It all started on what I assumed was going to be an ordinary day at work. And then I heard the students whispering. “Cancer,” was the word they said so quietly as they walked down the hallway. One of our senior students had been diagnosed with leukemia, and it we were all sick with worry. Being from a tight knit community, we rallied together to offer support to the family. Spaghetti dinners to help defray travel expenses, a prayer service, and the big event, a marrow drive to put community members on the national registry. Eight months after diagnosis, Amy was pronounced cancer free and returned to school. She went on to college, graduated, began her career, and the fifth year anniversary of being cancer free, her “life day” was approaching.
The Team in Training brochure came in my Runners World Magazine, and when I saw TNT raised funds to support research and aid to victims of leukemia and lymphoma, I knew this was something I had to look into. I contacted the Fox Valley Chapter and days later I was committed to run a half marathon in San Francisco in honor of Amy, my Honored Hero.
I was a sprinter in high school, and in college ran to burn off steam. I had never run further than two and a half miles at a stretch, and I had signed on to run 13.1. Was I crazy? What was I thinking? I was given a running coach and mentor to help me through the process, both Green Bay residents, Chris Rask and Jason Pristelski. They assured me I COULD and WOULD not only train and complete the run, I would raise over $4,000 to help other cancer patients just like Amy.
I won’t lie, it wasn’t always easy. Training for your first half marathon is a daunting task, one I will never forget. Sometimes I just wanted to quit putting one foot in front of the other. But I will never forget Coach Chris’ words, “Compared to chemo, running is easy.” I have never been through chemo and, God willing, never will be…but those words touch my heart and soul like no other bits of inspiration I have ever heard. When the road seems long and the miles loom ahead and I grow weary, I think of the people who can’t run…and I move ahead for them.
Throughout the journey of preparing for Nike Women’s Half-Marathon, I met so many people whose lives have been touched by cancer. That single event has led to numerous other events, some for TNT and some I have run independently in Honor or Memory of an Honored Hero. One thing for sure, that single experience changed me as a runner and a person. I will never be the same.