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Lilac 5K race Report

May 21, 2012

This is a different kind of race report. This was the goal that we set together on January 25, 2012, which was my birthday and the first night of our Teens Living With cancer Fitness Program. As you remember that was a rough night. The teens walked into an assessment that revealed to them how strong and fit they were not.

Their lack of strength of fitness was due to their journey through cancer. Chemotherapy, surgeries, medications, hospital stays, etc. Our most difficult training days as athletes pale in comparison to what these kids went through.

And then we kicked them in the teeth.

Many of them didn’t want to come back after that first night. Reality is a hard thing to face sometimes and to be honest, they’ve seen more than their fair share of reality. More than you or I ever will at least.

But they came back and through the next 8 weeks they changed their lives. They practiced yoga, built strength with ther-a-bands and lifted weights using water filled milk jugs (we didn’t have funding for actual weights, we got creative). They walked circles and circles inside of a building. When it got nice out we went outside.

And Sunday…… we finished what we started. They completed the Lilac 5K.

Alec was the first to pull into the parking lot. He was just declared Cancer free a few weeks ago and has his last biopsy this coming Wednesday. He’s an adventurous sort of kid and he jumped out of his car looking like he …. was tired. It was after all, 7am.

“I got 6 hours of sleep” He cried out. To me that’s bragging, but to a teenager, that’s torture! I smiled. I am so proud of these teens.

They rolled in one by one by one. Paige snuck out of the house after returning home from her own sister’s wedding at 1:30am, and needing to get this 5K done and over with, because she had to get back home to help with family brunch. She essentially snuck out of the house. “My mom’s gonna kill me.” she said.

They all arrived and we donned our matching orange T shirts, thank you to Mike Rief at Innovative Edge Sports, for these, and to the Richard Burke Family for sponsoring our team!

One by one they arrived, looking tired yet excited. This was everyone’s first race ever, and it had been a long time coming. It was a gorgeous day and we were ready.

Together we walked over to the race site, walking nice and briskly to get warmed up. Within our group would be two groups. Runners and walkers. My training buddies laughed when I told them I was walking a 5K. But today I was very proud to walk a 5K. These teens and I set this goal together and we would achieve it together.

Before the race I had the unique opportunity to address the athletes on the microphone. Our group was standing in front of the field, facing it. One or two runners did ask me if we were going to move. Knowing that these guys would feel like absolute asses when they heard what I was going to say on the mic, I assured them we would be as soon as I gave a quick few words. They meant no harm, if I had seen a bunch of kids standing in front of my swim in a triathlon I would have said the same thing. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of a perspective bump. After all this is a pretty big race around here and the best of the best come out.

Dan Medved welcomed the crowd and the runners and then handed me the mic. I introduced them to the kids, and let everyone know that this goal had been set on January 25th of this year. People are starting to know who we at Teens Living With Cancer are….. in fact big thanks to Chrissie Wellington and Greg Welch of Ironman dot com, as they gave TLC and our Duel in the pool a giant shout out during Ironman Texas coverage!

I reminded them that our worst training day is nothing compared to what these teens have been through. Chemotherapy, surgery, things we can’t imagine. It’s true. What….. we have some sore joints…. a high heart rate? Try having bone marrow drawn from your tailbone. Perspective.

The crowd gave them a giant cheer and we assumed our position in the field according to what we were doing.

As the gun went off I settled in with Brittany, Bryn, Michaela, and Lauren. We had a good and steady pace. We averaged just under 15 min miles and they were all amazing. We walked briskly, navigated water stops, the girls had a riot throwing their cups on the ground (don’t worry, they get picked up!).

I kept reminding them that each step was a step closer to the finish line.

They relished the race experience. With each passing mile they knew it wasn’t bad, they kept up the pace, they hit the water stops.

Brittany, Michaela and I ran once we hit mile 3. We had a few competitors we needed to drop. You would have thought these girls were the race winners with how the crowd went nuts. I did my best to scream and point to them and I stayed right behind them. We were in this together, that’s for sure.

Post race we met up with the running group and there were awesome tales. The “Oh man I felt like I was gonna hurl” to “I dumped water right over my head”. They were spent but they were elated. There is nothing, nothing like your first finish line. I always remind athletes that they only get one first finish line.

They loved it. absolutely loved it.

I thought back to that night in January. They didn’t know me well, I didn’t know them well. They put their blind faith in me, in us. I didn’t do anything magical, this credit does not belong to me.  To them I am the nudger. I am the cheerleader. They are the ones who overcame. They overcame cancer, they overcame doubt, they overcame all those barriers that hold people back from achieving their dreams.

Cancer gave them a unique sources of perspective to draw from. “I had cancer, I can do this.” They can apply that to anything in their life.

Of all the races I have done in my life, the wins, the qualifications, the defeats….. this was my proudest. I was honored to walk alongside these Teens who have been through days that I can’t even begin to imagine. Who have legs that are pinned together, who were given odds not in their favor. Who walked around in the most impressionable years of their lives without hair, without knowing if they even had a future.

This 5K was them not grabbing their life back, but continuing to create their path.

They wanted to know when the next race was.

Soon grasshoppers, soon.

This coming Wednesday is the final assessment of our TLC Fitness program. We are testing their fitness levels 8 weeks after the study ended. So far the research concluded that I could have pushed them harder, which I knew. We are already planning the next program where the ante will definitely be stepped up. Instead of milk jugs filled with water we are hoping for kettleballs. I have some TRX suspension trainers on the way. I have ideas and thoughts and things flowing.

The sky is the limit. That’s what these teens have taught me. Let nothing hold us back, and never stop dreaming.

Way to go team!

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One comment

  1. mary, you and your teens are amazing!
    thank you.



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