Steel is often Strengthened By Fire

Dedication: Coach Kelly O'Connor

Steel- Noun: a hard, strong, gray or bluish-gray alloy of iron with carbon and usually other elements, used extensively as a structural and fabricating material. Verb: mentally prepare (oneself) to do or face something difficult. In order to make an item out of steel, iron ore is first mined from the ground. It is then smelted in blast furnaces where the impurities are removed and carbon is added. Steel-framed structures are highly durable and do not age or decay as quickly as other construction materials, lasting longer before refurbishment is required. One of the main reasons steel is used in so many construction projects is its durability – it has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any other building material, making it ideal for buildings both large and small. Steel is strong and ductile too, making it highly resistant to accidental damage. If any damage does occur, it can easily be repaired by cutting, welding or bolting to restore its full strength. Growing up, I was taller than most and while not overweight, I had a thick build and was not long and lean or short and cute like a lot of my classmates. I was a mediocre athlete. I played soccer, was an Irish Step Dancer, threw shot put and jumped hurdles in Track and Field, and played Rugby. I was decent, but not great. I had strong legs but noodles for arms. I wasn’t great, but I tried hard. Socially, I was anxious and struggled with peer pressure and wanting to fit in. I had friends, but I always felt like I was watching from the sidelines, or standing out, unless I was the target or punchline of a joke, then at those times, I felt the spotlight turn onto me and I froze and didn’t have the social ability to manage through that which made things much worse. In middle and high school, friends didn’t stick their necks out. They stood on the sidelines so that they didn’t become a target themselves. It didn’t break me, but it bruised for a long time. The smelting fires of Middle and High school. Fast forward? I graduated high school and went to college. I got married, became a mom, and a teacher. I decided I would do whatever was in my power to recognize my students and to not allow any of my children or students to feel invisible or inferior. I would teach my students social skills and ways to cope with the awkwardness of growing up. I wanted to empower my students to stick up for each other and feel good about who they were as people. The removal of impurities and the addition of carbon. Fast forward? in 2006 I was diagnosed with cancer. I went through surgeries and treatments and again, it didn’t break me, but it bruised me for a long time. I gained a lot of weight. I felt like I was living life on the sidelines again. Additional strengthening is needed, more heat is applied, and forging and shaping has begun. Fast forward? in July of 2016 I had another big surgery to repair some complications from the cancer treatments years before, and while I was recovering, I downloaded the Couch to 5K program. I was very overweight from the treatments I had gone through and didn’t know how bad I felt until I started to feel better. I set a goal, I was going to run my first 5k in November. I thought, “Well, I can’t run to the mailbox, but I have 4 months, I’m bruised, not broken. I can do this!” I followed the program. I started walking. Walking turned into running. I reached out to friends and we started running together, and then more friends joined us. We motivated each other and became even better friends. My first 5k wasn’t pretty. I was slower than a box of turtles, but I did it. I finished. I crossed the finish line. I was so proud. I was healing. I was participating. The shaping and sharpening processes. Fast forward? I started running more and more. More people began to run with us. We ran a 5k every single weekend from November to June of 2017. In January of 2017 I had lost 75 lbs. In April of 2017, I ran my first 8k. In May of 2017 I hit the, 100 lbs. lost mark. In June of 2017, I ran my first 10k. In September, I had officially lost 150 lbs., and in November of 2017, I ran my first half marathon. I have never in my life been more proud of an accomplishment or of setting and attaining a goal. I’m not fast, I still walk/run, but I’m out there doing it, participating. Polishing begins. Fast forward? one of my dear friends and a teacher at the school where I teach, whose friendship was developed because we began to run together, approached me about becoming a Girls on the Run coach. I kept saying, “I’m not a runner. I just run”. She kept saying, “But you ARE a runner, because you RUN”. I resisted. I made excuses. I was too busy. I’d get back to her. Resting, cooling. Fast Forward? I signed up to be a GOTR coach, I went to my first practice. I was so impressed by the GOTR program. It is designed to empower young girls. Girls on the Run is a North American non-profit program that works to encourage pre-teen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games, culminating in a celebratory 5k run. To give them strength, courage, and a voice. It pushes them to set and attain goals, to dig deep, to feel proud at a time in their development that so often is awkward and a time of anxious feelings towards each day and each interaction. Girls on the Run teaches girls how to navigate through the social anxiety and confusion many girls face in this age bracket. I saw so many girls transform over the course of this program and it truly warmed my heart. The friendships and skills developed go way farther than where their sneakers could take them. I saw the change in myself. I was proud of myself for the first time in a very long time. I learned a lot about myself in reflecting after each coaching session. I’m so grateful for the friendships and connections running has afforded me and I’m so glad Girls on the Run is available to so many of our children. I wish I had the opportunity to attend a program like this growing up, but I also know that I had to go through the fire to become as strong as polished steel today.

Story shared by...

Coach DeCookie

Elementary School Teacher, Mom, Theater Director, Living my best life, Happy as a stinking clam