The Race for the Cure

On Sunday morning, I participated in my first running race ever.  It was the Denver Komen Race for the Cure.  If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, than you probably already know some of the details, but here are the rest:

I got up at 5am on Sunday, and my dad made me breakfast.  That was very nice, and he drove me to the race.  We got there at 6:30, and it was dark and cold!  The half hour went by fairly quickly- I stretched and ate a banana while I was waiting.  The sun was just coming up as 7am approached:

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My dad said he was going to go find the finish line and wait for me, so he wished me luck and we took this picture before he left:

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I lined up pretty close to the front of the starting line, and before I knew it, they were counting down to start.  I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but once the countdown hit 0, I started off, and pretty much got run over.  It didn’t seem like anyone was on a pace, at least from where I was.  Everyone was just running as fast as they could, full speed ahead.

People were running into me, and when a lady ran into me from behind with her baby stroller, I thought that was enough.  It seemed crazy.  I was near the sidewalk, so I stopped.  I stood on the sidewalk for a few minutes and let all these people run ahead.   I started again, and it was much better.  The course was uphill for the first mile.  I felt it in my shins and ankles some, but I slowed down just a bit, and concentrated on my breathing. 

I felt everything just come together, and and I found a really easy, comfortable pace and I was able to get my breathing in sync too.  I ran.  It felt great and freeing.  As I ran downhill after the first uphill mile, I  grabbed some water, and it spilled all over my hand and my jacket.  I had forgotten gloves and my hand were already cold- that didn’t help, but I didn’t think about it and kept running.

I was looking around at the neighbors that were out along the race route cheering everyone on, and I was enjoying the moment.  I noticed though, I started passing a lot of the people that had blown by me at the start.  I passed the lady that had hit me with her stroller, and I admit it- it felt good to pass her. 

The race seemed really short.  I knew we were getting to the last mile or so, and I tried to pull my jacket over my hands to keep them warm.  My jacket wasn’t long enough and my earphones got all messed up.  So I was running and fixing that, and as I ran down a hill, I saw the beginning of the runners- I knew I was in the first quarter of runners getting close to finishing.  The sun had come out from behind the clouds, so I got my earphones fixed, forgot about my cold hand, and put my sunglasses on.  I picked up the pace and started running faster.

The pace felt really good, and there was a surprise at the end- another steep hill.  I sped up again, and I passed a lot of people on this last hill.  I thought there was another half mile or so, but I turned to my right and saw my dad standing behind the median!  I called out to him, and waved.  He took this picture:

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I ran over to him and gave him a hug!  It was an emotional moment for me.  My dad helped me so much over the summer when I was sick and recovering from thyroid cancer and surgery.  He was there with me when I received the devastating news that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, and I had to have a neck dissection.  He was there when I was too weak to take care of myself.  He was there to help me with my boys.  He had been there to help me prepare my low iodine foods.  He had been there for me at my absolute worse, and my weakest.  It was the best feeling to be able to have this moment with him.  I’ll never forget it.

I looked at the finish line and saw that they had a clock- I hadn’t officially finished the race yet!  But I didn’t care.  I was thrilled to see the clock said 36:25 minutes.  I had been standing there with my dad for at least a minute, and I had stopped for a few minutes at the start of the race.  I told my dad, I was going to go cross the finish line.    So my “official” time was 36:35, but if I hadn’t stopped the two times, I think I would have finished around 34 minutes.  Here’s a picture my dad took as soon as I finished:

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The time didn’t matter to me- I was just so happy I had been able to run the entire race, and finished it well under my goal of 40 minutes.  As my dad and I walked over the booths, he told me had just gotten to the median about 15 minutes before he saw me.  He said no one had finished yet, and he was standing next to a guy who said the first finishers would be coming soon.  Sure enough he said two guys came blazing by to be the first men to finish.  Then he said the first woman finished just behind them, and he said she was incredibly fast.  As soon as he said that, I just had a feeling it was my friend, Sonja.  I told her last week, I knew she was going to be the first woman to finish- she’s that good!

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I got some water and some food, and called Sonja. It turned out she was really close to where we were, and we found each other.  I asked her how her race went, and she said with a smile that she had won, she came in first for the women, her time was 20:40, and the news station interviewed her. She was able to talk about her friend, Amy’s breast cancer and explain why she had shaved her head two nights ago- to support Amy during her upcoming chemotherapy.

My dad told Sonja he had seen her finish, and he had no idea that she was the Sonja I kept telling him about. :-)   I decided to stay and walk the mile race with Sonja, Amy, and more of their friends.  My dad left at that point, and as Sonja and I were walking towards the meeting place for the mile race, she was stopped several times by people who had seen her interviewed on the news. Here we are, waiting for the mile walk to begin:

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We walked the mile race with Amy, and a large group of Amy’s supporters.  As we finished the walk, we intersected with the 5k walkers and this is what I saw:

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It was remarkable and astounding to see that many people walking over I-25 (major highway in Denver) all for breast cancer.  I was not able to connect with Erika or my other friend, Nicole, but Nicole signed up for the run and ran the entire course as well!  We all accomplished our goals for the day, and that made it all the more special!

The entire experience for me was wonderful.  It was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.  I was walking around the rest of Sunday with a smile on my face, and I was smiling all day today.  My grandmother called me yesterday and congratulated me and told me how proud of me she was.  My entire family was very supportive, and to all my friends, Twitter friends, and Facebook friends, thank you for all the support and encouragement you gave me! 

Before the race, I fully expected to do this race and be done running.  I don’t have any plans at the moment, but I can say that I am not done running yet.  Besides, I just got new running shoes.  I can’t retire them until they are worn out. 

To be continued…

P.S.- Sonja is the guest blogger today at Mile High Mamas where she shares her story on her friend, Amy’s, breast cancer and her Race for the Cure experience.

Comments

  1. So glad your race experience was a great one. The pictures make me want to take part next year!

  2. Steve says:

    Heather – your writing and how you share your experiences is always so inspiring. Thank you for sharing this very intimate view of your race experience. I have run a few times, just for exercise, and I always enjoy it, although, just like you, it had always been one of those things I hated as I grew up. I really need a coach to help me figure out how to run better because I certainly can’t run very far. The Chicago Marathon is this weekend and I hope to go see it. Maybe one day I’ll run in it. But for now, I’ll settle for a mile or two along the lake. :)

    Keep up the good work. My world would not be complete without “A Mama’s Blog”. Love you girl.
    Steve

  3. Elaine Ellis says:

    Just wanted to say thank you so much for participating in the 2009 Komen Denver Race for the Cure. Your story is so inspiring, and we are grateful to have you as one of our nearly 54,000 participants. Thank you again!

  4. Elaine Ellis says:

    Also, we’d LOVE to have your pictures on http://www.facebook.com/KomenDenver

  5. A Mama's Blog says:

    Thanks for the kind comments everyone, and Elaine, the race was so much fun! Can’t wait until next year, and I added some of my photos to the KomenDenver Facebook page. :-)

  6. lung says:

    Your photos are wonderful! Your story is so inspiring, and we are grateful to have you as one of our nearly 54,000 participants. Thank you again!

  7. Jill says:

    I’m still catching up on my blog reading and just wanted to congratulate you again on your race! You are once again inspiring! The words you wrote about your Dad brought tears to my eyes!

  8. Congrats on a great race (and making and keeping your goals)…Way to kick cancer’s butt! :)

    (Sorry for the lateness of this comment–I’m one of those rude procrastinators who are always a week behind or so on their blog reading)

  9. susanna says:

    wow.this is so inspiring! i’m on Day #1 of Synthroid. Looking forward to feeling good again & exercising. I’m not really a runner, but definitely wanna run a 5K for a good cause like this. Thank you for being a ray of sunshine.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] was a major accomplishment after undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer earlier this year. Her recap is a sweet testament to fortitude, friendship and family support. Her friend Sonja was the first [...]

  2. [...] I’ve been inspired by several of my friends, also in their 30s, who have taken up running. Heather and Nicole both just ran their first 5k – The Race for the Cure. Alison has also taken up running. [...]

  3. [...] month I ran in my first ever running race, The Denver Koman Race for the Cure, supporting breast cancer.  At the end of that post, I [...]

  4. [...] my readers know the story- I was able to finish the 5K race, running, and I was hooked.  I have kept running since then- at times more intensely and seriously.  In July 2010 I entered [...]

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