Running with friends makes everything better.

This weekend was my first trail race. 32-MILES RUN CLUB sponsored a team of survivors to run a relay style race with each of the 5 team members running a 5k at Xterra Oak Mountain Trail Series. We all showed up Sunday morning with nerves. Congregating around the 32-MILES RUN CLUB tent we chatted about what is was going to be like, deciding our order, and taking pictures of the team all together for the first time. 

My excitement was high. My dreams of creating something for survivors was laid out in front of me.  I was sharing my passion for running with other survivors and giving them the opportunity to try something new. The park was beautiful. The weather was perfect. And being together calmed nerves. Running with friends makes everything better. It was the excuse we all needed to show up early on a Sunday morning. It was the push to step up to the starting line. And it was the desire to be our best knowing our team was counting on us. 

The cannon sounded and Melanie, with a big smile, our starter was off. She trained for the past few months and joked about being slow. My heart soared because with her arms waving like she just won crossing the starting line, to me she did. She pushed out of her comfort zone. Just crossing the starting line, she accomplished something amazing. I met Melanie a few years ago while we were both in active treatment. Both of us having young children- balancing motherhood, being a wife and the side effects of cancer, we have created a life long friendship. Having her along for the journey was the perfect start to our first 32-MILES RUN CLUB team race.

Next up was Sara. She is currently in treatment for triple negative breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy two months ago and was an inspiration to all that day. When I first told her about the race I was hesitant to include her. I knew she was having surgery soon and would still be recovering. I didn’t want to add extra pressure, but she was 100% in. She is a kind soul who would give the shirt off her back to see you succeed. She loved the idea of the run club and want to support my dream. 

So, when I got the message the doctor cleared her to run I was so happy that she would be part of the inaugural race. When she came around the corner to end her part of the race, she was concentrated and giving her all. She handed off the bib and a huge smile spread across her face. My heart exploded. This is why I started this group to give back confidence and joy to survivors. It’s not about the miles, but rather these moments of victory and accomplishment- taking back what cancer stripped from you. 

Sara handed the bib off to Amanda. Before race day I had never met her in person. Amanda came all the way to Alabama from New Jersey to run with us. When I first had the idea of running this team race I put out a call to survivors on my social media survivor pages. Crickets. I was self-conscious and doubting myself until Amanda messaged me. She said she loves to travel and would love to come down and be a part. She is an active member of many running communities and a strong runner with many long-distance races under her belt. She was exactly what our team needed- a survivor confident in her running abilities and her knowledge of race days. She provided a calmness to us all. But don’t let her experience fool you. When she handed off her bib her smile was contagious. 

Lisa was up next. She had never run a race before and only a few weeks ago ran 3 miles for the first time. Though she is no stranger to fitness and competition, running your first race is intimidating, especially on a trail. Lisa was furthest out from her diagnosis on our team.  I have found out, no matter where you are in recovery, cancer still plays a role- the fear of cancer returning always present. When Lisa handed me the bib I could see hear beaming! She had overcome her fears and completed her section. Without her place on our team she said she would have never done this. Having each other to support one another in reaching goals is important and more exciting to celebrate in completion. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your joy with us.

And finally, it was my turn. My first trail race! I was nervous. I knew when the bib was in my hand the excitement would want me to run fast. This was no easy trail though and I had to pace myself. Lots of hills, rocks and down trees made for an exciting journey. The view of the lake as the trail winded around was worth it. 

As I ran I thought of all the ladies waiting for me to come back. Each was there for me. All waiting to cross that finish line together. I pushed hard. As I rounded the last corner I saw them all standing there cheering! 

As a group we ran down the shoot toward the finish line. Cancer makes you feel so isolated and alone. But today, because of cancer, our group is together. We all chose to be better from it. Having these ladies by my side made this moment even more special. 

That finish line solidified my purpose. I will show the world cancer is not a finish line. Cancer is the starting point to push forward and accomplish great things. Together with other survivors we will be better than before. 

Today I am proud of putting this team together and crossing the finish line with these amazing ladies.  I see many more races in my future and challenging myself to step outside of my comfort zone. Today I realized the moments along the miles are what make the journey.  Whether it is 3 miles or 32, these experiences wouldn’t be possible without the first step. 

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