My 26 Strong Cadet

The response to my request for a cadet for 26 Strong was way more than I ever imagined it would be. I feel so grateful to have heard from so many of you, and am just so very amazed by the response I received.

Thank you so much to all of you who took the time to write to me, to share so honestly and bravely your stories and your reasons for wanting to run your first marathon with me and 26 Strong. I received nearly 200 comments and emails from some of the most incredible and remarkable women.

Making this decision was very hard for me.

By this morning I had narrowed my list down to 4 amazing women. With the help of my husband and a few dear friends who listened to me work through my thoughts and considerations, I have chosen Kristi to be my cadet.

Kristi’s email to me touched my heart from the moment I read it. Here is what she wrote to me on Thursday morning …

My Story is really pretty long. Most people say I should write a book, but most of what my recent life has been like most people would think were fiction. 

I started running 4 years ago this May. I had my daughter, Kaylin in January and having struggled with weight a lot in my life, I wanted to be fit for her. So I started running. I couldn’t make it a mile with K in a stroller! But I stuck with it. I found MRTT after my running partner PCS to Hawaii. Kaylin and I even ran our first race together- Arlington 9/11 memorial when she was 8 months old. Then my world started to change. 2 weeks before her first birthday a simple eye exam changed my life forever. Two weeks later after being rushed into specialists for neuro and genetics I got a diagnosis of Sandhoff disease. Incredibly rare, degenerative disorder and fatal usually by age 3. No treatment, no cure. We continued running. I needed the stress relief and to stay in shape knowing that my daughter my never walk, crawl, and she never did speak but her facial expressions spoke volumes. I went through a nasty divorce while managing Apnea coupled with Epileptic seizures, feeding tubes and years of almost no sleep and hardly any support (except from my running family who literly kept my spirits high through the roughest moments). 

I started back to school when she was 2 divorce on the horizon. This time I was going to be a nurse. I saw how much more my already great attentive skills and meticulous work with Dr and nurses could help K and meant I could do more to help others. 

It wasn’t easy but I knew it was something I had to do. 

After she passed away last year, two weeks before her third birthday. I had a lot of scrambling to find my footing in life. I kept running. I signed up for my first half marathon. k and I had run a 10k together as our farthest distance. I knew that no matter the distance or even if I felt like giving up, it was nothing compared to what I went through to keep her happy, living life, and comfortable. I mean let’s face it we would do anything for our kids. 

So last year I ran MCM historic half- glad I love hills! Every race I run I have a necklace with some of her ashes. It reminds me when things get tough that we are always together and gives me motivation to keep going. 

This fall I want to run a marathon, probably a huge challenge for me with FT nursing school in an accelerated program and a crazy work schedule, but I know I can do the training needed. I managed 5 days of running a week this winter and it showed in me taking 11 min off my PR from last year. And I know I can still sneak under that this year. Why a marathon? Because it’s a feat that I know I can do with proper training. Pushing the limit and honoring K’s memory and our love for running couldn’t bring me a greater joy. 

I love healthy eating and am a huge foodie! I enjoy kick boxing, swimming and work as a pet care professional (dog walking all day!). The strangest thing I’ve done to fit in a long run is have my text book read to me as I embarked on a 2 hour treadmill run at night while on call.

I read her email jaw-dropped and with tears in my eyes, my heart filled with amazement at what she has been through and how running has helped her along the way. I simply cannot imagine enduring the pain and loss that she has experienced over the last few years. And, more than that, I was just completely struck by the vibrance of her spirit that shined through in her email … she just seemed to me to be so strong and determined, so honest and real despite, how unreal and tragic her story was.
I will admit though that I also had questions about her running, and how she would be able to manage the rigors of training while also working and going to school full time. I wrote to her this morning and asked her about it, and she replied right away …
Thanks for writing! Like I said my story is rather long but I’m glad that I am able to look back at my challenges in a positive way. 

My last half was RnR Dc (can you say burrr but an amazing 11 min PR for me!) Then followed up with CB 10 miler. And I’m running the Fredrick nut job and half May 2-3

I actually have been training on time over miles but consistently put in 20-25 hrs of running plus strength training a week. Worked out to 4-5 runs a week and about 20 mi.  I’m running for maintenance right now (3-5 mi runs) with all my back to back races I’ve found well rested legs give great results. 


My longest weekly runs are currently 12 miles, but it varies between 8-12 depending on my half plan for the day. With my recovery getting easier and seeing the benefits of weight training and doing what “garmin says” (yeah 220 training plan input!) I know I can add the distance. 


I also hail from the Midwest so it would be pretty neat to run my first Full in Chicago. Lived in WI for years and my family and boy friend are there. Let’s face it having your own cheering section would help that last push to the end!

I feel confident that Kristi is ready to embark on the journey to her first ever marathon, and I could not be more honored or grateful to be a part of it!!

I am so excited for her, and look forward to sharing our experience with all of you along the way.

Thank you again from the bottom of my heart to all of you who contacted me. I hope that each one of you will run a marathon this fall, I really really do! I am so inspired and touched by you all!!!

10 thoughts on “My 26 Strong Cadet

  1. Kristi is a friend of mine from MRTT. She has endured so much and is still such an amazing vibrant woman. I'm so excited that you chose her. I can't think of anyone who could deserve it more. I know she can rock this!

  2. You picked the right lady- Kristi is so strong, beautiful and will conquer this challenge and all of the ups and down along the way. Obviously this will be an emotional journey for her and I can't think of better, more supportive coach for her to have along the way then you Jess. Excited to follow this journey!

  3. Wow! What an incredible story!! As a Mom of little ones, I couldn't help but cry at the loss of her beautiful daughter. She is going to rock this marathon and I can't wait to follow the journey! Congratulations Kristi!

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