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Let the Boston Marathon Para-Athletes Inspire You

April 17, 2023

Monday Motivation, Inspiration, Boston Marathon Monday

Susannah Sacroni – Women’s Wheel Chair – 2023 Boston Marathon Winner

I transported myself back to the starting line of the Boston Marathon this morning as I turned on the live 2023 race, six years after I stood in the same place in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. My heart rate increased, feeling anxious and excited, and my palms sweating even though I’m hundreds of miles away. I won’t forget the exact moment I started to run in Hopkinton knowing there was no going back only forward 26.2 miles into Boston.

The first competitors of the marathon are wheelchair athletes who can complete the race in under 2 hours (I ran it in 5 hrs+). As their muscular arms pump with blood, spinning thin wheels on their chairs, I wonder what it is like to race in a wheelchair. I know what it feels like running for six hours from start to finish in Boston but my sports heart wonders what para-athletes experience.

Shawn Cheshire (left)

As my friend Shawn Cheshire, a blind woman and one-time Rio Olympics para-athlete bicyclist attempts to climb Mount Everest today half a globe away, I decided I want to bike with her as blind as I can be one day to experience her life as an athlete. I know what the marathoners are feeling today because I’ve run in their shoes before, but never as a para-athlete in a wheelchair competing.

Climbing Heartbreak Hill around the 20-mile marker in Boston in 2017, I ran uphill with a blind woman running with her coach on my left, and a man with steel legs and his coach on my right. The moment running alongside them seared into my soul and arose again today watching the para-athletes competing.

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham – Boston Marathon 2017 Start

If I am committed to trying every sport once in my lifetime, I owe it to myself and para-athletes to try competing in their style of sport. Whether it will be with Shawn on a bike or in a wheelchair playing basketball or something else, I want to experience and write about what it is like to do sports their way.

I think able-bodied people like me should “walk-in” or “bike in” the races of our fellow humans. If you know someone who will show me the ropes in their para-athletic sport, let me know. It will become another golden moment for me in my pursuit to try all sports.

I echo what Scaroni said today as the winner of the Boston Marathon Wheel Chair Division, “It is a privilege to just be here and compete.” I feel that way every time I attempt a new sport too.

Memories – 6 years later

Let’s Talk: Age, Beauty, Alopecia, and Self-Image

April 13, 2023

Thursday Thoughts on Self-Image, Beauty, and Age and Alopecia

As the wild wind blew small strands of my newly grown hair around like tumbleweeds in Nebraska, I was grateful for the feeling. At the turnaround point of my 9-mile bike ride, I took a selfie and noticed my hair was blown in the direction of the wind and stuck in place. I thought to myself, “Who needs a weathervane when one has alopecia?” Humor has always been one of my superpowers.

It was the first mid-seventy-degree, sunny morning in Syracuse, and I didn’t want to wear a hat to cover my freakish-looking hair which had large bald spots surrounded by a mix of grey, white, and black hair only a couple months old. Four years ago, when I went totally bald for the first time, I used to hide my condition under my hats when I biked. My appearance to strangers was that important and my self-image was too fragile. Now looking even more bizarre but more confident in some way, I rode hat free wondering what looks I’d receive.

I feel it is a test of humanity when I bike past strangers wondering what they will do. Some look at me straight on with no expression, some look down as if avoiding me, some give big smiles, most don’t notice, some look bewildered, and a few nice ones wave. I really love the ones who smile and wave at me the most. Who would think someone needs acceptance when they bike? I never knew I did until I became bald at age 54.

This thing called self-image is a delicate issue. It isn’t a popular topic among women who age, go through menopause, lose muscular tone, have hair falling out or greying, have eyesight worsening and have hips getting wider. None of my older female relatives said, “Hey Tracy, when you turn 40 you won’t be able to read the date on a penny,” or “Hey, Tracy your boobs will sag after you have children?” I think older women try to protect younger women from the truth that comes with age or they would talk about it more often.

Almost every woman I know has some self-image issue mostly due to societal norms. The identity we want to portray is found in glossy magazines that use Photoshop on their images or social media where everyone posts their best selfie. I admit I do that all the time posting the perfect image of myself with limited hair to boost my day. It’s sad really.

The main lesson I’ve learned in the past four years as a mostly bald woman is to be more kind to yourself than you are. To not look at anyone else’s beauty as a benchmark for your own. To acknowledge and love the parts of you that are built into your DNA that can’t be changed. Eat healthy, exercise often, take the right vitamins, laugh out loud, and do all you can do to be as beautiful as you can with what you are given.

I will continue my self-image journey with a lack of hair as best I can until the day I do, or don’t get my hair back while remaining healthy and grateful in every other way for what I do have in my life. It’s a choice. What will you choose?

Wednesday Wisdom: Choosing to See and Do

April 12, 2023

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration for Women Entrepreneurs, Women in Sports

Shawn Cheshire – Blind Athlete

What would you do if you woke up today not able to read this Wednesday Wisdom due to recent vision loss? What would you do if over the past year your hearing declined so much you couldn’t hear spring birds chirping? How about if you were diagnosed with a life-altering disease, what would you do?

Across the globe in Nepal, an ordinary woman, who was once an US Army Veteran who lost her sight in an ambulance accident, turned blind woman adventurer is preparing to climb Mount Everest as the first blind woman. Notching her ambition up a level after becoming a 13x Paracycling National Champion and setting 3x World Records in single biking and hiking, the past decade.

Grand Canyon 2022 – By Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham

I had the privilege of meeting Shawn Cheshire, a Syracuse native, when I interviewed women in sports who weren’t top athletes but ascending athletes in their field. Shawn was from Syracuse and was introduced to me by another woman. Sometimes you are lucky to meet someone amazing if you just ask. Ever since talking to Shawn, I have followed her adventures crossing the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim–to-rim, cycling across the USA, and cycling from Canada to Mexico and now observing her attempt to climb Everest. She accomplishes these extraordinary feats with a team of fellow athletes.

I remember Shawn telling me that sport was what gave her purpose after losing her eyesight in her 30s. She was depressed, as you can imagine, raising two daughters in the Syracuse area, and trying to carve a future for herself. Opening up the door to sports is what saved her and propelled her even further to achieve what she has achieved, and will achieve when she summits Everest, because I know she will. Her motto is simply “Choosing to See” – what a profound thought.

Shawn Cheshire – Nepal 2023

So, today’s Wednesday Wisdom isn’t based on business inspiration but rather ordinary-turned-extraordinary instances when you, like Shawn, can turn a major heartbreaking loss into an awe-inspiring positive one. Our life is always rooted in our attitudes. We can choose to give-up and stay stuck, or we can make a small, and yet powerful, decision one day at a time to start moving forward. No, it isn’t easy to begin or begin again, but consider the pros and cons of stopping vs. starting. 

As you contemplate your next steps, I hope you keep Shawn in mind as she climbs and summits Mount Everest, with her mighty team of supporters with her, and choose to see, just like she is. Look at Shawn’s Instagram handle at as she journeys and track her progress if you want. Please send her strength and tenacity to achieve her “highest” goal to date….and be motivated to start yours.

One Shining Moment Can Change Your Life

April 10, 2023

Inspiration for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Athletes, Boston Marathoners

Kathrine Switzer & Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham with their 2017 Boston Marathon medals in Syracuse

It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, running up Heartbreak Hill, around the 20-mile mark in the historic race.  The sun was shining, my legs were still strong, and there was Boston College, my son’s beloved university, where I visited him numerous times over a four year period, beaming at the top. At the bottom of the hill someone handed me a construction letter “F” and told me to “Get the F Up the Hill!” – a small joke to keep my mind off the long hill and 6.2 miles to go. 

Tracy, Thomas and Scott Higginbotham – Boston College 2013

As I was carrying the letter up the hill, a blind woman with her coach ran on my left and a man with running blades from his knees down and his coach on my right. That moment is a moment in the billions of moments of my lifetime that rises whenever I think of willpower and the human spirit. There I was an able-bodied woman with sight, running between them taking it all in. I thought to myself, “If they can do this, I can finish this race too.”  And with that my human spirit got stronger helping me up that hill.

The last .2 miles of the Boston Marathon brings you along Boylston Street with people yelling and cheering so loudly that if your spirit and legs were going to give out, they couldn’t because they were lifted by the community there to do just that. It is a euphoric moment hearing them. My last push was saying the Hail Mary prayer as I touched my blessed rosary beads around my wrist. The camera caught my half-leaning posture, as if I was the Tower in Pisa, just trying to get across that blue and yellow victory line.

Scott, Tracy and Adam Higginbotham

Under six hours to complete, which was my goal, someone hung the heavy medal around my neck. There it was, the moment – the moment that changed my life –because little did I know becoming a marathoner would ignite the sports spirit instilled in me by my parents who were both Physical Education teachers and coaches. A year later I crossed the pond to run in an all-woman’s marathon with three teammates from 3 different countries and in 2022 dedicated the rest of my life to trying every sport once and bring women along with me for the ride.

Who would have known my one shining moment traversing a colored line 26.2 miles from where I started my run, and meeting the one and only Kathrine Switzer and a team of amazing women, that my life would change for the better. I couldn’t run back, go back, take back running the marathon – only rejoice in the fact I did it proudly and with a team of fearless women who taught me that being undaunted in life is the best thing that can happen to you. Run on sisters, run on.

Team #261Fearless – 2017 Boston Marathon

Wednesday Wisdom: Begin Today!

April 5, 2023

Inspiration, Wednesday Wisdom, Motivation for Women, Female Entrepreneurs, Women in Sports

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham, 2017 Boston Marathon

One Step
One Stroke
One Line

In order to succeed, it takes one movement from where you stand right now, towards the future.

A marathoner begins one day with one step on their local street. An acclaimed artist picks up a slender paintbrush one day and lays down one imperfect stroke. A writer for the Washington Post pens one word, one average morning. Every large accomplishment began somewhere on a random day, somewhere in a corner of the world.

Tom Amidon Painting

Don’t believe for a moment that great athletic feats, beautiful works of art, or historic written works didn’t start with someone just beginning. Did that person perceive what accolades and honors they might receive by just beginning? Perhaps they had a dream but dreams are hard to predict until you are in the midst of them looking backwards.

In order to achieve anything you may be dreaming of, starts with that one movement. Then habit sets in, a craving to continue takes over, and soon a person is propelled to keep doing what they are doing until they achieve what they envisioned or decide the journey has been the thrill, not the end results.

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham – Under the Rose-Colored Book Author

Remember on any random day, perhaps even today, you can start with that “one thing” that you hope will move you onward to your largest dream or goal. If you don’t start today, when will you? What are you waiting for? It really is easy to just start now and believe and then to do that one thing time and again until you are addicted to that one movement every day.

This Wednesday Wisdom inspires you to begin today! Stop waiting. Step out, paint, write, start a business plan, invest your money, or start a new sport. Then every day after, keep going. You can rest once in awhile but don’t give up.

We wish you a successful path of forward motion today and every day as you step into your unique dream with the wind at your back, sunshine on your face, and a tenacious spirit to keep you going.

Wednesday Wisdom: Instant Results vs Slow Down

March 29, 2023

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Athletes, Small Businesses

Instant Pot Recipes. Instant Weight Loss Programs. Instant News. We live in an Instant culture now and the ways we receive instant pleasure isn’t getting slower, but speedy up. It can be dizzying at times. How frequently do we check our social media accounts to check on instant likes or wish the instant drive-through window was even faster than anticipated? How about wishing the ATM machine wouldn’t take so long spitting out our money? We just want crazy, instant everything. Impatience abounds.

Last week I had an instant notice a TV crew was going to follow me on a sporting challenge in Rochester. I had less than 24 hours to get the interview set up after sending the initial news announcement out 3 weeks prior. I suspected no one was interested in covering the story which happens. Instead, a fantastic young female reporter spent over two hours at the event filming and interviewing me and a woman who attended with me, reminding me that sometimes the news media takes its own time in deciding what stories are worthy of airtime.

Tracy Chamberlain Higginbotham interviewed by Adrianna Loh of Spectrum News Rochester

After the interview debuted, another woman entrepreneur reached out to me and asked what the secret was behind getting the media to cover a story since she recently sent in a release and had no response. I told her, “It is all about their timing, not ours.” This is where living in an instant world can wreak havoc in our minds, and maybe our egos, when we don’t get the sudden response we expected.

Guess what? We need to remind ourselves that waiting a whole 2 minutes for an ATM exchange or even Lord forbid 5 minutes for a Wendy’s meal, or a couple days to get the likes we expect on our social media posts, is totally fine – and actually quick. Is it our thinking that limits us or others really? Ponder it the next time you are frustrated at the lack of response you are experiencing.

Today’s Wednesday Wisdom is to remind you of a few things: Number one, the media is looking for cool, unique, and relevant news stories so don’t stop sending out press pieces if you don’t hear back on one release. Number two, contemplate how long you actually are waiting for something and see if it is reasonable in today marketplace versus your own potential impatience. Instead of fretting about wasting time waiting, decide what else to think to bring in positive vibes during that time? I, for one, say the rosary, and before I know it, I’m calm and next in line.

Maybe this spring is the perfect time to ramp down your expectations of instant gratification or service in a realistic, human world. We aren’t all machines, just humans doing our best to serve each other. 

When A Friend Passes On, Life Still Sparkles

March 28, 2023

Tuesday Vibes, Tuesday Mood, Inspiration

Teresa Dowe Huggins at Women TIES Retreat

Once in a while if you are lucky enough, you meet someone who inspires you beyond imagination. Tucked inside the space of our minds and hearts, another person’s accomplishment, story or sharing buries itself temporarily within until the moment it springs up, like a daffodil in April.

A number of years ago my friend Teresa told me about the time she did a triathlon in honor of her friend who passed away from cancer. She hadn’t trained for it, but felt moved to do it. I remember wondering what it would be like to do that same thing someday – be so moved by someone that you attempt a big new feat. Well, that Teresa memory sprouted in visible sight for me last week, as I completed my first mini-triathlon with Teresa’s spirit intertwined with mine.

Teresa passed away in August 2022. She loved swimming in my pool. She loved biking on my favorite bike path in Syracuse with me. She walked every day so running was something she could do. Putting them all together in a timed or distanced race is a great way to challenge oneself while enjoying all three sports. She happily completed a triathlon in a friend’s memory.

I contemplated writing Teresa’s name in black ink on my arm so everyone could see it when I competed but I didn’t do it for some reason. As I approached the triathlon registration desk the person asked my name, I replied, “Tracy” to which the person said back, “Teresa? Teresa who?” A smirk came over my face, a “sparkle” (aka goosebumps as Teresa called them) ran up my arm, and I knew Teresa was watching me.

When you lose a close friend at the age of 60, it feels different than losing an older relative who has spent their life filled with memories. When someone “young” dies, it feels tragic somehow, even if that person spent every moment of their life living it to the fullest, like my friend did. What you soon realize is your unique kinship cannot be replaced, and the memories of laughter, love, and friendship are all you have to go on with.

I can tell you for sure, when people pass away, their spirits get intertwined with ours in the unique way they melded with us in life. For me, Teresa lives on in my love for sports and nature, and in experiencing new challenges that bring light, sparkles, and meaning to my life.

Monday Motivation: Try A Triathlon

March 27, 2023

Monday Motivation, Sports Inspiration for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners, Women in Sports

The cool refreshing water tingled my toes as they dipped in the pool. Of all the legs of this Mini-Triathlon, the swimming portion was the one I looked forward to most. As a long time swimmer and competitive one from junior high to high school, I hadn’t competed in a pool for forty years although I swim any chance I get in my own pool and the ocean. “7B” written in big black marker on my right hand told me I’d be on the left side of the lane sharing it with my younger friend, Hope Breen, a professional business woman and big time TikTok influencer. She was marked “7A” or “7-Awesome” in my mind for joining me.

This particular Mini-Triathlon meant we would swim 15 minutes as someone counted our laps. In the end, the number of laps would be added to the number of bike miles and running laps. “Go!” someone shouted and off we went. Swimming came back as natural as ever, and I was happily immersed in this portion of the race I couldn’t train for since it is March in Central New York. After 15 minutes, I completed 27 laps, not bad I thought hearing the person before me swam 20.

The hardest part of this race was changing from a wet bathing suit to biking/running gear in only 5 minutes. My chest just didn’t want to cooperate getting into a dry bra quick, getting tangled on my back. So what is a girl to do? I asked a random woman in the locker room to adjust it for me, “Sure, no problem!” Got to love women! Off I ran, to find the biking portion had already started.

Jumping on a stationary bike without time to adjust the speed, I biked much faster than I typically do which felt heavenly, I was speeding away to catch up. As the bike time counted down, I recorded 4 miles in less than 15 minutes which is longer than I thought. “Yes!” I said to Adriana Loh, the Spectrum News Reporter, taping my whole triathlon experience and interviewing me between legs.

Since the bikes sat in the middle of the track, no problem being late to run, so Hope and I lined up next to each other in our hot pink Women TIES shirts ready to run. Being a long time runner, Hope knew I would speed off at times only to come back around and walk/jog with her to catch my breath due to asthma. In the end, we finished together being cheered on by some lovely, energetic R.I.T. female college students. Giving them a big “W” with my fingers indicated “Women Rule,” I thanked them for their pink energy.

Just like in everyday life and business, a woman came up to me asking if I was a breast cancer survivor based on my obvious lack of hair due to Alopecia. She was a 25-year survivor of breast cancer which reminded me that my friend Teresa Huggins, had competed in a triathlon after losing a friend to the disease, just like I was doing for Teresa today. I knew she was looking down from heaven smiling at my turn to do a triathlon for her especially since the person who registered me at the front desk called me “Teresa” instead of “Tracy.” Divine messages from above.

I have come to believe that when women perform sports together, they bond in a very natural and deep way, due to the uniqueness of the sporting experience by overcoming anxiety and trepidation and empowering ourselves when the sport is over. Perhaps the best way to summarize what doing a Triathlon with another woman is bonding due to blood, sweat, and tears (and laughter and joy). You don’t get that sitting in a typical networking luncheon.

I am looking forward to trying another Triathlon and potentially joining my new Rochester Triathloners that I met at the event. Everywhere you go, people in sports are friendly and positive. Not only is trying a new sport exhilarating but addictive so I say to you “Give it a Tri!” on this Motivation Monday.

Wednesday Wisdom: “National Day” Marketing Tip

March 22, 2023

Wednesday Wisdom, Inspiration, Marketing Tip for Women Entrepreneurs, Female Business Owners, Small Business Owners

You might have missed it but yesterday was National Poetry Day. A photo of Amanda Gorman delivering her inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” during the Biden-Harris grabbed my attention as the photo was used to highlight the day. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization founded the day in 1999. It reminded me that my first ever published work was a poem printed in a national publication when I was in middle school.

Amanda Gorman

I am pleased to report today is “National Goof Off Day”, “World Cloud Security Day,” “Bavarian Crepes Day,” and “As Young as You Feel Day,” to name a few. The list is longer than these four holidays which has me thinking from a marketing perspective, what national days resonate with my business mission, demographic, colors, or purpose to use for marketing Women TIES?

Waiting for true spring to arrive can take a while so what is a smart woman entrepreneur to do in the meantime? Well, I say on a day like today you go to and start listing what correlates with your business and make a simple marketing plan to use this information to announce different parts of your business the rest of the year.

We don’t always have to invent the wheel or a new national day to be a brilliant marketer, we can use the wheels that are already created and hop on board using them to advertise and promote ourselves and our companies. Not only are national days strange – like my birthday November 7 being “National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day” (now you know what to buy me) – but fun and perhaps clever pitches to garner media attention.

This Wednesday Wisdom is to encourage you to visit and look up some unique dates related to your company like the day it was started, a theme or product related to your company, or the population you serve, and create a 4-6 week out marketing plan to promote your business to the marketplace. This is a fun exercise to try as we wait for the snow to melt and the flowers to bloom.

I, for one, am going to look for National Women Rule Day, and see what I can find out. If it doesn’t exist, maybe I’ll make it happen. A feminist can dream, can’t she?

Women TIES “Women Rule” Event

Monday Motivation: Trial Runs

March 20, 2023

Monday Motivation, Monday Mood, Inspiration, Motivation for Women

The weekend long runs leading up to the Boston Marathon were trial periods as well as training runs for me.  It’s impossible to think you can do something physically, like running a marathon, by just thinking you can; instead you need to prove to yourself you can.

It isn’t so different in entrepreneurship when the idea to start a business, grow it successfully, and reap in the profits can be dreamed about, but not realized unless you test run the idea through a business plan, with advisors, and tweaking the specifics of the plan a year into running it. What we envision isn’t always what we face when we begin and try.

As I jumped on my bike in 35 degrees, cool, sunny, but very windy conditions this Saturday to test a combination biking and running sequence before next week’s first ever mini-triathlon, I knew I had to try my hardest while timing myself in 15-minute increments to see the mileage I biked and ran individually for some comparison for myself for the upcoming race. I bike. I run. I don’t bike and then run after each other, so it was a test.

Since the mini triathlon is based on timing and not distance since it was a created event by RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) to give people a taste of what a triathlon is like, I needed to put the sports back-to-back to see how my body responded. Since my pool is closed this time of year due to snow, the 15-minute swim portion will be a mystery until I get in their pool. As a long time swimmer, I know I can do it but adding a third and different sport to the other two might test me a bit but, I’m ready.

When I think back to launching my two company websites in a span of ten years, I remember needing to have the websites tested before they went live. I invited friends and business associates to “test” it out and tell me what they thought. I ended up tweaking the pages based on their experiences.

Similar to today when I only ran 1 mile in 15 minutes, I know to improve my distance for the event, I need to run more 1-milers this week to get more speed down. I wouldn’t have had that feeling if I waited until the actual event to see I needed more training in the run portion of the event.

Even though I’m not going for a medal (or am I for my age group at least?), it is still wise to put in the miles, tests, and trails to get a sense of where you stand, what you need to improve, and to help guide you the day of the event or launch. When you put in the miles, your mind knows you’ve done your best to prepare for what is ahead. It is then only up to you to do your best and succeed. Wish me luck next week!  

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