In December 2009, I ran my first marathon. Earlier that year I had taken a trip to Memphis with my husband to take a tour of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, as his company had just signed on to become a corporate sponsor. I had been running for about a year at the time of that tour, and had never done any type of fundraising … but within 2 minutes of walking through those front doors I was overcome with inspiration and an overwhelming desire to help. I was registered for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon with a $1000 fundraising goal before the sun went down that evening.
I soon found out that training for that kind of distance was no joke. I was constantly tired, sore, HUNGRY! My weekends consisted of early bedtimes and early alarms. I felt like I was on a constant rotation of icing and foam rolling. It was easy to feel overwhelmed and there were numerous occasions along the way when I really wondered why in the hell I was putting myself through all of that. Then I would find my motivation again in remembering why I chose to register in the first place … and that kept me getting out there, putting one foot in front of the other. I’d think of the halls of that hospital … lined with the artwork of the patients. I’d think of the parents that shared the stories of their babies fighting for their lives. I’d think of the pictures of all of those children, sporting their beautiful bald heads, who shouldn’t have a care in the world … and yet, they have more stress on their shoulders than most of us deal with in a lifetime. I’d think of my daughter (I only had one at the time), and how incredibly lucky I was that she was healthy … but knew that her health wasn’t a guarantee. BUT … I don’t think the true inspiration behind being an advocate for childhood cancer really hit me fully until the actual race itself.
Early in the race, the course took us through the hospital campus. The streets were lined with balloons and nurses and patients and parent and signs and music …. it was a full on party. Everyone was cheering and clapping …. it was absolutely impossible for me to get through that stretch without tears running down my cheeks. But it wasn’t until the very end of that stretch that I spotted the woman that would become my motivation until this very day. She was maybe early 20s, with long, dark, thick, wavy hair … and she was yelling and smiling from ear to ear, holding up a big sign over her head:
“I’m still here …. because you run”
Just typing that line gives me chills all over again, but I can honestly say that in the moment it hit me like a ton of bricks. We’re talking weak in the knees, full on ugly cry type of emotions. All those stories and all those pictures that gave me motivation along the way … those were amazing. But it wasn’t until I was standing face to face with a pediatric cancer survivor that I truly grasped the reason for running all those miles and hounding all those friends and family members for donations.
Now I’m just 7 weeks into another 16 week training session, and I’m finding myself already tired, sore, HUNGRY … and feeling like I still have a very LOOOONGGG way to go. At times I feel like ignoring the alarm, skipping my workout, even bailing on the race all together. But then I remember that woman. I remember that sign. And now, as a part of the Dream Team, I remember Isabella’s dream of a world with no more cancer. That woman was proof that that dream can be a reality. That it IS possible to Beat cancer, Grow your hair, Live your dreams … but it needs to be a reality for EVERY child. I want to see every one of the 43 children that receives a cancer diagnosis today, whether it be leukemia or osteosarcoma or neuroblastoma, standing on those sidelines of the next race holding that same sign.
“I’m still here …. because you run”
And until that day comes … I keep running.