Race: Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K
Place: Louisville, Kentucky
Date: October 12, 2019
Sometimes the race isn’t about who crosses that finish line first. Sometimes the race is surviving. Thriving. Proving that there is life after breast cancer.
If you ever want to feel uplifted by the strength of the human spirit…do one of these events.
I ran the Race for the Cure back in 2011, when I was new-ish to running. My mom and dad were visiting and they got to see me run across that finish line. It was the first time they ever got to see me run. And my mom said to me, “Baby, you don’t run…you fly.” I ran that year to honor my my friend’s mom. Back then, it was an officially timed event. This year…there was a clock, but unless you were a survivor…your bib strictly gave the year…2019.
In case you are new to the blog, my mom, Dottie, was diagnosed with breast cancer back in January. She’s been through chemo and radiation, and will be finishing up this round of chemo in late January. Her journey hasn’t been easy. She’s had good days, bad days, good months, bad months, bad side effects, people who cut her out of their lives as the treatments took their toll on her. But through the entire process, she’s been positive, kept a good attitude, and just done everything in her power to look on the bright side…even when there wasn’t a lot of good happening.
So, when I saw that the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was happening on a weekend where I could slide it into my training schedule, I decided to put together a team who could run not just for my mom, but to honor those they know who have battled through breast cancer, and maybe those at the race who are survivors or still in the midst of their battle.
Guys…I have amazing people in my life, because I had a lot of people sign up to run for my team: The Brady Bunch.
This is also where I give a big shout-out to Kelly, because she picked up packets for everyone at Oxmoor while she was there. That saved me a trip and made it SO easy on race day. So…get yourself a friend like Kelly. Or meet Kelly. Because she’s the best.
Normally before a race, I would get my vegan sushi combo that has been working for me this training cycle…but…I also had a 22 mile run on Sunday, which I figured would be the better option for that. And, since we were meeting up with my roomie’s sister, Amanda, to go to the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Iroquois Park (TRADITION), we went out to our favorite Indian restaurant in Louisville – Shalimar. I got the usual (since my run was short and not long) of Broccoli Masala. Extra spicy. My favorite. Then it was off to get hot apple cider at Highland Coffee and head to Iroquois Park, where we had kettle corn while waiting for our time to head into the path with all the pumpkins.
This did make for a late night, and I went to bed the moment we got home because I had to get up early enough to stretch and figure out what I was going to wear. A front moved through with the rain overnight, so we suddenly were plunged into the 30s in the morning. My original plan to wear shorts was tossed out the window. But, our theme for our team was wear something pink (of course), green (my mom’s favorite color), and/or something with polka dots (since my mom’s name is Dottie). And I happened to have a pair of green leggings with polka dots on them. I had bought some pink compression sleeves that had polka dots on them. I had a pink short sleeve shirt. Green arm warmers. And pink gloves. I even had a Bondi Band with polka dots on it. I was covered. So, I got dressed and made sure I had my anklet on and my hair pulled up in proper pigtails (with pink and green hair extensions, naturally). I ate a quick breakfast of gluten free cereal (short race) and my roomie (also running, so no cheer squad and finish line photo for me) and I headed out the door to get to Cardinal Stadium.
Remember…it was cold outside. So, Cathy and I basically hung out in the car for as long as we could (we got their earlier than expected). My runner’s metabolism kicked in, because suddenly I was starving and I had over an hour until race time. I knew I should have brought backup. We got out of the car and donned some trash bags to insulate. Then, we meandered our way toward the team meet-up spot…Gate 4…which just happened to be near the start/finish and the stage. We were there for about 10 minutes, and then, one-by-one, my team started to arrive. Kelly and Elizabeth arrived, toting the bags with bibs and shirts. Then Tiffany and Kaleigh arrived as well. Dennis was the last one to arrive (we had more people registered, but other commitments and/or sickness took some out at the last minute). We wrangled everyone together for a group picture, then Dennis went to go warm up and the rest of us watched some of the Parade of Hope (Survivor’s Parade). The national anthem was sung, and all runners and walkers lined up to await the 9 am start of the race. As I was standing near the front, a woman (definitely a survivor) looked over at me and said, “Are you a runner? Are you running this?” I said, “Yes ma’am.” And she said, “Run for me.”
We had a fun countdown from 10 seconds to go…and then we were all off. I was only under orders to not run all out on this race, so I decided to run comfortably hard, aiming for around a 23 minutes. I felt strong, despite not being able to feel my feet/toes due to the cold air. I passed a few people as we headed down the corridor and made the turn onto S. Floyd Street. That put me up front as the first female and I was feeling pretty good. We rounded onto Central Avenue and up, up, up the hill we went. I usually get slowed down by hills, but my legs wanted to go. I powered up it, and rode that downhill on the other side (downhill, after all, is my favorite speed), making the turn onto S 3rd Street.
I ran through the water top, minding the bump of the casing over the cords. Then through the tunnel I went. I popped out, somehow missing that first mile indicator on my watch. I made the turn to run down and around Eastern, looping back and then heading down to make a loop of a small section of the U of L campus. Then, I was heading back toward the finish line (same as the start). Back down S Third Street I went. Still felt amazing and strong. And I was lifted even more as I hit Mile 2 and got shout-outs and waves from teammates Kelly and Elizabeth. Then Tiffany. Then my friend Jamie gave me a shout-out. I headed down the hill to go under the overpass and I could see Cathy coming down on the other side. She must have seen me too, because as I am running through, she literally stops to poke her head through and shout at me, “FIRST FEMALE.”
This is what friends do.
It was just before I made the turn back onto Central that I caught up to the man ahead of me. He told me “good job.” I kicked it past him and started up that stupid hill. I did push the hill, mostly because I tend to get passed on hills and I really didn’t want to be passed again. The people who were doing the walk were cheering and screaming at me as I crested it and headed down the hill to make the turn back onto S. Floyd St. More cheers of encouragement as I headed down the road and turned back toward where the start/finish line was.
My watch beeped the third mile as I was heading in, way too soon before I would hit that finish line…but I just ran it in. There was no timing mat or anything…but here was this race…this amazing race…that I signed up for to honor my mom…and I crossed the finish line as the 3rd overall (there were 2 other guys ahead of me) and first female. I have no finish line photos, because my race photographer (aka: Cathy – the roomie) was in the actual race itself. I was announced as the first female and was complimented on my hair. A woman came over and asked me if I had run the entire race. I nodded and I told her I had done it to honor my mom and she pulled me in for a tight hug. I needed it.
I grabbed a bottle of water and went to the other side of the finish line to cheer in everyone, including the first survivor to cross the finish line. The survivors got medals, and it was just so amazing and moving to see them all come in. I cheered in strangers, team members, and just enjoyed this part of the race. And, even though I had one of my strongest races, one of my best 5Ks in years…this wasn’t one giving out age group awards or placement awards. And none of it mattered to me at that moment. My mom was the reason I was there, knowing all that she had gone through over the span of the year, and was still currently fighting through…and that finish line moment was for her. Knowing I raced the best I could that day to honor her battle was award enough. Third overall…first female…strong day that morning.
So, the reason I have the asterisk by my time is not just because the race measured short on my watch…but because it was honestly not timed, and truly…the real finishes that we should celebrate are those who crossed that finish line having gone through or are currently going through treatments. I hope to return to this one again next year.
To those of you who were on my team, whether you were able to run that morning or not…THANK YOU!! Your show of support meant the world to me and I am honored to have such amazing people in my life.