Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Reflecting on the Run Across America

Just as I don't feel like the photos I took really capture the beauty I saw on my journey, I don't think words can do this experience justice.

I was constantly in awe of the group who went "wire to wire", from Oceanside, CA to Washington, DC. They were all determined and focused. Even at day 18 or day 20, they stepped up, sometimes the first to run on a shift despite having hundreds of miles of running under their feet. I totally admire their strength, determination, endurance, and spirit.

Every day, several times a day, we reminded ourselves of the purpose for our journey. As Eric said on Day 1, "This isn't hard. This is a challenge. Fighting cancer is hard." We were reminded that we chose this journey, but that those fighting cancer don't get a choice. Every day, we had a dedication circle and talked about who we were running for. It was almost a spiritual experience. The run wasn't about the miles, or who did what, but about spreading a message and raising awareness. Every time I encountered a hill, I thought "You can't quit cancer, and I can't quit running." On every hill, I thanked Carole (my coach) for all of the hill repeats I had leading up to this. I KNOW they made me stronger, and gave me the mental toughness to get through.

Some of you know that I was really scared in the days leading up to this. Would I be able to pull my weight with the running? Could I do this? Did I have what it took? The first day Brian (from the Ulman Cancer Fund) and I arrived, the group had already run 12+ miles in the morning. We had a long evening of running ahead of us. It started to get chilly and dark, and I wondered if I had what it took. There was a lot of self-doubt that night. 25 yards from the water bottle signaling the end of my last mile, I stepped on an uneven shoulder and went down hard. I twisted my left ankle and couldn't stand on it. Thankfully, the sweep van was not far behind me when it happened. They saw what happened, and three of them literally swept in to carry me back to the van. I was cold and in pain. The crew at the RV fed me, gave me warm clothes and blankets, and got my ankle iced. I was texting Tommy but couldn't call him because I knew I would cry. One day and I had an injury that likely would keep me from running.

My ankle swelled and I iced it like crazy. The next morning, I figured I would give running a shot. The first few miles were stiff, but I was much less sore than I thought I would be. Was this possible? Could I continue on this journey? It was definitely swollen, and I put in a few less miles than everyone but I was able to run much more than I ever expected. I ran more than I thought I could when I was healthy.

It wasn't about the miles, but as Laura, Ashley, and I reflected on day 21, so much of the journey was possible because of the support we gave each other. Without our goal, our purpose, and the support of others, it would have been so much more difficult. I knew that if I couldn't run on my ankle, I would have the support of everyone else, but that made me want to try even harder.

I learned so much on this journey. I learned that I am stronger and more determined than I ever imagined. I learned that the support of others makes all the difference in the world. I learned that this journey wasn't about the running, but raising awareness and continuing to support The Ulman Cancer Fund even when we reached the finish line. I was reminded of how much Tommy loves me, and all that he does to support me (not to mention my parents and sister). I gained a second family, many of whom I knew before but have come to love like family.

We heard amazing stories every day. People who clearly did not have much came out of nowhere to give us donations. We met people who had lost loved ones to cancer and were thanking us for running. They were amazing and inspirational. We often felt humbled by their thank yous. What we were doing was by choice. They didn't have a choice.

There were lots of hugs, a lot of tears, and a LOT of laughter on this journey. Words don't do it justice, but I am so thankful to everyone that supported us, everyone that I ran with, and everyone who inspired us along the way.

On my last day, I ran for all those who haven't yet received their cancer diagnosis. That they may have the strength to fight, and the support of an organization like the Ulman Cancer Fund to help get them through.


  1. Definitely an incredible experience. One I know I will never forget!

    Great job powering through your ankle injury too...weird (and amazing) how the body let's you do certain things.

  2. A to the Men SISTA!!! Forever changed b/c of the run and the people we met along the way.. but mostly for the journey w/ my friends and w/ myself! Thank you for your guidance and support. ALWAYS!