Are you Aly?

by  Angie Chaplin  |  Leadership Development

Her name is Aly. A close friend of a special classmate of mine from Seton Hall University’s Master of Arts program in Strategic Communication & Leading, Aly became an “angelfriend” – one of thousands of people battling blood-related cancers when I raised funds while training and ultimately finishing my first marathon in San Diego, CA.

Taking action to transform from a “morbidly obese” woman to losing 125 pounds and training as a first-time marathoner was no easy task. I started small, coming in second-to-last in my first 5k proclaiming to family and friends “Don’t let me do this ever again.” Shortly thereafter, the flyer from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program arrived in the mail. I could raise funds for special people who had lived and lost their lives with blood-related cancer. It was the goal I needed. While training to finish 26.2 miles, I raised more than $4,000 for Team in Training, in memory of Aly and in honor of Corey Carlson and Stephanie Stockton, both of whom had successfully battled and survived lymphoma.

I ran or weight-trained every day – for me, for Aly, for Corey and for Aunt Steph. Race day came quickly, and I was nervous, scared, and excited while I waited in the starting line corral. When the horn sounded, my perception quickly shifted. I had planned my strategy – walk, then run, walk some more, then run as fast as I could across the finish line. Then reality hit me like a ton of bricks.

At mile 20, I hit “the wall.” My legs felt like lead weights. Blisters were popping on my feet, I was exhausted, and felt the mental and physical toll on my body and mind. I said out loud, “Aly, please be with me to finish the final miles.”

Within minutes, a woman ran past me. Most marathoners, including me, write their names on their shirts and arms so spectators can cheer their names along the marathon course. On the back of her shirt was the name “Aly” — same unique spelling.  I literally stopped in my tracks. I had carried a disposable camera in my running pack, and I took a picture. Crying and laughing, I was re-invigorated.

For the next 6.2 miles, Aly & I would take turns running in front and behind each other. Once the finish line was in sight, I sprinted with everything I had left, and finished my first – and most significant – full marathon. I looked for Aly at the finish festival, and never found her. Yet her presence was no less than a message that I feel called to pay forward.

To whom are we an “Aly?” To whom can we invite and encourage to finish those last “miles?” Aly lives in each of us. Are we using our gifts to encourage those around us to finish the last, and hardest, miles?

Godspeed, and lead on!

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Articles By angie-chaplin
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What People Are Saying

Peter Borner (@PeterBorner)  |  01 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Angie, your story touched my heart. Thank you for being so inspirational. Peter

Angie Chaplin  |  01 Mar 2012  |  Reply


Thank you so much for your kind words. I appreciate the time you took to read and respond to my story.

Lead on!

Regina Jankowski  |  02 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Angie, what a beautiful tribute to my dear friend Aly. I remember when you called me in tears of joy and happiness right after you finished the marathon to let me know that Aly gave you the strength fo finish those last 6.2 miles. I will always remember that day, and continue to admire your strength and courage every day!

Angie Chaplin  |  05 Mar 2012  | 

Thank you, Reg. I remember you calling me the night before when I was trying to ” chill out” with nachos and a beer. =) I have absolutely no doubt that Aly is here with us, everyday, and will be watching over you and the significant (and blessed) changes in your life. Luvya!

Tara Alemany  |  01 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Wow, Angie! Just wow! You and I have flitted on each others’ peripheral vision for a little while now, thanks to Lead Change, but we haven’t had a chance to really get to know each other yet, even though I know we shall.

While I’ve never been a runner, I am a martial artist in training for my black belt test in April. So, I understand the concept of training and training hard for something significant to you. I had a set-back late last year, and stopped training completely for a couple of months. I’d almost given up on the dream I’d spent 4 years working toward. Then came the sudden realization that I couldn’t give up. I’d worked too hard, come too far, and had too many people who’d supported me along the way for me to stop just short of my goal.

I have an “Aly” in my life’; someone I’m doing this for, even though they’re no longer here. But, more importantly, you asked who *I* could be an Aly for… Are we ever really aware when we’re being an Aly? I’ve had people share with me, years later, who significant something that I’d done was that, at the time, I had no idea was all that important. I can’t tell you today who, if anyone, I’m an Aly for. But you’ve inspired me to pay closer attention!

Thanks for sharing such a personal story! You’re one impressive woman!

Angie Chaplin  |  01 Mar 2012  |  Reply


I can relate to your story that we may not know for whom we’re an “Aly” until after the fact. As a teacher, facilitator, trainer, etc. I receive notes and comments from students years ago who thank me for making a difference. Which humble me, yet makes me reply that *I* didn’t make the difference, *they* did. Maybe I said or did something that sparked an action or decision on their part, yet they did the real work.

Personally, I’m not sure if I need to know when I’m someone’s “Aly.” On one hand, I appreciate the affirmation, and on the other hand, knowing what I did is not as significant as what the person did as a result. The focus in on THEIR actions.

You’ve given me much to ponder, and I appreciate it. You inspire and impress me!

Lead on,

Jon Mertz  |  02 Mar 2012  |  Reply


Very inspirational! It is good to have those moments of inspiration that keep us focused and moving forward. Finding our Aly to keep us going is essential.

Thank you.


Angie Chaplin  |  02 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Thank you, Jon. Your comments keep me motivated and moving forward. =) I believe we all have an Aly, and I believe we all are someone else’s Aly. It goes both ways, do you think?

Thanks again,

Jon Mertz  |  03 Mar 2012  | 

I agree, Angie. We all have our Aly, and we are one, too… even if we don’t realize it. Thanks! Jon

Jane Perdue  |  03 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Angie – what an inspiring story! You and Aly are those angels who touch us, encouraging us to go the distance, to make the positive difference even when it’s hard or unpopular to do so. Keep shining the BIG light!

Angie Chaplin  |  05 Mar 2012  |  Reply

Thanks, Jane! This experience caused me to increase my level of awareness of those “divine” moments that may otherwise go unrecognized. Thank you for taking time to read and reflect on my post!

Lead on,

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