Random thoughts were steaming through my head as I ran the last eight miles of the JFK50. I wondered what it was going to be like when I finally stopped running. I wondered what I would do when I saw my family. I wondered what I would say to my friend who is battling cancer when I told her that we ran a good race. My toughest miles that day were along the C & O Canal Towpath. Even as I struggled, I knew that my friend was competing in a tougher fight. It was through my friendship with her that I learned about The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults and I found a reason to run.
I started running in 2003 when my doctor told me that the best thing I could do was lose those extra pounds I had gained over the last couple of years. I soon started walking and eventually tried to run. My friends supported my fitness efforts and told me that I should sign up for the Race for the Cure 5k. I knew that I would not run the whole race, but I wanted to support a great event. I walked and ran my first 5k and crossed the finish line having a new goal. I challenged myself to run a full 5k.
An ultra marathon is a race that is longer than a marathon (26.2 miles). They are typically run on trails somewhere in the woods. I used to laugh at the people who ran these races. However, that year I ran my first 50k ultra marathon. I ran that race to prove something to myself. I wanted to prove that I could do anything that I set my mind to. I finished the run and experienced an unbelievable feeling of accomplishment.
Early in 2009 I was toying around with the idea of running a 50-mile race. I was hesitant because of the distance and the amount of time required to train. It seemed selfish to spend that much time doing something just for myself. However, over the course of one weekend it all came together.
I met my friend at work. I really enjoyed spending time with her because she was not like everybody else. I admired her drive and her nonconformity. She always motivated me to be myself and not sell-out to any corporate idea of what success meant. I always left our time together feeling powerful. One day she told me about her fight with cancer. I could not believe how strong she was even as she fought something so difficult. She was in the ifht and it was through her I learned about The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. She eventually left work and I did not see her as much. We still met up from time to time and she motivated me to do more than what someone else laid out in front of me.
One Saturday last spring, I went to her birthday party. The house was filled with friends and family members who were all there to support her. She had been in the fight for some time now, but she still had that way of making me want to do more. The party was one of those powerful events that left you feeling like there was so much more to life than what you thought about every day. The next day I went for a run in the woods. On the run I thought about her. Somewhere during those 10 miles, it all came together in perfect vision. On that day, I decided to run the JFK 50 mile in order to honor my friend and raise money for The Ulman Cancer fund.
I checked with my friend to get her blessing and shortly after I set up a fund raising web page through Ulman. I began telling my friends, family, and coworkers about my 2009 mission.Throughout the spring and summer I began collecting dollars and racking up training miles. I kept my friend up to datee with my progress and I thought about her fight and time I got tired of running. My favorite training run was the day I ran 30 miles from my home up to the battlefield in Gettysburg.
The 2009 JFK 50 was held November 21. By race day I had raised almost $1,500 for Ulman and had run over 1,100 miles training for the race. I was nervous that morning, but knew that even if I had to crawl I would finish the race. The course started in Boonsboro, covered the Appalachian Trail, crusied along the C & ) Canal towpath, and ended 50 miles later in Williamsport, MD. The race started at 7am. I began running.
My friend inspired me throughout the run. When I crossed the 50k mark I had run further than I ever had before. This was my toughest patch. My mind was telling me that I had never been so exhausted and that I should stop. At this low moment, I thought of my friend and all of the times she must have felt like this. My run was so insignificant compared to her fight. She had her doubts and fears, but she never quit. The last 19 miles would be run through uncharted physical and mental territory, but they needed to be run. Thoughts of cancer fighters and Team Fight gave me the strength to finish the 50 miles in 10 hours and 41 minutes. I called my friend after I hobbled back to my car. With a medal around my neck, I told her that we finished our run.
The Ulman Cancer Fund Supporter
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