Because I can

Connie Bickford is the kind of woman who notices the beauty around her — and then shares it with others. The kind of woman who takes something she loves, like running — and then gives more so that others can benefit. The kind of woman who weaves gratitude uniquely and personally into her life — and now wants to encourage others to do the same.

Connie shares more …

People always ask me, “Why do you run? Why do you fundraise?” The short answer is because I can.

I have watched too many family members and friends go through serious, life-threatening health issues to not be extremely grateful for my relatively good health.

I started running at age 47, after completing my first Hustle Up the Hancock, a 94-floor stair-climbing, fundraising event for the Respiratory Health Association. The training recommendation was to train like you would for a 5K, so I started running on the treadmill. After completing my first 5K a few months after the stair climb, I learned that climbing 94 floors was way harder than running a 5K! I then started running with Team In Training and fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, running several half marathons and completing my first Chicago Marathon in 2013.  

I’ve since had some injuries off and on, most recently coming back from some knee pain last summer. I finished PT and climbed the 94 floors in February with a new PR for my slowest ever Hustle! I’m now slowly getting back to running intervals, and I have always been a back of the pack runner with the mantra: Running my own race. 

When I started running and saw charity runners out there on race courses, I thought that looked like fun. I’m never going to win a race, and but raising money gives racing more meaning.

I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and have lived in various neighborhoods of the city for over 35 years. My husband and I currently live in the River North neighborhood of Chicago. I suppose I would call myself retired, and I am involved in charity fundraising and volunteer work. 

I remember seeing Fellow Flowers at the Chicago Women’s Half, and not long after that, JulieAnn Villa gifted me an orange flower and invited me to join FFCrew in its second year. Fellow Flowers is a community where I can  just show up, no matter where I am in life. 

To me, an important part of gratitude is the why. Of course I’m thankful for a roof over my head and my family, but it’s really about why am I grateful for those things?

Even if you feel like it’s rote, expressing gratitude is worth it. You build a habit and it becomes part of your routine. Sometimes it takes something small, like slowing down on a walk, sitting on a park bench for a minute, taking a different route. 

It’s the intention of it — when you have the intention of looking for something out in the world. A coach I once worked with said, when you put the intention out there, you start finding it. It’s like seeing green cars or pink flowers or anything, really, once you start looking for them. It sounds like it shouldn’t happen, but it does.

I love getting out and looking for signs of spring.  I’ve lived in the Midwest all my life, and seeing the green of the leaves of crocus, daffodils and tulips peeking through the snow is the best sign of spring! I love the flowers, of course.

Big thanks to Connie for sharing her beautiful approach to gratitude! And please join her in the Her Whole Story Gratitude Challenge, which she is leading May 4-17. Click here to join the challenge.

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