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Running for a Cure
July 8, 2010 - Amanda Bird
It’s been several weeks since I crossed the finish line on June 13th at the Lake Placid half marathon. The experience feels more like a dream or distant future goal rather than something I’ve already lived. If I don’t thread the memory into my existence by capturing it in words, I’m afraid it will someday escape me. Words are the best magic trick in the world with the ability to conjure fantastical images with a few marks on a page.
I wasn’t nervous. I said I was because I thought I should have been, but I felt calm and purpose driven. Running 13.1 miles was never on my bucket list; but since my two-year-old niece, Madison, was diagnosed with leukemia one year ago, finding a cure is.
I’m not a doctor. I can’t spend hours in a lab playing with potions and manipulating cells to create a cure for cancer. But I can run.
Over 60 friends and family members helped me raise $3,094, and altogether, 205 Team in Training members raised more than $530,000 to support the real heroes of this cause- the millions of people affected by blood cancers.
If spending my life running laps around the world were enough to eliminate these diseases, you’d hear my feet pitter-pattering through your neighborhood until I was no longer able to walk; in which case you’d hear me whir by in a motorized wheelchair.
I felt prepared. My boyfriend, Jason, is the Strength & Conditioning Coordinator at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and spent hours on the road with me preparing for this day. When I felt like my feet couldn’t shuffle a single step further, he’d nudge me along with encouragement. He knew this was about more than a race, so he refused to give up on me because he knew I couldn’t give up on Madison.
Goosebumps wrapped my arms and legs and tickled the back of my neck as I walked to my position at the starting line. A sea of people started to clap as the gun went off, and the frenzied excitement made my eyes sting with tears.
Mom, dad, Jason’s mom, Jason, sister-in-law, nephew and niece were all there cheering me on, clapping for Aunt Amanda as I started the first few steps of a long journey, knowing that what I was about to do was a walk in the park compared to Madison’s journey.
Along the way I stopped to have a drink of water or nibble on snacks at the aid stations, and was overwhelmed by the number of friends that were along the road to cheer me on. Jason rode his bike the entire 13.1 miles with me, and I had a blast hamming it up for his camera lens.
As I made my way down River Road, the leader of the race whizzed by me on his way back to the oval. Really, he whizzed. Just as my legs were starting to feel like cement blocks attached to my hips, the top runners floated by towards the home stretch.
I looked around me to see if anyone else was running with cement block legs, and I saw plenty of people that had brick feet, peg legs and heavy loads on their backs. Relieved, I continued to plod along.
“Go team, good job!”
I snapped out of my one step, two step, three step cadence to see what team I was running alongside before realizing they were cheering for me.
I started to watch as I passed runners and runners passed me, and finally noticed the army of purple jerseys representing Team in Training. Everyone had a name written on their back of someone they were running in honor or memory of, and every name I whispered aloud gave me energy to continue moving. I wasn’t out there alone.
The last two miles were the hardest. My hips felt like rusty parts grinding against cement legs and my knees were struggling to bend with each step. My run was reduced to a shuffle.
I could see the high school and knew I was almost there. I started to run again. I saw the clock and couldn’t believe how many friends had waited so long to cheer me on at the finish.
While most competitors rounded the oval with their sights set on the finish line, I had another priority in mind. About 400 meters from the finish, Madison ran out to me with arms stretched to the sky. I scooped her into my arms, kissed her cheek, and asked her if she wanted to finish with me.
She wrinkled her nose, smiled, and nodded yes.
It took me 2:30.12 to finish the race, but it will take Madison a lifetime to run hers. I recognized so many faces at the finish as friends and family gathered together to cheer us on, and tears welled up in my eyes as I realized that Madison has an army behind her on this journey of life.
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