read this article on RunnersWorld.com, and soon after it was quickly being shared by various members of November Project. Kim Stemple is a runner and member of November Project-DC. After reading the article for the first (and second) time I had tears in my eyes.  There had been an earlier article on Zelle  about Kim that I found through this article as well. 

She created the organization We Finish Together  in 2012 which donates finishers medals sent in by runners with handwritten personalized notes to people all across the country who need recognition such as sick children, veterans, and police officers. 

Kim is a competitive runner, special education teacher, and cross-country coach. In 2009 she got sick and doctors diagnosed her with a rare mitochondrial disease which causes progressive physical & mental deterioration. She was then diagnosed with more problems in the years following including lupus and lymphoma and has lived 2 years past expectancy for someone with her diagnosis. Despite currently being on weekly chemotherapy, 51 year old Kim has not stopped running or living her life. 

She founded We Finish Together in 2012 after a friend who ran a race that Kim was too sick to travel to gave her a medal. The positivity from the medal shared by herself and others inspired her to start this organization.  

She finished her 4th marathon in Boston 2014 and then moved to DC with her husband for further care. The article goes on to say "When Stemple told one of her doctors she was going to run the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon, he asked her what mile marker she wanted to die at. He believed her condition so fragile, she wouldn’t live through the race."{now as I try to type this blog post there goes the waterworks again!}

Kim ran the marathon in honor of her husband who is a former Marine and finished in 4:15 with a 2 minute PR.  {more tears}
She donated the medal to her husband and has continued living life and running. 

I unexpectedly met Kim after the Annapolis Running Classic this past weekend. A friend had said she had seen her running on the course, and we happened to bump into her and her husband in the post-race party tent. We went up to her and she pointed out all of our November Project grassroots gear and gave us all hugs after we took a bunch of photos together. 

After meeting her, the first line of the article "Kim Stemple didn't want this story to be about her" became apparently obvious. We all told her how inspiring she was and she shushed us and kept saying it wasn't about her. She said she wants to "create a spark".  It's all about her message and living life to the fullest.  She was so happy, funny, positive and full of life.  

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Some of us NP-Baltimore ladies and Kim (blue singlet) after the Annapolis Running Classic 2015
Thanksgiving is always a time for gratitude. It's a time for reflection on family, health, love, and all the blessings in my life. In my day to day life I usually try my best to stay positive, be kind, and chase happiness. With all of the seriously effed up things going on in the world, when there is so much uncertainty and things can change in an instant, it is important to make each and every day count. It's cheesy, but it's true. 

At the post-race party Saturday, Kim said we are all going to die, it's a fact of life. I don't care what she says, but the way that she lives her life inspires me. I gathered a few medals to donate to We Finish Together (you can mail them in!) and have been taking the time to reflect on trying to make the most of my days and encourage you to do the same this Thanksgiving.

You can follow We Finish Together on Facebook,Instagram , or check out their website

I'm sure if she reads this she'll remind everyone that's it's not about her. I just want to spread her message and help create more sparks in people. Think about what positivity and love you can spread in this world. 


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I'm so grateful for the opportunity to briefly meet Kim and be reminded that every one's days on this earth are numbered. Never lose sight of actually living in the here & now instead of taking things for granted and putting your life off. 

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving? 

6 comments:

  1. Sad I had to leave early and missed this after the race! I love that she was there and her outlook on life. It's such an inspiring story. I have a friend with terminal cancer right now and I admire her ability to stay positive and just live every day to the fullest. That's what we all should do every day.

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    1. So inspiring-definitely puts things in perspective.

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  2. Wow, what an amazing story that I hadn't read about. I was complaning about my performance at the half this past weekend in Annapolis and I need to remember that I have SO much to be grateful for. Awesome that you were able to meet Kim, what an inspiration.

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    1. Glad I could share the story with you!

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  3. What an amazing story and great blog post! Thanks for sharing! Definitely what I needed to hear before the holidays!

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    1. Thanks for reading-glad I could share this with you!

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