This is how it works-
I love to run but there are times when I would rather not. This is when the voices start. Chants, name calling, guilt and reverse psychology is how they get me up and out the door. I don't really mind the voices and have actually started looking forward to their daily calls. Together we have formed a running club that supports, encourages and competes with each other. I love these peeps. They are much more experienced, talented and tougher than I am. Pushing me out the door, through the hard miles and up the monster hills when I am feeling lazy or want to give up. Some people have "real" training partners, coaches and support crews. My team is ALWAYS with me and helps me to keep my eye on the prize and not veer off the track. Sounds crazy- Yeah, probably is.........

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A New Appreciation...

As the sun began to fill the sky, bringing the darkness into light and signaling the start of a new day, it became difficult to see the faces of so many that had braved the night in a celebration of lives and continuation of a long enduring battle. The difficulty was a result of my own blurred vision as tears formed in a steady stream down my face. This was it. The end of another Relay for Life. With my head down in an attempt to mask the emotion, hoping that it remained unnoticed by those that had stayed, I continued to circle the track lost in thought. This is the time during each Relay that I become overwhelmed by the sheer symbolism of it all. The new day brings forth the hope that we will win along with the knowledge that road ahead is long, difficult and, at times, painful. The dawning of a new day reinforces the notion that we are willing to stay the course and never take our eyes off the ultimate prize.

Throughout the night we celebrated, honored and remembered all of those that have been touched by cancer. We sold food, drinks, shirts, auctioned off baskets full of goodies, raffled a trailer and played carnival type games in an effort to raise just a few more dollars. The Luminaria Ceremony was held with the highest level of respect, followed by fireworks that filled the night sky. As the crowd began to dwindle with many calling an end to a long day, those that stayed knew it had really only just begun.

In the past, I had participated in the Relay for Life as a member of a team. Problem was is that I really wasn't a very good teammate. I mostly did my own thing throughout the year, raising money at different races and then just showing up on Relay night with my running shoes and a water jug. I never fully understood how amazing the whole event could be. Or just how much work and effort go into bringing things together in a manner that makes the night enjoyable and fun for everybody. I had been pretty selfish in this regard without even realizing it. This year my approach was a little different.

IRC Relay Team raised $8,800 this year
Back in October, as I prepared for my annual Turn the Trail Pink fundraiser, it became necessary for me to register early with the Relay website. Because it was so early, I just formed my own team thinking that I would merge with the old team later. As time passed the idea struck me that maybe I could get some new people involved through social media with my team. As it turned out, several people jumped on board and the Idiots Running Club Relay for Life team was born. I really didn't do anything different- still ran the same 50k, 50 miler and 100 miler to raise money as in previous years but as June approached it became evident that I might need a little better plan for Relay night. Thankfully there were plenty of people much smarter than I am that wanted to help.

We decided to set up our campsite in a birthday theme. Worked for me since the Relay and my  41st birthday were on the same day.  I asked for donations of $41 to run in the pink tutu and, no surprise to me, there were a few takers. Guess people like seeing a dude in a dress. Or, more likely, they are the very generous type and hate cancer as much as the rest of us. Either way.... the stupid tutu was worn but that's boring so we'll skip that part. My son also set up a campsite along with us. His theme was Superman and it was awesome. Awesome because he asked to be involved and be allowed to do his own thing. He even wrote a letter detailing exactly why he wanted to Relay. He's 10 and much more mature than his dad.

Never to early to get involved.....
Setting up the campsite was much more work than I had envisioned. It took all day and we were still scrambling to pull things together when the Opening Ceremonies began.. Several out of town team members showed up to support the event and run laps during the night. It was very cool to meet those that I had only previously known in a virtual sense through our facebook group. My Dad was able to make it again this year but he couldn't stay long because, while he is cancer free, the beast has taken it's toll and it can be difficult for him at times. I am very thankful that he made the trip and we did walked the Survivor Lap together.

A friend, Jamie, had been planning to come to the Relay as a member of the team for several months just to support the event. Recently her Dad was diagnosed with cancer and the Relay took on a different role in her life. I watched as she pushed her physical limits over the course of the night with a passion and dedication that couldn't be stopped. It became a personal journey as she circled the track 120 times for a total of 30 miles. One mile for each treatment her Dad is in the midst of receiving and eclipsing her personal distance record. When it became difficult and her legs started to get sore she never complained or talked about quitting. She just pushed forward knowing that it was nothing in comparison. It really does amaze me what people can do when they find the right motivation. It also helps to surround yourself with a bunch of people that understand and have the same desire to fight back. Every person there recognized, supported and felt exactly the same way as Jamie. It's hard not to succeed with that kind of energy in the air.

Obviously she wasn't the only one that did amazing things that night. Her story just seemed familiar to me. Several teammates logged big miles and honored those they love or have lost. I can honestly say that every single person who walked, ran, participated in activities or worked during the night are heroes in my eyes. Hope is the common bond that brought us all together. With hope there is the courage to fight back. There are many soldiers in the fight that are filled with hope and I appreciate and am grateful to be with them in this battle.

My goal was to run 41 miles. I ran 35. In the years past the mileage has averaged 55. What happened? Well..... It's much easier to just show up an run than it is to actually participate in a Relay for Life. I played games, hung out at the campsite, ate a ton of food, laughed, smiled and took in the entire atmosphere of the event this time. Not only did I have more fun than ever before, I gained a new perspective and appreciation for the hard work and effort that everybody puts in. I had been running with blinders on since 2010 and didn't really get that EVERYBODY involved works really hard to end cancer. In some weird, egotistical dreamland I had somehow pushed aside the importance of their contributions and managed to minimize it in the past. I knew they cared. I knew they were dedicated. I knew they were passionate. But this year I opened my eyes and watched with clarity as friends, families and complete strangers worked with a level of selflessness and determination that was many times greater than my own.

Just for fun....
I love learning new things about the character of others and the flaws of my own each time I take another step in this journey. It can be humbling at times but that is what makes it so worthwhile. Knowing that as hard as I might try at any given time there are 100 people doing so much more keeps me secure in the knowledge that HOPE is alive and a world without cancer is in our children's future. Thank you to all who participate, donate and are active in the fight. Without your dedication nothing happens.


Paula Kiger said...

Well said. Cancer sucks and it is energizing, comforting, and mobilizing to fight it together.

Icnat_Foster said...

Very well said David! I absolutely love the work that you did for your dumb little club and the community work that you do. I am learning by your example, one day I want to do what you do and run races strictly for a cause and not for myself. I donate to the charities, but have never been a sponsor for a cause.