The Race Within
By Randy Graves
June 2008

As I prepare to run my seventh marathon in 10 months, I have been asked to reflect on why I have chosen to participate in such a strenuous event.  A combination of things got me started running:  quadruple bypass surgery 3 years ago, the need for exercise, and witnessing my younger brother running his first marathon in January 2007.  Those catalysts got me through my first marathon in St. Louis last September.

The real fire, though, that keeps me moving towards yet another race is being able to run for a cause, greater than even my own health, a cause that helps other individuals who are struggling to deal with a relatively unknown health problem.  So little is known today about autism, its causes, and what lies ahead regarding treatment and potential cures.  In running with TeamAutism, we each run on behalf of an honored person, a special individual who has been diagnosed with some form of autism that perhaps, at this stage of their life, he/she doesn't even completely understand.  I feel very humble in being able to raise money that I know will go toward family support and research within the state of Oklahoma, hopeful working to untangle the unknowns associated with autism.

Thus far I have run two marathons for TeamAutism, Honolulu and the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, and I am training for the Maui Marathon, which is in September.  These are fun trips that require a great deal of preparation and training to be successful.  Each time I stand at the start line, my mind starts asking questions about why I am about to endure 26.2 miles of sweat and tears.  All I have to do is remind myself of the honored person for whom I am running, the issues he/she faces in life, as well as the struggles his/her family must face because of the unknowns associated with autism, and there is my answer!

The miles go by one stride at a time.  Although the pain may sometimes seem intense, in relative terms the marathon is over in a short period of time.  Meanwhile, the struggles with autism live on affecting lives, and it's only through our efforts to heighten awareness and raise funds for research that we can overcome its affects.

I run because God has given me the ability to endure the rigors associated with a marathon; I also run because God has gifted me with compassion that helps to make a difference for someone else.

Cristy's Corner
The Last Mile: Fundraising
April 16, 2008

We know how it can feel to round the corner after a long run and see that finish line ahead. This can be a time of relishing your success and trying to reach deep within for that last capstone of effort to your running achievement. Well guess what?! With Team there is a different type of "Last Mile" achieving the last portion of your fundraising goal! Right now Team Autism Oklahoma City Marathon 2008 has achieved 85% of its fundraising goal. The team has accrued around $5,300.00 of its $6,000.00 goal and money is still coming in. That is outstanding! You have helped the community become more aware of Autism and mobilized precious resources for those who need it most! You have run the race well so far. Race Day is only a few days away, so here are some tips to finishing well before you start:

  • Stay positive: Fear and frustration will just steal time from you. If you are afraid of not meeting your goal, find someone close to you who is gifted at creative problem solving. State your problem and listen to the solutions.
  • Talk about your goal to everybody! People can not help if they are not aware. Talking about your experiences and the challenges and ESPECIALLY the purpose and goals of Team can awaken people to their own desires to connect and give in a community like this. Remember what you are doing is strengthening the community. A giving community is a more healthy community.
  • Talk to the veterans: Folks who participated in Team Autism Honolulu 2007 are more than happy to help with ideas and maybe a little elbow grease! Please feel free to contact Stacey and Alan and they will get you hooked up with the one of us who is best suited to help you.
  • Make it a priority: These last few days put opportunities in your schedule to work on this fundraising. Get with your friends and family and ask for their help. Ask your kids to sell lemonade and baked goods for Team Autism, pull together a last minute garage sale with some friends, take old CDs or DVDs to a resale.

This Saturday should be a beautiful day and people will be everywhere in the spirit of doing good. This is your last mile! Enjoy the end of the race.

Cristy's Corner
Training for the Memorial
March 15, 2008
By Cristy Cash

A few weeks from now some of us will be hopping up before the sunrise either tiptoeing quietly so as not to wake up anyone else, or turning on the lights and getting everyone up out of bed with us! Where will we be going you might ask? We will be headed to the starting line of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and Half-Marathon!
Many of you will be walking or running in various events and some of you are running and walking experts that are highly experienced. I am not! I have for many years thought it would be neat to "be a runner." For the last two years I have been trying out this sport and I can certainly say I have learned a few things. Below are some tips and ideas I have experienced first-hand from a beginning runner's perspective:

1) Being consistent has helped more than anything. Once I truly adopted that running/walking was going to be a part of my life, my improvements came easier. Making the commitment has been the hardest battle to be fought.

2) Get the right shoes. Many Team Autism sponsors will help you find the shoes that are right for your feet. Whether you are walking or running it is a worthy investment. You might have to spend some money usually between $85.00 and $120.00, but they should hold you for about six months and they are your best investment as a runner.

3) Get the right socks! Cotton socks will give you blisters because of the friction in the fabric weave. When I started getting non-cotton socks (you can get these at running specialty shops) blisters virtually became a thing of the past. I only get them now on longer runs and races.

4) Find a partner. People tend to do better together! Team Autism meets for weekend training sessions. This is a great way to find a partner or just be out with people training for a common purpose.

5) Be you. When you walk or run, don't feel like you are on display or compare yourselves to others. No one has a body like you and you will not be exactly like anyone else in the world. Just be proud that you are out taking steps for yourself and for a great cause. Who knows maybe you will inspire someone else to get out there and exercise. Exercise gives people more energy, healthier heart and lungs, increases endorphin production in the brain, helps you sleep at night and increases blood flow to the brain. What a great gift to give yourself and others!

6) Vary your workout. I have heard experts say to do this, but I am now experiencing first hand the benefits of this practice. Training with weights once or twice a week and doing a different type of cardiovascular exercise, such as biking, swimming, elliptical or walking, helps you become stronger. After I incorporated weight training into my routine for my upper and lower body I am noticeably stronger running hills and my endurance has improved. I also feel that I will not be injured as easily. Something else I am learning is that when I do weights I have noticed that stretching is even more important than ever. I feel like the muscles are tighter. The variation in cardio workouts give my "running muscles" a break but keeps my heart conditioned. If you need an inexpensive gym membership, visit the Quail Spring Baptist Church 146 Fitness and Recreation Center. A membership costs only $20.00 a year or $5.00 a month. Variations in exercise can be done without a gym membership too! Look in future issues of this newsletter for more on that topic.

7) Get the mileage in! I learned in Honolulu how important it is to prepare your legs for long mileage. Whether you are walking or running, your legs need to know what to expect. I experienced a situation in Honolulu in which my legs reached a point they could go no further and oddly enough it was the maximum distance I had trained before the event. I did force my legs to go further, but it would have been more enjoyable for me if I could have allowed my body to be prepared for the mileage. Unless you are injured (which I had been) be sure you are getting out and walking or running the miles you need. It may seem very time consuming and you may feel worn out, but if you do your legs and feet will thank you the day of the race.

8) Last but not least the best lesson I have learned as a new runner is this: It is Only Exercise! Exercise is important and beneficial, but it should also be enjoyable! Have fun while you are working out. Don't push so hard that the fun is gone. The fact that you are getting out and walking or running is success in itself.

CRISTY'S CORNER at the Honolulu Marathon!

Matt and cristy 

New Year's eve 2007 I am sure I made some resolutions; none of which I can remember. I am sure I had some goals for myself - to be better, kinder, richer, thinner. I am sure I had high hopes, but one thing I can tell you for sure; I had no idea that by the end of the year I would find myself in the middle of downtown Honolulu, Hawaii at 5:00 am on the starting line with 28, 000 people for the Honolulu Marathon. How did I get here? I will tell you: Team Here is how it started:

I have a niece, Joy, who has been diagnosed with high functioning autism. I have been so impressed with how hard she works, what a great person she is and how committed she is to learn the skills she needs to be successful. She works so much harder than I have ever had to at social interaction, school and being a good friend. Since Joy has been diagnosed all these years ago her parents have focused on getting her equipped for life. Even when no solutions have been offered for them, they have led the way in finding creative ways to help their daughter; I am sure not unlike any parent of a special needs child.

Team caught my ear when I heard about their mission. I was impressed with the fact that the funds I raised would stay right here in Oklahoma and impact families' lives directly. I was impressed with the focus on physical health - which allows all of us to be a better asset to the people around us. I was impressed with the focus on marriages - the offering of an exotic location to have a getaway with your spouse; and more than anything else I was impressed with the opportunity to tie together several things I feel passionate about: helping the community, physical fitness and helping Joy!

My Team Autism commitment was to raise $5,000 and to run a marathon. This was no light task! I have never run a marathon. I am not a "natural runner" and I have never raised that kind of money before! I decided to dive in though and I am so glad I did. Many people stepped up to donate the money - I was even able to raffle a flat screen tv to one lucky donor! The training was tough, but doable! Imagine the "marathon" of challenges that many children with autism and Asperger's syndrome are faced with every day. There were people all along the way who were inspired and inspiring - and I have left this experience with a sense of confidence and the knowledge that we raised $27,000 for the OFCA!

In a few days I am going to go to the Governor's Office and take a picture with Joy, my Team and the Governor. I am so proud that I got to be a part of this effort and I plan to do it again soon! So no matter what resolutions you made for yourself and your family this year - keep this in mind: You may find yourself in a tropical climate this year, doing something you never thought you could do, with people around you who have a like cause and commitment and a knowledge that when YOU cross that finish line, you will know that 2008 turned out right.

Cristy Cash

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