What it feels like when your brother runs 26.2 miles in your honor

Well he did it. My baby brother ran the Chicago Marathon to spread awareness about Crohn’s disease. Even though I was there on the sidelines yesterday watching in amazement as he ran alongside 40,000 other brave marathoners, it still feels like a dream and is incredibly humbling. Not many people can say their sibling endured months of grueling training and hours of pushing their body to the limit… all to prove a point and make a difference.

In the days leading up to the race, I felt nervous FOR him. The day of the race—I was overcome with emotions (and not just because of the pregnancy hormones!) My brother—who has witnessed me battling a chronic illness for more than 11 years, who’s held my hand countless times while I laid in hospital beds and offered me comfort during difficult days… took those experiences and used them all for inspiration. While I ate breakfast with my family at a restaurant an hour before the race, I said a prayer for Greg and I was overwhelmed with emotion at the table—just thinking about all he was about to endure made my mind race and the tears flow.

I texted Greg: “Just said a prayer for you and it made me cry because I can’t believe you are doing this for me. Love you. You are going to be amazing.”

He responded: “I prayed and cried too. Anything for family.”

We were able to track him down at the 3 mile, 12 mile, 21 mile and 25 mile spots. Each time he passed us and slapped my hand was incredible. The hardest part was when he texted me “Hurting” at Mile Marker 15, it hurt my heart to know he was struggling on my behalf. At Mile Marker 25 we knew he was in a ton of pain. The crowds around the course were incredible—it’s amazing to see the support of the spectators and the thousands of focused runners on the race route about to cross the finish line. When we saw him that time—he came over to us, was crying and slapped my hand. I’ve never felt more proud of him in all my life. He ran the Chicago Marathon in 4 hours and 24 minutes.

The best part of all is that he did this out of the goodness of his heart. We never discussed the Chicago Marathon or him spreading awareness about Crohn’s. One day this past spring he nonchalantly told me what he was determined to do.

I think after he traveled to St. Louis last summer for my surgery, and saw firsthand how bad Crohn’s can get, he realized he wanted to do everything in his power to give hope to the 5 million people worldwide who battle this every day. Safe to say, Greg provided more than hope. He became a source of inspiration and motivation to everyone in the IBD community—and all our family and friends.

This incredible act of kindness has a ripple effect. During the race Greg’s wife was in line to use the bathroom—a girl came up and said “I hate to do this, but I have Crohn’s disease and really need to go.” Annie couldn’t believe it—she said, “My husband is actually running right now for Crohn’s disease! Please go right ahead!” While I stood at Mile Marker 25, I cheered on all the runners with “Team Challenge” shirts and the girl in front of me turned around and said, “I work for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation” in D.C.” I let her know I’m a fellow Crohnie. Like I’ve said in a previous article, I don’t believe in happenstance.

For those fighting chronic health conditions, for those reading this from their hospital beds, for those wondering when they’ll ever get relief—have faith there are people like my brother who are our biggest cheerleaders. You are not alone in your fight, some days will be rougher than others, but remind yourself that you’ve overcome every. single. flare. You have outdone your disease before and you’ll do it again—and the people in your support network will constantly lift up your spirits, surprise you, and remind you’re not in this alone.

A big THANK YOU to all the family members, friends and strangers who helped Greg raise nearly $2,700 dollars for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation! Greg, I’ll never forget what you did for me—and will use that amazing marathon experience as a source of strength for the rest of my life. Congratulations to all the runners who completed the race—especially those who focused their efforts on raising money and awareness for causes near and dear to their heart.

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