Back in 2005, my friend Allison...who was a completely healthy woman in her early 30s...was diagnosed with a rare kind of cancer called Hairy Cell Leukemia. Luckily, this type of cancer is highly treatable, but the chemo is really harsh and it kicked Allison's ass. Almost overnight, my healthy, vibrant friend lost almost 20 pounds and was bed ridden. She had constant bone pain in her legs that lasted weeks and she would go through bouts of rigor...where she would shake for hours.
Watching her lie in that hospital bed, unable to eat or sit up or brush her own teeth was completely unbelievable to me. I knew she'd be alright eventually, but it was hard to
What was even more unbelievable to me was that six months after she was released from the hospital, I was standing at the finish line of the San Diego marathon waiting for her to cross. When she came into sight it was a huge relief that she was OK and she had made it...but also there was a feeling of awe for how amazing my friend was. She refused to let anything...including cancer...keep her from reaching her goal.
At that moment I was inspired to follow in Allison's footsteps...literally. When we got home from San Diego I signed up to run the Phoenix marathon.
You have to understand something about me...I hate running. I don't like to run unless someone is chasing me...and even then, I really have to weigh my options. I've never experienced a runner's high and I don't understand what people mean when they say they've had a "great run". I've never had even a mildly pleasant run...never mind a great one. Running hurts my shins and my knees and I cannot seem to manage to do it and look graceful at the same time.
To give you a good idea of how unlikely it was that I'd ever run a marathon...when I told my dad that I was going to run a marathon, he laughed hysterically for ten minutes.
But I was determined. I signed up with Team in Training...a charity that raises money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society...and they provide you with tons of resources to get you ready to run your race.
From August 2006 to January 2007 I went to two training sessions per week with a coach and did several training sessions on my own. I ran hills in Central Park...I ran sprints around the NYC Reservoir...I did long distance runs along the Hudson River. I also had meetings with a nutritionist and sport medicine doctors. I got a cortisone shot in my knee and one in my hip. I went through two pairs of sneakers. I limped for about three weeks. In the end, I had to drop from the full marathon to the half because of all my injuries and how much time I had to spend recovering from them.
The morning of the marathon, I woke up at 4AM, got dressed, ate a peanut butter sandwich and headed out to the starting line. It was 30 degrees and freezing...the coldest morning in Phoenix in 10 years. As I waited to start running I kept asking myself why I was doing this? What was I thinking? I seriously considered getting back on the bus and going back to the hotel.
But I didn't. Instead I ran (and walked at times) 13.1 miles. As my running partner and I reached the end of the course, our coach met us and ran us into the finish, ringing a cow bell and cheering for us. The finish line came into view...along with my mom, who was standing there cheering us on...and I knew I'd done it. I'd actually finished the race.
My time was appalling...so bad that I've completely blocked it out of my mind. But I didn't care. When I started my training I couldn't even run a quarter mile without becoming totally winded and needing to stop...and five months later I was able to complete a 13.1 mile half marathon. And in the process, I managed to raise $4,000 for a wonderful organization.
If you are considering taking on a challenge like this I really encourage you to give it a shot. Because you can do it. It was a lot of work...but it was also extremely rewarding. And if I was able to make it through the training and the race, anyone can.