Sunday, October 30, 2011

Matt's Cologne Commercial

For those of you who are not friends with me on Facebook nor my followers on Twitter, you may have missed this. Some of of you who are my friends or followers may have also missed this due to busy schedules so I offer the following link for your entertainment too. My friend, Matt Miller, who as many of you know is one of the most amazing individuals I am lucky to call a friend is a spokesperson for Avon's Ironman Cologne. Here is the latest commercial which I believe is either airing in or was filmed in Columbia. I hope you enjoy!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cycle For Survival

I have enjoyed trying out various new adventures over the last few years since I began participating in triathlons and road races. Just tonight, I was speaking to a man to whom I was introduced by my friend, Jemma. I first met Jemma a few months back as a result of joining the Imerman Active and Imerman Angels team for this year's Chicago Marathon. She then reached out to me informing me that a friend of hers expressed interest in meeting and guiding me for training runs or races. He had never guided before, but thought it would be a wonderful experience to give it a try. We met tonight for the first time as we went out for a nice seven mile run. We exchanged stories of various races and people we have met. I discussed how far I have come in three short years in terms of the individuals I have met. I could have never imagined the people and places. I know even greater experiences are coming as I continue to build these friendships and connections across the globe. One of the events I had not heard of until recently is the Cycle For Survival. An event organized to raise awareness and funds for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. There are certain types of cancer classified as rare since few people have them. The unfortunate reality is that because so few people have them, there is no money to be made off of treatment for those who suffer from these cancers therefore, there is not any medication. I heard about this Cycle For Survival when Njoy Racing posted a link to registration on its Facebook page. The founder and CEO of Njoy is Kimberly Shah, one of my guides from this year's Chicago Marathon. When my training buddy, guide, and friend, Kimberly, posted it, I was interested in donating. After reading about the event, I decided to join the team! I will be one of the ones riding in this great event. I will be raising funds for the team 100% of which will go to the Center. There are still plenty of open slots so please consider joining us. This event takes place on Saturday, February 11, 2012 at various locations in different cities. If you are in Chicago, you can ride with Njoy at the Equinox Loop location. You will enjoy being a part of Njoy. I would love it if you joined me on Njoy so please visit the following link to be a part of a wonderful event and cause. As time progresses, I will have other links for donations and other information. I am excited to once again be a teammate of the amazing, Kimberly. I am thrilled to be taking part in my first bike only event. It will be a blast. I am sure Kimberly will ensure I will be ready to go. I look forward to training through the winter months with Kimberly and the various individuals whom I am so blessed to have in my life.

Please read more about CFS event at:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Houston Half Marathon

I am very excited that in January 2012, I will travel to Houston to participate in the Houston Marathon. I was given the option of either the half or the full distance. I decided to use the Chicago Marathon to gage whether I would want to run 26.2 miles once more in three months or whether I would rather ease up and only run 13.1 miles. The mere fact that I would consider 13.1 as easier may on some level be obvious as it is half the distance. However, I view it from the point of view of where I was mentally just three years ago. I reached out to the C Different Foundation by speaking to CDF founder, triathlete, model, actor, film producer, roofer, Matt Miller about joining his organization. After seeing Lokelani McMichael's story of being the youngest person to complete the Ironman Triathlon, I wanted to compete in triathlons. I did not know how to swim. I did not know if race organizers would even let me race, but when I found C Different on the internet, I asked Matt Miller. He immediately welcomed me to his CDF family and expressed his excitement to work with me. I believe his interest level grew when he learned of my interest and involvement in theater, film, and writing. He too had a love for using film to tell stories. Matt invited me to fly to Fort Lauderdale to run in the AIA Half Marathon. It was six weeks away and I was not sure I would be ready. Looking back on it, of course, that was more than enough time. I did not properly train for the event. I spent more time worrying about how I would complete the distance than actually going out and preparing for it. In my youth when I had my sight, I was a sprinter. I was not big, strong, or talented, but I had desire. If I wanted to go faster, I simply made up my mind I wanted to and I did. I never practiced. I just tensed up my face and moved my legs faster. I would race short distances. I do not think I ever ran one complete mile. I probably ran half a mile in gym class. I was by no means a distance runner. I went to see Matt and run in the AIA event. Brian Pearlman guided me. My longest run prior to the event was 4.7 miles at a ten minute per mile pace. My only goals were to run the entire distance and to in fact, go the distance. If I had any energy left, I would close the show with a great sprint. As it turned out, I was able to run the entire distance, go the 13.1, and still have enough to close the show. Brian and I ended up having our finish line sprint photo appear on the front page of the local newspaper. At the end of the day, it took me almost three hours to run 13.1 miles. A year later I was able to improve my 13.1 personal best by thirty-three minutes in a Chicago Half Marathon event. With each ten mile, half marathon, or full marathon, I get stronger and faster. It is clear that as long as I continue improving, I will be able to break two hours very soon. In fact, I believe that I can get to the point where in my next event I will cross the finish line one hour and ten minutes faster than I did at the AIA. I am starting to believe in my abilities. Matt has always believed in me. I appreciate Matt's high standards for me. I often feel, I have disappointed him for not reaching my potential as we both know I can. I know that I have disappointed myself because if I were to dedicate myself more during training then I would be achieving greater results. Each race and new friend I make in the athletic world teaches me how to go about becoming greater. I believe that in 2012 the friendships I have made over the last three years will pay off because I have a network of talented athletes who have achieved on a national and international stage in front of television audiences. If I truly have learned from them, now is the time to display it. Three years ago, 13.1 seemed like such a mountain. Now I believe I can prove to myself how much talent and heart I truly do have within this sexy physique. That is why I decided on the half. I will race as a member of the CDF team. I will also use the event in Houston as my jumping off point to embrace myself. I will run for myself. I will begin to believe in Israel. I am facing this next phase of training as a way to prepare for greatness. I hope that does not come off as arrogant. I simply want to reclaim the kind of swagger I use to have in my youth. The confidence which motivated and pushed me to be better. In many respects, the fear of failure drove me to success after losing my sight. In the coming year, I will have higher standards for Israel. I will begin to train and race with a purpose. I will begin my quest in January!

For more information on the C Different Foundation, please visit:

Friday, October 14, 2011

World's Largest Now Available

One of my favorite people in the world is Elizabeth Donius. I first met Lizzy about five years ago when she was the Executive Director of Independent Film Project Chicago. I called the offices of IFP Chicago to inquire about membership, services, and programs. She took my call, answered all my questions, and enrolled me as a member. Every time I had any questions or attended an event, Lizzy always took time for me. One of her films, World's Largest: A Documentary About Small Towns With Big Things has been screened at various festivals all across the country. This doc, which she made with her childhood friend, Amy Elliott, is now available for your enjoyment. You can either buy a DVD of this film or you can download it from the following web site.

You can also visit the doc's site to get up to date information at:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Most Memorable Marathon: Chicago 2011

On Saturday night, I set out my Imerman Angels top, triathlon short, and tether. I debated on whether to set out a hat or bandana, but friend, Alison, suggested I go with the bandana so I did. After some pasta and a day with plenty of liquids, I hopped into bed shortly before 10p.m. I would get up at 4:30a.m. to get my marathon day started. I laid in bed tossing and turning. I could not sleep. What did I do? Why am I running another marathon? Then I would take deep breaths and tell myself, you can do this. Tomorrow, you will hurt, but you will fight. I have never dropped out of a race I started so of course the Chicago Marathon will become another event I complete. I started to fall asleep, but was shaken awake. I tossed and turned even more. By Sunday afternoon, I would be sore and in plenty of pain, but this would all be over. I tried filling my mind with positive thoughts. Thanks to a late push from family and friends, I achieved my goal of raising at least $1,000 for Imerman Angels One-On-One Cancer Support. Two outstanding women will be my eyes on the course. Professional triathlete and coach, Kimberly Shah and elite marathoner, Jennifer Pfaff. I will be in great hands. Still, I could not sleep. When I did, I would dream about the marathon then wake up again. Finally, 4:30 rolled around and I dragged myself out of bed. I always have a bagel with peanut butter washed by an energy drink, but today, I was nervous, I could not quite finish my breakfast. At 5:30a.m., Kimberly arrived to take me to the race.

After some pre race preparations, we arrived to the race site. I was nervous and scared. Being with Kimberly relaxed me a little. We made our way towards the start as she described how the pro runners were running along side doing their warmups. Shortly aft 7 o'clock we made our way towards the start line. Last year, I was in the open corral way in the back and I did not get going until twenty minutes after the pros. This time, I would go off nine minutes in front of the pros. When we were allowed to file into our corral, Kimberly described our surroundings telling me how the pros were getting into their start behind us. It was clear, she was in awe and excited. I was so happy for her to have the opportunity to enjoy this. As a pro triathlete and champion Kimberly has experienced so much success. To hear how excited and nervous she was was on some level very comforting for me. A few minutes before the race, Jim Cornelison delivered his usual stirring version of the national anthem. At 7:20a.m. the wheelchair division started. We would go at 7:21. Kimberly instructed me to start moving. I did. In a blink of an eye she said "Okay, we're moving." I asked, "What? It started?" She responded with, "Yes, we've crossed the start line. We're running the marathon." Thirteen miles away from meeting up with my second guide and 26.2 miles from the finish line. It was so exciting to get moving and have almost no one in our way. We moved freely. Fans cheered loudly. Cowbells rang out. One of my favorite moments was making a left turn and being greeted by a giant roar from the crowd lined up on both sides and hanging over a bridge. As would happen several times during the race, the roar was so thunderous, I could not hear Kimberly clearly. Then she tells me that that excitement from the crowd was all for us. There was no one else on the road with us at that point. Honestly, it took plenty of strength to not break down and start crying at that moment. Even now, as I am remembering it to write this, I am choking up from the memory. We made our way and people yelled out, "Go Sexy Isra!" Thank you to Jemma of Imerman Angels who I believe was the one who wrote Sexy Isra on the back of my top. As we neared a gentleman to our left, he screamed, "Go Israel. You've got this." I did not know who he was. Before I knew it, Kimberly was telling me we were at mile two. The pros would be coming by any moment. We rolled on enjoying the crowd support. Then Kimberly said, "Here they come." The police, TV trucks, and pros made their way towards us. I heard them run by no more than three feet to my right. Just a few feet over from me were fifteen of the fastest human beings on the planet including the great Ryan Hall. As they flew by at about a four minutes and thirty seconds per mile pace, more elite runners made their way towards us. As many of them passed by, they offered me encouragement, congratulations, and back slaps while saying, "Go Sexy." "Keep going Isra!" The crowd continued to pump me up and Kimberly kept expressing her excitement. I would get very happy and want to sprint out faster, but I knew I had to hold off because there was still a long journey ahead. At one point, Kimberly had to tell me to pull back because I was beginning to push the pace a little too much. I kept thinking of my friend, Michelle, who passed away from cancer this spring. She was the reason I wanted to get involved with Imerman Angels. I have some family members and friends who have survived cancer, but Michelle's death was what pushed me to truly set this goal and go after it. I felt fluid and very relaxed. Kimberly described the crowd, signs, and area around us. Music blasted. Fans cheered. Other runners continued to back slap me. The miles rolled by. In fact, I felt comfortable at our steady pace, but was not aware of our pace until we reached the tenth mile when Kimberly informed me that we had done so in one hour and thirty-two minutes. I believe that is the fastest I've ever run ten miles. At that pace, I could finish in under four hours. Yet, shortly after that, I started to doubt myself. Could I do it? I began to fear how my body would feel in ten more miles. I started to wear down mentally. This can not be. Not this early in the race. By mile twelve, I found myself very concerned and I even told Kimberly that I was getting tired. I started to slow down. With the crowd cheering, I tried to feed off of that and press forward. We reached the thirteenth mile and the exchanged point where Kimberly would hand off guiding duties to Jennifer.

There was Jenny. Ready and excited to take on the responsibility to get me to the finish. We moved along. The crowd pumped me up. Jenny's excitement gave me a boost and we moved along. We reached the fourteenth mile. Suddenly, I heard a thunderous boom from the fans. Yells of "Sexy Isra!" One woman yells out, "Isra, you're the sexiest!!" It was the Imerman Angels cheering section. It was so loud, I could not hear Jenny. I could feel my body getting weaker. I did not want to slow down or walk, but I knew it was coming. I tried my best to fight it and for a while I was successful, but before long, I was beginning to give into my fear and doubt. Our pace had slowed, but we were still making good time. By mile seventeen, I knew I had hit a wall. Even last year, when I sprained my ankle in the third mile, I did not hit a wall until exactly the twenty mile marker, but now it came sooner. This could not be happening. I made it to mile eighteen. In my mind, I was so close yet so far away. It was only eight more miles. I struggled over the next several miles. My pace was very slow. Jenny held on to the tether on my left side as Kimberly ran along my right side. Both women encouraged me. It helped that they would tell me how far away to certain landmarks or aid stations. I tried running to those landmarks. Then we reached mile twenty-one. I said to myself, five more miles. In the last few weeks of training I had been running five to six miles at an eight minute per mile pace. I would lift weights or ride a bike with the purpose of tiring my legs out before trying to run five miles to toughen me up mentally. Now is when those have to matter and pay off. Now is when I have to go after it. I started pushing through the pain. For a while I found some heart and toughness. Jenny kept telling me how I was picking up the speed. I was starting to flow. I was moving again. I pressed on. As soon as I felt I was rolling, I would want to walk or slow down. Jenny and Kimberly kept driving me to fight those urges. They screamed and yelled at me to run. I am sure they received dirty looks from the crowd and other runners for pushing me so much. There were times I wish they would stop and let me walk, but for the most part, I was so thrilled that they were motivating me. I knew that deep down inside, this is why they were my guides on this day. If I were to achieve something special on this day, it would be because two very special women would know how to get the best out of me even when I did not think I had anything left or even when others may have let me rest. These women have achieved great personal athletic success because they know when to push and how to dig. to the best of their abilities, they were going to press the correct buttons to ensure I did the same. The distance to the finish line kept getting shorter. Before long I was down to under two miles. Then just a mile and a half. It was so close yet again, so far away. I wanted to dig deeper, but I could not. I had reached my limit and whatever guts or heart I had, I had to display right then. One mile to go. Finishing was never a question. It was just a matter of how much time it would take me and if I would go after it by sprinting to the end, hang on for dear life, or get dragged to the line. As I made my way with Jenny and Kimberly continuing to drive and inspire me, I moved forward to the best of my abilities. I struggled up one final hill. Later jenny would inform me that I was moving at an eight minutes and fifty second pace at that point which was around the same pace as I was moving in the very early stages of the marathon. I was amazed that I had that in me at that point. We reached the twenty-six mile marker. Just over 300 meters to go. As with every race, I wanted to lay the hammer one last time and burst across that line. As I made my way, I could not tell if I was moving my legs or at what speed. I could not feel anything. Then Jenny and Kimberly informed me that we had crossed the finish. At that moment, I finally felt something. Cramps. Relief. Love. Love for these two amazing women who had given up their Sunday morning to get me through the streets of Chicago. As painful as the back half of that marathon was for me, I would not change anything about that experience. Well, my performance could have been better, but otherwise, to be able to now say I ran the Chicago Marathon forty-six minutes faster in 2011 than in 2010 is as a result of having two tremendous women supporting me every step of the way. Every race, I want to do well as a way to show my gratitude for my sighted guide. In this case, I was able to push myself because of my guides. Every race is special. This one is made even more special because Kimberly Shah and Jennifer Pfaff forced me to dig deep and aim for being special.

I thank Kimberly and Jenny for forever being a part of my life and a part of some very special memories. Thank you to Imerman Angels for allowing me to fundraise and run on the team this year. The great people such as Kat, Jemma, Jessica, David, Rachel, and of course, Mr. Johnny Imerman. All of you have been so wonderful and kind to me. Last year, I was just another runner in the open corral. This year, I was categorized as a visually impaired runner in the disability corral. According to the Boston Athletic Association web site, a blind/visually impaired participant can qualify for the Boston Marathon by finishing a certified marathon in under five hours. Chicago is one and I did. I do not know how events will play out from this point, but if it does turn out that I can now go race in Boston, then I will gladly accept that experience. If there is more I need to do or achieve before having that opportunity, then I will gladly put in the work and effort to do what is needed of me. For now, I am grateful for Kimberly, Jenny, and Imerman Angels. Thank you to my friends and family as well as strangers who donated to my fundraising cause, who cheered me on the streets of Chicago, and who showed an outpouring of love after I crossed the finish line.

To all who read this, it is my privilege to live then share it with you. I thank you for having an interest in my athletics and artistic ventures. Thank you for being a follower to this blog. As always, please feel free to reach out to me. I do my best to be available to you.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kimberly and Jen To Take Me 26.2 Distance

Saturday night. In a few hours, I will wake up to Sunday morning. The day of the 2011 Chicago Marathon. I have been taking in plenty of fluids, fruit, and pasta today. My back issues should not present a problem tomorrow. I hope to stay comfortable, relaxed, and fluid throughout the my run. After registration closed early this year, I was disappointed I would not get a chance to run the marathon for the second straight year, but a woman named Adriana on Twitter asked if I would run it and do so for a chairy. Of course. Charity slots! After tweeting my interest in finding a non profit, Jessica Hiltner reached out to me also via Twitter and suggested Imerman Angels. A group which provides one-on-one support for cancer fighters and their loved ones. I have family members and friends who have survived cancer. I have a dear friend from college who lost her life in April. I felt this was my chance to run 26.2 in her memory. I jumped at the opportunity. Within days Kat and Jemma of Imerman Angels were in touch with me. Shortly afterwards, I was officially signed up and ready to train. The summer brought other races in various cities. Finally, I had the chance to meet with a Saturday morning run group. Thanks to IA, I was put in touch with Kimberly Shah of Njoy Racing. She offered to be my guide for a ten mile training run. This run was the very first time she had ever guided and our initial meeting. Midway through the run, Kimberly stated she would like to guide me for the marathon. As luck would have it, I was in need of a guide. My friend, Jen Pfaff had just volunteered to guide me for half of the race, but I needed someone for the other half. There it was. Two amazing spectacular athletes offering to guide me on October 9. It has been quite a ride. I admit, I am not the best at fundraising. In fact, it is a struggle for me. Family and friends are supportive and willing to give, but I have a difficult time with it. Knowing my goal was $1,000 stressed me out. Like I just wrote, family and friends are always there. As of today, I did reach my goal! Thank you to all who donated. I am nervous about tomorrow. The distance scares me. I have run it before, but it is still tough. Luckily, I have Kimberly and Jen, two amazing women who are amongst the best athletes in the world to get me through the run. I know they will push me. I know they will motivate me to dig deep and push my own limits. Above all, I look forward to the experience of running with these women.

I wish to take this time to wish best of luck to some of the individuals who will be running tomorrow. Ruben, Mark, Randy Egge, Abby Reese, Kate Zimmer, Molly Conway, Heather K. Williams, and Adriana without whom I would not have made it to the start line. If I missed others, I am sorry. Time for bed. Thank you for reading this week and for helping me reach my fundraising goal.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chicago Marathon Expo

Today was a tremendous day! I woke up feeling a bit sore and I was concerned. Really? Yesterday's run with Kimberly is making me feel like this? What will the marathon cause me to feel on Monday? Within a couple hours, the soreness was gone. Earlier this week, I had discomfort, but it has gone away for the most part. It was in my lower back and kidney area. It still lingers, but not enough to be too painful to handle. In the afternoon, I drove to the Chicago Marathon expo. Well, it was more like Kimberly drove and I tried to entertain. In the short time I have known Kimberly, I have discovered so many wonderful traits in her. Hearing her stories inspires me. Training, racing, living life! She is great at spinning yarn. She has a heart of gold and a strong willingness to help others. She also has a great laugh. Of course, now I try to make her laugh. I do not always succeed, but when I do, I am so thrilled because then it makes me laugh. We reached the expo and made our way around the place. We picked up my bib, shirt, and other items. We headed over to meet Howard Kambara of Chicago Events Management and the Chicago Marathon. Kimberly received her runner guide bib and other items. For the first time, she became nervous as she realized how real this was. Her excitement and anticipation shown through and I was excited too. For most of this week I have been anxious, but hearing Kimberly's reaction and laugh at that very moment put me at ease. I started to laugh. Howard mentioned how we would go off in a wave nine minutes before the pro wave and what Kimberly should do on the course when the TV cameras, course vehicles, and pro runners approached us. I kept saying to myself, this is real! Of course, the reality of the moment will not truly take place until we are crossing the start then when we are running side-by-side the elite. Of course, with Kimberly and Jennifer being my sighted guides, I will be lucky to have two elite athletes along side the entire time.

We also made sure to pick up Jen's bib and other items before walking around some more and meeting some of Kimberly's friends. then we walked to the Imerman Angels booth where we were greeted by Kate who I first met when I attended an IA function in August. After a few moments, Kimberly and I spent some time with cancer survivor and founder, Johnny Imerman. What a joy it is to be around him. He is so amazing. What a gift to the world. Shortly after that, we headed home. The more Kimberly shared stories the more I was getting pumped for Sunday. It was certainly a tremendous day. Topping the day was discovering I had a friend request from a young woman named Abby who is the sister of Amanda R, one of the most amazing women in my life. I met Amanda when she was a star on the women's basketball team in college. I had the joy to watch her career and interview her in press conferences and on my weekly radio show. She always gave me her time. Even after she graduated, I would see her at games. I lost touch with her for a while, but when I reconnected with her, it was as though time had not gone by. I have since followed her coaching career and I remain a big fan of her accomplishments. She truly is one of the nicest people I know who is always very supportive. Of course, it is a joy to be friends with her sister now. I look forward to getting to know her. I also noticed that as of this afternoon, I have come just seven dollars shy of my $1,000 goal for money raised. I am stunned at how my family and friends have once again banned together to back my cause. Plus, I received some wonderful mentions on Twitter from some RunNerds who I respect plenty. Molly, Kate, and Adriana. One more day of resting and taking in fluids before 26.2 miles to cross the finish line of another wonderful year.

If you wish to donate, please log on to:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Final Run Prior To CM11

Today, I went for a five mile run with Kimberly Shah. Kimberly will be one of my sighted guides for Sunday's Chicago Marathon. I am so excited! Of course, there is still plenty of anxiety as I wonder how could I have trained better? In what manner should my training have been better than it was? It is too late for that now. Maybe I can reflect on that after the race. Or, maybe I should embrace that feeling, but not dwell on it. With each race, I am improving. With each new sighted guide, training partner, or athlete I meet, I can grow and learn. I am very thrilled at the late push I have received from family and friends as they donate to my Imerman Angels cause for the marathon. So many people have been touched by cancer so it is easy for all to identify or understand what this disgusting disease does to family, friends, and loved ones. No one is immune to it. Maybe one day cancer will die and no one will endure the struggles which come with it. For now, organizations like Imerman Angels will do their best to pair up current fighters with those who have survived so that together, those individuals can be there for each other. One of my cousins, who just finished yet another tour in the Middle East said that one of the most difficult things for him to experience was watching his wife go through cancer and not be able to help her because he could not understand what she was experiencing. He wishes he knew of IA or someone who had survived her type of cancer so that she could have had a person mentoring her and maybe another person helping him in order to help her. She passed away earlier this year and it sickens him to know that she passed away alone without someone to simply say, "I know what you're going through." He is a hero. He has spent his entire adult life serving our country. He has faced the challenges of cancer. My cousin and his wife are two individuals for whom I am running this race. Please, help myy cause so that no one faces cancer alone. Please help me help others. With the recent donations of today, I am only $150 shy of my goal amount.

As I spend the next few days resting and taking in plenty of fluids, I hope you log on or pass this link to others who can give even just a small amount:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs Opens Doors For Me

Wednesday. As my anxiety for the marathon turns to excitement with some recent developments, I pause to appreciate Mr. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, who passed away today at the age of fifty-six years old. While I never met the man, I have read a bit about him over the last few years and found his story to be fascinating. There are so many quotes of his which I could write here, but what I am most appreciative for is that he and his company have given me the opportunity to write this entry so that you may read it. Ever since I lost my eyesight twenty years ago, I have used computers. In fact, prior to losing my sight, I was always in awe of computers, but rarely had a chance to use them. I would have the chance every week or so in school, but not very many opportunities outside of school. I would look at computer store catalogues just dreaming of owning one and writing stories or typing random thoughts as in a journal. My parents could never afford one so I had to dream and hope one day I could buy one. Then I lost my sight. I was introduced to adaptive technology for the blind and visually impaired. Mainly, computers like the one you may have been using with the only difference being, the ones I used had screen reader software installed into them. I learned basic key commands to enable me to type assignments. The internet was still an unknown and not accessible. I was given a laptop with so much software on it that it was probably worth $50,000, but within a few years, it's value was probably less than $1,000. Eventually, with the help of state agencies, I received a desktop which I could not use. The agencies purchased the computer for me and paid an adaptive tech person to train me, but they only paid for a few hours worth of training so all I learned were very basic commands. I did not even learn how to search for information which would enable me to teach myself anything beyond what I was taught. I spent plenty of time asking others if a command existed so that I may do this or that. Otherwise, I just had to cope with the fact that maybe whatever I wanted to perform on my computer was in fact not accessible. Over time, I realized that in order to keep up with tech advancements, I had to constantly upgrade my system. Adaptive technology is very expensive. Whatever the cost for a computer, I would have to shell out that amount then spend to upgrade my screen reader which for PC means having to buy a third party software costing anywhere between $750 to $2,000. Just having this software on my machine did not mean that all aspects of MS Word, e-mail clients, or web sites would be accessible. In fact, I found them to not be more often than not. Even as friends kept insisting I should have a blog or join Facebook and Twitter, I could not. Just signing up or setting up initial profiles were difficult. One friend, Angela, insisted it was not as hard as I claimed so she came over and set up my Facebook account. After just one minute, she asked how to turn off my speech because not only was it annoying, but she noticed that most of the time, it was not reading what was on the screen. I did my best to use these social networking sites for which I had accounts, but I struggled mightily. For a year, I spoke to people, read online articles, and listened to podcasts about the advancements Apple Inc had made for people with disabilities. I recalled how a friend from college was a Mac nerd and insisted Mac would rule the world. We made fun of him so much. Yet, years later, I was looking into buying one. Then I read how screen reader software was built-in on every Mac. There was an Accessibility Department at Apple. Any of my family members or friends who had a Mac could turn on the screen reader on their machine and help me troubleshoot any issues. Pretty soon, Apple's MP3 players, phones, and other items would come with screen readers built-in for FREE! Instead of having to pay thousands of dollars and not know if I could even use MS Word, e-mail, or web sites, I could buy a Mac or any other Apple product and be confident that the company would work to ensure their products met my needs. I bought a Mac and instantly discovered that I could access Twitter, Facebook, and this blog in ways I never could before. The best part is going to my local Apple Store and testing out these products then buying them. The salesperson who sold me these products was in fact the friend from college of who we made fun for his "Apple love." By the way, he now works at Apple headquarters and is quite a star in the company. There are still some issues which I have with Apple products which I did not quite have using Windows, but for the most part, Apple products have been a life changing experience for me. There are so many events and people in my life as a result of me being more involved with social networking sites. In fact, I missed out on the Chicago Marathon registration prior to it being closed. Then a young woman, Adriana, who had recently begun to follow me on Twitter asked if I would run the marathon again this year. She then suggested a non profit for which I could run. I looked into the organization and posted a tweet about the new development. Another young woman, Jessica, then replied to my tweet suggesting Imerman Angels as a non profit to consider. Within days, I had spoken or contacted several people at Imerman Angels and I signed up to run for IA. I have met some amazing individuals via the internet before I ever met them in person and I credit Apple Inc for making products which allow me to be more connected to this world more than ever before. It was because of Twitter that I joined IA and as a result, learned about Njoy Racing and its CEO, Kimberly Shah who will be one of my sighted guides on Sunday. Through my friend, Rob, who I met in acting class seven years ago, I was introduced to one of his friends, Jennifer Pfaff who volunteered to guide me for half of the CARA 20 Miler in 2010 then stepped up to guide me for half of the marathon this coming Sunday. I have found friendships which have grown with authors, actors, triathletes, screenwriters, marathoners, and filmmakers all because of Steve Jobs and Apple. The amount of joy and richness which has entered my life in the last two years can not be measured. That is why I wish to share this speech from Mr. Jobs. I found it very inspiring and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chicago Marathon For Imerman Angels

Tuesday. One day closer to the Chicago Marathon. Today, I received word that I will officially be in the Disability corral. Last year, I was in the Open corral. I had received an e-mail a few days ago stating I would begin in the Disability category, but I was not sure how it would work. Wheelchairs begin at 7:20a.m. Hand cycles begin one minute later. The elite professionals start at 7:30a.m. The rest of the field falls in behind them. This should be very interesting since the pro elite will probably come flying by with the helicopters, TV cameras, police escorts, pacers, and trucks three miles into my run as they head towards potential world record times. The paperwork will still need to be handled for my two sighted guides, but by this time tomorrow, all should be set. It is quite a joureny as I prepare to run my second 26.2 distance in the greatest city in the world. I am so thrilled at the fact that I will have two tremendously talented and accomplished female athletes escorting me on the course! I remain excited with all which will unfold this weekend surrounding the race. All the joy of racing combined with what will come of my association with Imerman Angels non profit organization created by Johnny Imerman after he overcame testicular cancer during which he learned a national database for cancer sufferers and survivors to network did not exist. He set out to create one so that future sufferers would always have someone who is approximately the same age of the same gender and who is experiencing the same type of cancer to help mentor them through the journey of overcoming cancer. IA is constantly connecting people in various cities and countries on a daily basis. Cancer is a difficult battle, but with IA, cancer does not need to be battled alone.

I hope you will consider donating to my fundraising effort as I am days aways from running the marathon. If you wish, please pass along the link to others so that together we can help many more people in this world.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Chicago Marathon Race Week Begins

Chicago Marathon race week is here!! Can you hear it? Excitement. Can you feel it? Fear! Yes, I am thrilled that my marathon journey for 2011 has reached raced week, but I am nervous about the distance. 26.2 miles is not easy any way one slices it. As I posted on Facebook this afternoon, last year in attempting my first ever marathon, I faced fear of the unknown. This year, I face the fear of the known and of elevated expectations. Having overcome spraining my ankle at mile 3.5 to still finish, I am confident that so long as I stay healthy this year, I will finish in a much faster time. Last year was about going the distance. This year is about pushing my physical and mental limits to overwhelmingly beat 2010's time. As the week goes on, I will post more about my excitement and anxiety, but for today, I want to reflect back on one year ago when I stepped to the start line of my first ever 26.2 in my home town race. It was a thrill to be guided by two amazing gentlemen who volunteered to be my eyes well before either had ever met me. In fact, the first man, Rich, met me three weeks prior to the marathon when he guided me for ten of the twenty miles which makes up the CARA Ready To Run 20 Miler. The second man, Peter, met me one week prior to the marathon when he guided me for the Buck Town 5K. If you have never seen this, here is video of me at last year's Chicago Marathon. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to pass it along.