Each week we like to shine a spotlight on people doing amazing work — both with Charity Miles and without. This week we’re featuring Ellen London, a a six-time marathoner and COO of Nothing But Gold Productions in NYC. Here’s what she had to say:
What is your greatest accomplishment as of late?
I spent the winter and spring fundraising for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, raising almost $5,000 for cancer research (and still going!) and running with my team in the 2013 Boston Marathon. My fundraising was in honor of my best friend, who lost her mother to brain cancer on Mother’s Day in 2010. Her mom was so brave; she beat her initial dire prognosis to see her daughter graduate with honors from college, and was there for her every step of the way. Like mother, like daughter: my friend is incredibly brave, too, and has made a positive life for herself since her mother’s passing: going to law school, making tons of new friends, and honoring her mom’s memory through charity and volunteering. Fundraising for and running the marathon were only pieces of it; the real accomplishment was honoring the two of them.
How did you achieve it?
It takes a village, and I had a lot of help along the way. I started in December, when my fiancé and I hosted a caroling event (complete with ugly Christmas sweaters and a Christmas tree!) with all proceeds benefiting Dana-Farber. In February, we hosted a Polar Bear 5K in Central Park (and had many friends and family members join us remotely to run on the same day). We met my fundraising goal for that month, so I had to run the race in shorts—in 19-degree weather! Hosting events like these along the way made my ultimate fundraising goal more manageable, and kept myself and my donors excited about the cause.
What motivates you to make the world a better place?
With great privilege comes great responsibility. I feel so privileged to have a happy life; a solid education; a healthy body. Period. So what excuse do I have not to try to make the world a better place?
What do you do to stay healthy and fit?
Running is only part of the equation; I try to approach exercise as a lifestyle. This means eating a balanced diet, (trying) to get enough sleep, and staying hydrated even on off days. There’s a mental health equation as well, and I work at it daily to stay happy and motivated. Sometimes this means leaving my stopwatch at home so I can just enjoy the run and take in my surroundings; sometimes this means listening to my favorite NPR talk show, “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” while cruising around the park; and other times it means ditching my run all together to meet my girlfriends for drinks. Everything in moderation, including moderation!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My dad has a favorite saying, one that he wrote on my jersey a few days before the 2013 Boston Marathon: “One foot in front of the other.” This simple phrase has become a major mantra for me—for running and life in general. In the days following the tragic events that unfolded at this year’s race, it stood out as a reminder not just to get through one step, and one day, at a time, but to keep moving forward. When unfortunate things happen in our lives, it’s easy to feel stuck and helpless. But even small actions, like a single step, can carry us to new, more positive places than where we’re currently standing.
What’s your favorite aspect of using Charity Miles?
As a marathoner, I log a serious number of miles. And it’s easy, especially during weeks when I’m feeling tired or stressed out, to lose sight of why I’m doing it. Fundraising is a wonderful thing, but keeping that $4,000 goal in mind month after month can be daunting. Charity Miles gives every single run a purpose, and it’s a daily reminder to give back in some way. It keeps me honest and pushes me to do my best: when you’re running for someone else it’s way harder to let yourself wimp out!
Who do you exercise for, and why?
I exercise for those who can’t, either friends and family that I’ve lost or who have health conditions that limit exercise. Whenever I’m running and get tired or feel pain, I remind myself of them and how lucky I am to be out there in the first place. I feel like any pain or discomfort I put myself in connects me to those who deal with that pain and discomfort every single day. It’s my humble way of honoring what they’re going through. On race days, I write their names on “hot spots” in Sharpie; for example, my calves, which are usually the first thing to get sore or cramp during a marathon. When that pain comes on I think of those people, and grin through it. Finally, I exercise for myself. I know that sounds selfish, but I firmly believe that to put yourself in the best position to help others you need to help yourself first. I feel like my best self when I’m fit, healthy, and well rested—which enables me to help others in the same way.