Most of you have probably participated in a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K event. If you haven’t, you should. It is always awe-inspiring and for this girl, it is also a tear-jerker experience every time. I love watching the survivors running in their bright pink t-shirts. Thousands of people come out to support them and other loved ones who have battled breast cancer. Most participants proudly list those whom they are there to support on their backs, fronts, wherever they can. It is all about celebrating those who are fighting, and honoring those we have lost to this awful disease.
I have done our local Race for the Cure every year since we’ve lived in Madison. Typically, my family runs on my friend Tania’s team. Tania is a six year breast cancer survivor (can we get a woot woot in the house?!!).
Unfortunately, 2 weeks prior to the race, I received the devastating news that a dear family member had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is only 32 years old. She is married and has young children. During the last two weeks, she has had to take in the shocking news, get tested almost daily for other potential bad news, meet with a whole battery of doctors, swing through the ups and downs of each part of diagnosis, break the tough news to others, and essentially get used to the fact that her family’s otherwise normal life had just been violently upended. She begins treatment this week.
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that this year’s Race for the Cure hit really, really close to the heart. I looked forward to toeing the line in her honor.
However, I will readily admit I was scared to race the 5K. I haven’t run anything near 5K pace in months. I have hardly run at all during the last four weeks. I am definitely softer around the edges than I’d like to be. Mix in the psychological pressure I unwittingly placed on myself to run well and guess what: I was worried that I would disappoint.
Of course, I knew she wouldn’t care how fast or slow I ran. I knew no one really cared about that. But I cared.
After a terrible night of sleep, the boys and I got up bright and early Saturday morning for the race. My husband unfortunately couldn’t run due to injury, so instead he took photos and cheered us all on. We met up with our teammates and after 20 minutes or so the race was off. It was a super slow start even though we were only 10 rows back from the front (gah!), but I was able to hit my stride pretty quickly once I was able to break out of the crowd. I thought my son James would be right at my side during the start, but he wasn’t. I didn’t worry about that though. We were each running our own races.
The first mile clicked off around 6:50 pace. Per normal, I slowed the second mile. By quite a bit. I looked down and my lap pace was 7:38. What? Admittedly, I kind of suck at 5Ks. When I saw my pace had slowed so much, I wanted to give up. I thought maybe if I stopped for a minute, James would catch up to me and I could just run it in with him. But then I thought about my loved one who has been poked, prodded, tested and devastated repeatedly in the last several days. She is starting chemo on Monday. And that is just the beginning. She can’t give up. She won’t give up. How can I even consider quitting now when it is only a silly 5K and I DO THIS FOR FUN?! As you can imagine, my strides picked up then and there.
I ended up running in at 21:33, which is pretty decent for me (and good enough for an age group win). I was thrilled when I saw the clock. I overcame the pull to call it quits and I did not disappoint. I turned around and my ten year old son was right there behind me with a 22:11. Rockstar. A few minutes later, my youngest boy strolled in with a great big smile on his face. Then, my friend Tania and her husband finished. It was the first time she had ever run the 5K distance non-stop. It was by all accounts, a huge success. We also raised $700 to fight breast cancer!
It is so easy to get down on your training and to want to give up. But sometimes it is so important to channel those who have much more difficult struggles ahead of them than we do. I was so blessed to be able to find real inspiration from my family member out there on Saturday. She has a long fight ahead and I know she will find the strength, courage and mental toughness she will need to kick cancer to the curb.
With that, I give you an important Salty Public Service Announcement: Ladies (and men): Do self exams. Now. Tomorrow. All the time. Breast cancer can creep up fast. No matter who you are or what stage of life you are in – cancer does not discriminate. The statistics are scary. So stay on top of your health and take action if anything changes. Please. And.Thank you.