Last Saturday I ran the AF Canyon Half Marathon. I have been preparing for it for a few months, but it was hard this year, because I had to train carefully. After last year’s race, I discovered that I had 3 stress fractures in my legs (presumably due to running while taking Zometa, a bone strengthening drug which, ironically, can make bones more susceptible to fractures). I have only been able to run about twice a week, or else the pain in my femurs is too much, and I fear a stress fracture.
I have definitely not been running as much as last year for this race, but strangely, I continue to feel stronger the farther away I get from all my treatment. It seems odd to still be recovering, because I have been in remission for two years, but I’m certain that’s why I feel better than I have in a long long time.
My pre-race sleeping and eating routine was well planned. I woke up at 3:55AM to make it to the bus pick-up at 4:30. I arrived at the top of the canyon by about 5AM; one hour before start time.
The AF Canyon Half Marathon is put on to raise money for cancer patients who can’t afford treatment. I love that all the money goes to that cause. This has been a special race for me because it was the race I trained for during my treatment. I ran it right after I found out I was in remission. It was a difficult challenge to finish such a long race during that time, but it was mentally and physically great for me to have this goal. My radiation nurses were the ones who referred the race marketing guy to me, and he asked me to speak at the top of the canyon before the race started two years ago. They also made a little video about me for the race website.
So many people run in honor of, or in memory of, someone they love who has battled cancer. Many cancer survivors also run this race. The speaker at the top of the mountain this time happened to be the first doctor who did surgery on me. She said that she was running in honor of her patients. I haven’t seen or spoken with her since the very beginning of my battle with cancer, and I made my way over to her right before the gun went off.
I said, “You have done surgery on me, . . . twice.” She said that I looked familiar, and I told her my name. I said that I wanted her to tell her patients with stage 4 breast cancer that there are some who survive. I told her that I had cancer in my spine and pelvis, and that I had now been in full remission for two years. She had tears in her eyes and thanked me for speaking with her. She said that she may have some of her patients call me if that was okay. I said, “Of course!”
The race was beautiful, as always. The air was crisp and cool as we followed the river seven miles to the mouth of the canyon. People wore shirts with pictures of their loved ones with cancer, and there were signs placed alongside the road with messages of hope for specific cancer patients. I stopped at the second water station at mile five, and continued to where I knew Branden would be waiting for me.
At 7.5 miles we exited the canyon, and there were several people there cheering on the runners. Branden met me there and joined me for the rest of the race. I discovered that I was making better time than I thought I would. My original goal was just to be in the 1:50s, but I soon realized I had a chance to break my time from last year, and that became my new goal. I felt strong through mile 10, then I was just trying to keep moving for the last 3.1 miles.
Branden encouraged me a few times, and I was glad to have him with me, but I was so tired that it took all my focus to just put one foot in front of the other. I was still trying to break my time, but I was getting grumpy about it! Near the finish Branden stopped since he wasn’t really in the race, and I looked up at the clock. I was going to beat my previous best time by over a minute! I pushed myself to finish strong, and made it through the crowd of people to reunite with Branden. I was all smiles after I stopped running.
I love this race, and it made me really happy to break my time from last year. I am just so happy I can run, and thankful to be getting healthier and stronger all the time. I have so much to be grateful for!