Twelve Reasons to Believe: Ironfriends

By Laura Edwards


The following is third in a 12-post series.

Four years ago, Taylor touched countless hearts with her courageous turn as a member of the Girls on the Run program at her school. Today, that particular story continues to inspire others; last month, it went viral when Gap Inc. and Athleta featured it on their blogs.

Though her spirit remains strong, Taylor is no longer able to run; that’s why I’m more grateful than ever for all those who carry the torch for her today.

My friends, Amy and Parker Marsh, have twice finished Half Ironman races (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, 13.1-mile run) in my little sister’s honor. To train for the races, they endured countless early-morning lake swims, 60-mile rides and nine-mile runs before work in order to get themselves ready. They did “two-a-days” three to four times a week. And along the way, they raised money for Taylor’s Tale and our fight against Batten disease – about $1,500 in all.

The Marshes aren’t the only ones who’ve raced for Taylor. From the bottom of my heart, thanks to anyone who’s ever donned a swimsuit or running/walking shoes or climbed on a bike in my sister’s name.

You know who you are.

You give me reason to believe.

Running for Taylor on 11-17-12

By Laura Edwards

For as long as I can remember, I’ve run to deal with pain.

Since Taylor’s infantile Batten disease diagnosis in July 2006, I’ve run a lot – on average, more than 1,000 miles a year. Running doesn’t give me solace – not exactly, anyway – and besides, my feet can’t carry my sister to survival. But it’s a lot cheaper than counseling and massage therapy and once-in-a-lifetime trips to faraway wonderlands – all of which have also contributed their fair share to my survival over the years. And running clears my head. It helps me feel alive. It makes me appreciate my (mostly) healthy body – for instance, two eyes to drink in the amber, gold and crimson leaves and powder blue sky that framed last weekend’s run and two legs to carry me over a never-ending course that goes wherever I tell it to go and stops only when I want to rest.

I played soccer all my life, and I always had running in my bones, but I didn’t run in my first organized distance race until five years ago. Around that same time, my sister, Taylor, signed up for Girls on the Run at her school. Blind and less than a year removed from major brain surgery, Taylor nonetheless went to practice with the other girls and walked or ran her laps every day after school. Near the end of the semester, a crowd of kids joined in as she finished the final laps of her practice 5K. And that December, Taylor and her running buddy, joined by a simple jump rope, ran the entire length of the Jingle Jog 5K in uptown Charlotte without stopping even once to rest. Five months later, they did it again in the Girls on the Run 5K.

ourboys race

Since watching my little sister cross the finish lines of those races nearly four years ago, I’ve run every last mile for her.

On Saturday, Nov. 17, I’ll run in Charlotte’s Thunder Road Half Marathon for the fourth time. Last year, I had surgery the morning before the race and couldn’t run. I’ve had a light year so far in 2012 – the Charlotte 10 Miler and Frostbite 10K in February and the Tar Heel 10 Miler and ourboys 10K in April. So I’m hoping to finish with a bang at Thunder Road.

Thunder Road is Charlotte’s biggest race of the year, so if you’re a runner and live in the area, chances are, you’re signed up too! If so, and if you’re interested in running in Taylor’s honor/for Taylor’s Tale, please let me know ASAP. If you’re not running but want to come out that morning and cheer on the runners, simply click on the link above to access a course map – then be on the lookout for the girl decked out in Taylor’s Tale purple. 🙂 And – if you’re so inclined – you can make a tax-deductible donation to our Miles to a Miracle campaign in Taylor’s honor by clicking here. All proceeds support the search for a therapeutic treatment for Batten disease.

We’ve made a ton of progress in the race to save children like Taylor. Thanks for helping us get to the ultimate finish line!


By Laura Edwards

On Saturday, I ran the Tar Heel 10 Miler in Taylor’s honor for the third consecutive year.

I awoke to the sound of my iPhone alarm and my friend’s guest room clock playing a heinous duet – I’ve never been able to bring myself to trust a single alarm to do the job pre-dawn – before 5 a.m. I dressed by the light of a single lamp and inked my sister’s name in block letters on my left arm with a purple marker, packed for the occasion. I ate my traditional pre-race breakfast – a bagel with cream cheese and a fruit smoothie – in the dark, silent kitchen. I swung my Explorer’s headlights out onto Orange County’s rural roads before 6 and drove about 30 minutes from my friend’s home in Hillsborough, NC to a parking lot tucked beneath the watchful gaze of the Dean Smith Center and the Kenan-Flagler Business School on the campus of my alma mater, the University of North Carolina. I checked and re-checked my pack for my license, credit cards, health insurance card (it’s never a stretch to assume I’ll get injured), car keys and sport jelly beans. Satisfied, I began the 10-minute walk to Kenan Stadium to join 2,734 other runners for the 7:30 a.m. start, led by 2012 U.S. Marathon Olympic Trials champion Meb Keflezighi.

When the gun sounded, I inched my way around the stadium track amidst the crush of bodies. As soon as I reached the tunnel leading out of the stadium, I took off.

Around mile three, I got awful cramps (I never get cramps after three miles). The course seemed hillier than usual. I wondered if the other runners nearby could hear my breathing. But I kept going.

Over the first five miles, I recorded a 7:50/mile pace. I knew that if I kept it up, I’d smash my personal record (PR) for 10 miles – 1:25:27, recorded in the 2011 Tar Heel 10 Miler – and my previous 10-mile race time – 1:26:10, recorded in the Charlotte 10 Miler in February of this year. And oddly – though physiologically I’m better suited to sprinting – I tend to finish distance races much more strongly than I start them.

Around mile seven, things got a little uglier. My bum ankle (sprained about six weeks earlier and never fully healed) complained. My hamstrings and quads screamed. My lungs burned. I cursed myself for not getting more sleep (I didn’t turn out the lights till after 1 a.m.). And the notorious Laurel Hill – a 0.8 mile climb near the very end of the course that is so punishing, it gets its own separate timing mats at the bottom and top (because scaling Laurel Hill quickly warrants serious bragging rights) – still loomed.

When the first Laurel Hill timing mat came into my field of view, I think I audibly groaned. I wanted to walk. Normally I can run 10 miles (and farther) non-stop without any issues, but I’d really pushed myself for the first eight-odd miles of the race, and I could feel the effects.

At that very moment, I glanced down at my feet; as my eyes traveled downward, I happened to see the message inked on my arm: “4 TAYLOR.”

I churned my legs and arms up that hill. I ran it a good bit more slowly than last year, but I MADE IT. And soon enough, mile marker nine came into view. The end was near! I experienced a wave of emotion at that moment – relief that my exhausted body would soon have water and a cool metal stadium bench, and disappointment that my favorite race in the whole world – and the high I get from running for a cause in which I so deeply believe and for a little girl I love so much, would soon come to an end.

I ran the final mile in 6:28 – my fastest of the entire race.

When I approached Kenan Stadium, I slowed long enough to stuff my sport beans safely into my pack and remove my hat so I wouldn’t lose either during my customary dash to the finish line. As I burst through the tunnel and into the sunlight that soaked the stadium, I broke into a full-on sprint. All of the pain in my muscles was gone, and I was no longer tired. At that very moment, I felt as though I could run another 100 miles.

One hour, 25 minutes and 34 seconds after crossing the start line, I crossed the finish line. I missed my PR by a mere seven seconds – amazing considering the length of the race. I briefly regretted the precious wasted seconds outside the tunnel just before the end of the race, when I slowed to take off my hat and put my sport beans back in my pack.

And then, just as quickly, I dismissed the thought.

I finished 722nd out of 2,735 overall (men and women), putting me in the top 26 percent of the field. Yes – I came agonizingly close to setting a new PR – but I had a fantastic time missing it, raised awareness of Batten disease and honored my little sister, who once told me she dreamed of walking that campus as a student someday.

God built me like a sprinter, but the fight against Batten disease is a long and difficult race. Outside of my finish line dashes, I’ll never stand out in a distance race field, but if my times show anything at all, they show I’m consistent. And I’ll never, ever stop fighting this fight. I’m in it for the long haul, no matter how many Laurel Hills we face.

To honor Taylor and support the fight against Batten disease, I’ll make a donation to Taylor’s Tale’s Miles to a Miracle campaign. Please consider making a gift, too! Click here to visit my page; scroll to the ‘Support My Cause’ section at the bottom to donate. Thank you for your support!

Tar Heel 10 Miler 2012 stadium finish

2012 Tar Heel 10 Miler

By Laura Edwards

In two weeks, I’ll run for Taylor in my favorite race of the year, the Tar Heel 10 Miler. The course meanders through the streets of Chapel Hill, NC, and the campus of the University of North Carolina, my alma mater.

I graduated from college nearly eight years ago. Often, I feel as though the time I spent in Chapel Hill happened in another life. So much has transpired since then. And yet, some moments seem frozen in time.

I felt particularly homesick one day during the fall of my freshman year when I received a message from my mom’s email account. “Dear Rar Rar,” it read. “I wanted to send you a message, too. Here goes!” (insert several lines of  unintelligible gibberish here) “Love, T.” 

I printed that email and posted it on the cork board that hung on the wall over my desk in my dorm room. Every time I moved throughout my college career, the cork board came down and went into a cardboard box and onto the next temporary dwelling. The piece of paper with T’s email survived all of the moves, including the final journey home to Charlotte after graduation. I still have it today.

I used to imagine that my little sister might someday follow me to Chapel Hill – or wherever her dreams led her. Now, I hope that Batten disease does not steal her from us before she reaches the age when kids typically head to college, their entire lives still ahead of them.

Last year, I ran the Tar Heel 10 Miler in 1:25:27 – my personal best for a 10-mile race (I came close to matching it in the Charlotte 10 Miler in February with a time of 1:26:10). I’ve been hobbled by a sprained ankle for the past month, but I still hope to post a strong result on the 21st.

Once again, I’m running in honor of Taylor’s valiant fight against Batten disease. I’ll make a donation to Taylor’s Tale after the race, and and I’m also asking friends to give anything they can in support of my run. I’ll post my results here on Sunday, April 22.

To make a gift to Taylor’s Tale on behalf of my race, visit my fundraising page here, scroll to the Support My Cause section near the bottom of the page and enter your donation amount in the space provided. All gifts are 100 percent tax-deductible.  Thank you for your support!