Tuesday, November 24, 2009

my race...



Until Run from the Sun, I had never run a race in my life. I am not a runner, or any type of athlete for that matter. I have friends who run, and I have always applauded them. I admire them for their physical endurance and mental strength, for their ability to withstand the elements and forge through unrelenting obstacles...for the amount of time expended in pursuing such a sport. I myself enjoy exercising and staying in shape. When I work out, I give it my all - most days pushing myself to complete exhaustion. However, although I exercise 5-6 days a week, my work-out sessions rarely exceed 20-30 minutes. I feel like I’ve always lacked the strength and stamina necessary to train for, and participate in, any type of endurance sport. Running long distances has always been challenging for me...and by long distances, I mean anything over a mile or two.

I share all of this personal background for a reason. It was shock - just as much to me as to anyone - that when my friend casually announced she would be running a half marathon in just over a week, I blurted out “I want to run it too!” Wow, where did that come from? Did I really just say that? The girl who has never run more than 5 miles at one time, and who has only done that 2 or 3 times in her life? What makes me think that I could run a half marathon, when I haven’t even taken the time to prepare myself physically (or mentally) for such an undertaking? I hadn’t even trained! Despite all signs pointing to the fact that I had no business running this race, something inside me vexed “Do It”, and the more I fought that inner voice, the more determined I became to run that race.

Annette, my friend – who, by the way, has run several marathons, and who, (like most runners) actually trains and conditions for these races - told me that she would take me out on Saturday (just a week before the race) to pace me. She assured me that if I could run the 8 miles – no problem, that I would be able to run the 13 - with very few problems. Of course, I had my doubts. The night before our big run, I’m sure I slept less than 3 hours, I was so nervous. Surprisingly, I did ok. I was able to keep up with my proficient runner friend (barely), and felt like I even had some energy to spare. I decided to wait to register, at least through the weekend, to see how my body was going to recover from something so foreign. When Monday morning rolled around, and I didn’t have so much as a single sore joint or muscle, I knew that I was destined to run this race. Ever since I had heard about it, I had felt compelled, for some strange reason, to give it a shot; and now, just moments away from registering, I knew that there was no turning back. Now, what was that website Annette had told me about? Let’s see if I can remember the name of that race? Was it Run in the Sun? Or perhaps it was Run with the sun? No. The Sun Run? The Valley of the Sun? No. Ah ha, here it is… that sounds right - Run from the Sun, November 14th 2009. After clicking on the link, I arrived to the Run from the Sun’s homepage. Prior to this moment, I was not aware of the fact that its sole purpose was to raise skin cancer awareness. And that’s when it all started to unfold. You see, for the past week and a half, I had been anticipating a call from my dermatologist. For some time I had felt some incertitude with regard to a strange mole on my left hand, and had finally decided it was time to confront the issue. The mole was removed and sent in for a biopsy, and here I was, 11 days later, still wondering and anxiously awaiting the results. I did not find it a mere coincidence that I had, from the moment I heard about this race (without knowing beforehand of its cause), felt an inner drive to take part in it. My commitment to its objective suddenly became more compelling that the race itself, and I frantically searched for the “sign me up” button. I was happy to pay $75.00 for a cause that had just become so personal…so applicable to me and my current situation. Whether I actually had skin cancer or not, there was no doubt that in the last week I had thought more about that possibility than ever before. The prospect of actually having it, heightened my awareness of the disease, motivated me to make some changes with regard to sun exposure, and to be quite honest...down right terrified me.

Not more than an hour had passed since I had registered for the race, when I received that long awaited phone call. When I saw my doctor’s name stretched out across the caller ID display, I knew the moment of truth had finally arrived. A concerned voice on the other line reluctantly informed me that I did, in fact, have malignant melanoma. “Thank Heavens”, she assured me, “that you came in when you did. Because your melanoma is in the earliest stages, you can expect a high cure rate”. After giving further instruction, she left me alone…all alone to sustain the whirlwind going on in my head. Talk about impeccable timing. Now more than ever - I felt impelled to run this race…My Race.

The morning of the race had finally arrived, and although I felt physically inadequate for the task at hand, mentally I had never felt more prepared and excited for anything. It felt wonderful to be able to run for a cause - a cause which I had just recently become privy to. It’s hard for me to fully describe, or even attempt to explain, what happened to my mind and body while I ran that race. It’s almost as if I had an out of body experience, like something (or someone) greater than I, was pushing me - sometimes even carrying me - along that course. I felt like I was lifted to new heights, like I could take on the world, like there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish, like anything I put my heart and mind to - could be mine. I felt like by running that race, I was beating my cancer. Like each pound of my shoe to the pavement, was just another pound to the disease which had so inadmissibly invaded my body.



For a brief period during the race, we were blessed with a beautiful burst of rain. It felt refreshing and liberating. As great heavenly drops fell and splashed my face, neck, arms, and legs, I couldn’t help but ponder upon its significance. Rain symbolizes purity and cleansing, renewal and rebirth…a fresh start. To me, our race day rainfall was symbolic of my body being cleansed of its ailment. This sudden realization made me smile until I laughed out loud, and then it made me cry.

It was beyond amazing to have the support of my sweet husband and two children. They far exceeded my expectations by being at every single water station and cheering me on as I passed by. Often times my daughter was the one holding the water cup out for me, a sight which repeatedly melted my heart. After receiving that kind of moral support and encouragement from my beloved family, I couldn’t help but stop (on more than one occasion) and thank each of them with a kiss. I was not concerned with my time, I only wanted to finish the race; and seeing my precious loved ones all along the way, gave me the bursts of energy I needed to keep pushing through.



Nothing felt better than crossing that finish line and knowing that I had accomplished the impossible. I am not a runner, but I ran. For 13 miles I ran. I ran that race with my whole heart and with my whole soul. For me, this was so much more than just a race. It was a life changing experience. For me it represented everything that I had admired about my runner friends…the physical endurance and mental strength, the ability to withstand the elements and forge through unrelenting obstacles. And isn’t that what life is really all about? Forging through our obstacles? Weathering the elements? It’s about exerting physical, mental, and oftentimes emotional strength to be able to continue forward. It’s placing one foot in front of the other, until triumphantly, we cross that finish line.
Everything about my race – the pounding of the pavement, the rain on my face, the very fact that my family was there every step of the way – symbolized to me, my brush with cancer, my flight against it, and my own personal battle with it. And just as I crossed that finish line conquering…so will I claim victory over this intrusive malignant disease.



*Note: A Few days after the event, the race director sent an email to all the race participants, requesting that we each submit our "race day story". The commitee was to review each entry, and then pick the best 10. The prize? Free registration for next year's race! This blog post was what I submitted as my official "race day story"...and guess who will be running next year's race for free?!!! I was so excited!

18 comments:

Ashley said...

Way to go Nicole. That is awesome, I don't think I could ever be disciplined enough to train for a race. I hope things are going well for you guys.

natalie eve said...

awesomeness. i still can't believe you did that... i'm so proud of you!

sarahtuckett said...

I've said it before and i'll say it again and again... you are my hero and i am so glad to be your friend!

Laurel said...

Oh, Nicole. I just read your below post after this one, and I am so glad you found this when you did! I look at you in awe FREQUENTLY, even more so as I read more and more of the precious things in your life. As I'm sure you've heard hundreds of times by now, I know you will get through this like a champion. Is that weird that it's not even a question in my mind? While "cancer" is something EVERYONE is (and well should be) worried about, I am not "worried" for you. I read your submission with tears in my eyes, as well as a ridiculous notion that "I, too, could totally run a half marathon". (Ridiculous for me, by the way...) You are truly inspiring, and I hope you realize what a special and influential person you are.

diana said...

it is no wonder yours was selected as one of their top ten stories, this was so well written and brought me to tears. and by the end, sobs. nicole, i am so so proud of you. you are amazing.

buddens said...

Wow, that is quite the story. I'm sorry it ended up being cancer, but SOOO glad you listened to the prompting that came to you and caught it early. My dad had a similar experience last year, listening and acting quickly (with a different form of cancer) and he's now cancer free! I'm sure yours will be the same fate! You'll be in our prayers!

Karissa Kay said...

Nicole you are so amazing and inspiring. I cry almost every time I read your blog. I'm so glad you went to the doctor when you did and I'm so relieved to hear that it should be fairly easy to treat. I'll be praying for you!

Rachel said...

You are so amazing! Nice job! I'm sorry about your cancer. That hits so close to home for me--my husband was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma 2 1/2 years ago. It was the scariest time of my life. Luckily, after 2 surgeries, they got it all and he is cancer free! Good for you for getting checked. Keep me posted!

Rania said...

Nic, wow, you always seem to amaze me. You are such an inspiration and an amzingly strong woman in every aspect of that word. That is one one reason I have always kept you in my life. You always touch my heart and lift my spirit just by being you. I am a better person because you influence my life directly.I love you and I am so grateful that you are my friend.

Ethel Carola Aredes Tapia said...

hay amiga para mi siempre fuiste una mujer fuerte y de buen animo muchas gracias por compartir tu experiencias puesto que me leva el espiritud y te admiro mas se que saldras triunfante y le ganaras la carrera al cancer
te amo mucho amiga y como te lo dije ante sienprew estas presente en mis oraciones se sin ninguna dudas que todo saldra muy bien
y muchas fuerza para tu maraton personal

Carol said...

Nicole,your awesome, inspiring, strong, and a good friend :) Love and miss you and your family.

Kim said...

You are an awesome writer!! Great job. Also, I'm still so impressed that you ran a halfy! We need to all do it together now. P.S. You look great, I need tips. Actually I think I just need P90X!!

Angela said...

Amazing, just amazing.

Dad said...

Nicole,

I'm so proud of you! Your entry is so beautifully written. What an honor to have it chosen in the top 10 among so many!

I love you!

Travis and Teresa Wilson said...

Nicole you are so amazing! I don't think that I could ever do that without training. So glad that the cancer is easily treatable and that you are able to get it taken care of. Good job on the race that is incredibly inspiring. Someday.

Sarah Williams said...

OK after way more blog surfing than normal I FINALLY found your blog! and yes...I totally thought you were crazy when out of no where you just said...I want to do that race! now after reading your story I know you were inspired b/c I think thats the only way you could've thought to do it!! AND its amazing how you were fine after that race but we were dead after a race 1/2 the length. definatly a inspired race.

- Colleen said...

Oh you are amazing! And you definitely deserved to win for that entry! That was inspiring!

Heather said...

Wow! You are such an inspiration to me, Nicole! I am so sorry to hear about your skin cancer. It is amazing to me how you can turn such potentially devastating news into a life-altering, positive experience! Our prayers are with you! I know you will recover. You have touched so many lives, including mine, and I know that you'll continue to help and inspire so many others through this mortal sojourn.

You really need to write a novel someday - seriously! You truly have a gift with words!