BY JESSICA MALONE, OISELLE VOLÉE
2015 marks the target date of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. Goal #5 - Improve Maternal Health - was to be achieved by reducing the maternal mortality ratio by 75% and making reproductive health universally available. While some progress was made over the past 15 years, the maternal mortality rate fell by only 45% and many women around the globe still lack access to prenatal and antenatal care as well as skilled birth attendants.
In the context of global health, what does a “woman-up world” entail? In 2013, 289,000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth, and many of these deaths were considered preventable. Shockingly, the United States is one of only 8 countries with a rising maternal mortality rate. The UN’s September adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 provides a global framework for addressing these issues, but what can be done at an individual level to ensure that all women have an equal chance to survive pregnancy and childbirth?
So, what does it mean to run for Team EMC? I have been running marathons for 12 years on my own, but I hadn’t considered running on behalf of a charity until I learned about EMC and its connection with running and Oiselle. In the past, I had been pretty quiet about my racing career - I didn’t talk about races much outside of my close circle of friends and family, and rarely if ever posted about them on social media. Racing was simply something I did as a way to keep my head clear, to spend time outside, to support the running community and to stay healthy.
When I decided to run my first race for Team EMC, the 2014 NYC Marathon, I knew that certain aspects of my “zen” approach to running would have to change in a big way. All of a sudden, my running seemed like it was about everyone BUT me. I had potential donors to contact, a team of almost 100 other runners training for the same race and going through similar fundraising efforts, and, most importantly, the people whom my raised funds would directly impact. I knew I was going to have to make a lot of noise about this race to a much larger audience than I had been used to. Initially, this was a bit daunting, but I cannot begin to describe how incredibly empowering and fulfilling it became as I continued to raise money and race day approached. The weekend of the race was a whirlwind, as anyone who has run NYC will know. Coming off of the Verrazano Bridge into Brooklyn and the first crowd of spectators made me cry as it all truly and finally sunk in: this race was not about me. It was about my donors, my teammates, and anyone whose life has been impacted by the loss of a mother to a preventable complication.
RUNNING FOR EMC AT CHICAGO MARATHON
A few weeks ago I travelled to Chicago to meet up with Team EMC and run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. To give you a better idea of what racing for Team EMC entails, here is what it’s like to run a marathon for Team EMC:
As with any marathon, preparation begins long before you toe the starting line on race day. The lottery for non-elite athlete entry into Chicago was back in March, and runners found out if they were accepted or not at the end of April. For certain races like the NYC marathon, EMC is an official charity sponsor and has a guaranteed number of entries for their team. For any race, EMC runners must pay their own race registration fee and arrange their own travel and lodging.
The 2015 Chicago team is from all over the US, so most of us have been training on our own in our home towns. EMC consults with a running coach who provides beginner and intermediate training plans for 5Ks, 10Ks, half and full marathons for fundraising runners. I modified the advanced marathon training plan to fit into my summer schedule. Some of our NYC-based runners held group training runs over the summer for the longer distances. Seeing their photos on our team page provided some much-needed training inspiration during the dog days of summer! To make our miles bring in extra funds for EMC, many of us used the Charity Miles app during our training runs.
After months of training and fundraising, race weekend is finally here! The forecast calls for pretty warm weather, so I packed a few pairs of shorts as options for pairing with my EMC singlet. I packed my Volee singlet, too - just in case!.
Several EMC team members met up for dinner in Chicago on Friday night. A few of us got together at Oak Street Beach for a shakeout run early on Saturday morning. It was nice to get a preview of the early morning weather - it was absolutely gorgeous!
At the shakeout run, EMC’s running program director, Kristen, gave me my EMC gear for the race. I’m psyched to have the new Oiselle EMC accessories and a note from JHill Design, who makes these amazing marathon maps (5% of sales from this collection goes to EMC).
Race morning! I had a cup of coffee while reading over the Oiselle Flight Manual for race day inspiration.
It was a warm day with some windy spots on the course. My main goal for this race was to finish and have fun, and, if possible, to break 4 hours. I ran on pace for the first half and caught up with another Team EMC runner, Lucy, at the halfway mark for a mid-race selfie. As many Oiselle Volee Team members know, it’s an amazing boost when you find a teammate out there on the course!
The heat took a lot out of me during the second half of the race, but my spirits were still high. Running for EMC means that even if you aren’t having your best race, you will still fight to the finish! In some parts of the world, women have to travel long distances by foot while to reach healthcare clinics for prenatal check-ups or while they are in labor. EMC runners keep this in mind as we work our way through races - especially marathons. For more information on how EMC is providing transport for pregnant women to healthcare facilities, check out the video “Boda for Mothers”.
Knowing that Oiselle’s Cowbell Corner was coming up at Mile 17 gave me something to look forward to when I started to struggle. Thanks so much to everyone who came out to cheer us all on! I managed to snap a photo of you all as I ran by. #oisellefliesinchi!
Finished! I used the Charity Miles App to track my mileage. It may not seem like much at the time, but in 2014 all of the miles logged for EMC added up to over $30,000!
After the race, some of the Team EMC runners met up for coffee and to talk about the race before leaving Chicago. It’s always nice to decompress with teammates and talk over our favorite (and least favorite) parts of the course.
Now that I am back in Denver, I will complete one of the EMC Virtual Races as I recover from Chicago. I will head to NYC next month for our EMC Running Ambassador retreat and to attend the #LoveEMC event. NYC-area birds: we would love to see you at #LoveEMC! Over the next few months, I will do a few smaller races for EMC around Colorado, and then start training for Grandma’s Marathon (EMC recently became a charity partner for the race). Duluth is my mom’s hometown, and I talked her into running it for Team EMC as well. In addition to having my mom running with me, her mom (and my grandma!) will be there to cheer us on. I am so thrilled to share my love and passion for EMC with them!
If you have any questions about running for Team EMC or would like to join us for one of our upcoming races, please visit the RUN section of the EMC website or e-mail [email protected]. Our race calendar is already filling up for 2016.
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
A few weeks ago, Mac wrote about 4 different ways to get involved with EMC. Every Mother Counts is a non-profit organization dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother, everywhere. If you have not yet read about Sally’s love story with EMC’s founder, Christy Turlington Burns, check out this piece of history. EMC’s running program has been a significant source of funding for the organization and its grantees for the past few years, and the introduction of the Running Ambassador program in 2015 means that more people are running more races in more places for EMC.
There are two ways you can get involved with Team EMC - by raising funds or by meeting EMC’s awareness-raising criteria. For more details on fundraising for a race or raising awareness, please e-mail [email protected] (and stay tuned for a “Community Page” launching soon on the EMC website, which will be the best one-stop source for this kind of information). Larger races, such as the Chicago and New York marathons, have fundraising minimums - but the majority of our races do not. Our Chicago team began fundraising back in May, and many of our runners long ago surpassed the $500 fundraising minimum! EMC provides all runners with fundraising tips and strategies. 100% of all donations goes to EMC’s grant portfolio for distribution to their incredible list of grantees. Currently, 7 grants are being funded by EMC in 6 countries.