Wednesday, January 30, 2013

5 Reasons that Running and Ultra is like Battling Cancer

5 Reasons that Running an Ultra is like Battling Cancer

Several things got me thinking about how running an ultra is similar to having cancer.  One of my Facebook friends David Murphy recently mentioned in a status that he never dreamed he would run 100 miles or that cancer would affect his life.  David raises money for Relay for Life during his runs.  I shared his status with a link to donate as well as mentioning that I also never dreamed that I would run 100 miles or that cancer would affect my life 4 times.  After writing that status I knew that I had more to share on the topic  

1.  The race/fight is tough but it will make you stronger. 

For me the thoughts of this started last summer.  I have an old friend who I worked with as a teen whose daughter had been diagnosed with cancer and it looked like she had a rough road ahead of her.  I like to focus on people and run with them in mind while doing ultras so during a 50 miler I ran with my friend’s daughter in mind for my 3rd loop (3 loops=50 miles).  I talked to her like a crazy woman.  I shared with her my first realization on how her fight was like my race.  I told her I knew it was tough, just keep going.  “You got this girl.”  Thankfully people were well spread out by the 3rd loop and my sanity did not become in question.

Realization on how awesome it is to be alive

While doing ultras and when I went through cancer treatments there were times that I could not get a smile off my face if I tried.  I guess during a run it can be explained as a runner’s high.  But for me both occasions seemed to be driven by the thought that life is precious.  Everyday is a gift.  Just like the smiles there are tears as well because again life is precious.

Dealing with despair.

Sometimes it feels as if you are trying so hard and that it might not be enough.  You are using up every bit of energy that you have and it might all be for nothing.  Yes, in ultra running and in fighting cancer there are times of despair.  What gets one through that time of despair is remembering that it will pass and the smile will return.

Friends, family and faith help you through.

Friends, family and faith were so important to me during the time I was dealing with cancer.  My husband was my number one supporter.  He felt a tremendous amount of fear and uncertainty but also knew that I was tough.  He never shared his fears with me but instead supported my tougher side as much as possible while still being a shoulder for me to cry on when I felt like taking a pity day.  Other friends and family called or visited to check up on me.  They let me know that they were there if I needed them.  Their support meant a lot to me.  They were all encouraging me to stay strong.  They sent prayers and good vibes.  They were all a part of it.

During an ultra you lean on your crew and pacer.  You also lean on the others supporting you.  No matter how tough you are the support is something that can make a difference between finishing and a DNF.  During the JJ100 this past year I was so blessed to have Carol and Tim pace me and to be able to fall into my husband’s arms at the finish line.  Also support from the aid stations of people that I knew and from complete strangers all meant something.  They were all cheering for me to finish.  They were all a part of it.

Not everyone makes it.

Despite your best effort, sometimes in an ultra you DNF.  My first attempt at JJ100 I dropped down to the 100K when I was 77 miles in.  I considered that a DNF.  I did not do what I set out to do, I failed.  It was a wise decision for me at the time and one that I do not regret making but still....I failed.  Despite months of training and planning I could not complete the 100 miles.  Regardless of my efforts a finish was not a guarantee.

Despite eating well, exercising and great medical technology not everyone who has cancer beats it.  regardless of their efforts a remission or healing is not guaranteed.

TODAY is a blessing.....nothing but love!