David and I ran a 5K called PurpleStride this weekend, along with some very game family members who volunteered to push our children around–all 71 pounds of them, mind you–in a stroller on the coinciding walk. The whole purpose was to raise funds and awareness for research to find a cure for pancreatic cancer.
Only six percent of all people who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are alive five years later. My father was not in this minority. And the thing with pancreatic cancer is how little it’s discussed, how little money is funnelled to research. Pancreatic cancer is seen as the lost cause. I don’t like lost causes. They annoy me.
So we ran.
And ran we did. Holy Moses, that was the pits. We didn’t find out till we got there that the course was cross-country. I thought it was a mistake when I saw the start/finish line marked in the grass. At the base of a hill. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I told David. “They’re joking, right? This was supposed to be a fun run!” Fun run: if that’s not an oxymoron, I don’t know what is.
But we were one of the first ones on the starting line. In the 80-something degree heat, under direct sunlight. Two items to note here: I run at 6:30 in the morning or 6:30 at night for a reason. I’m like a vampire when it comes to exercise–I either want to be in semi-darkness, or in an artificially lit gym, where there’s no hot sun beating down, and where the air is preferably climate-controlled. Also, I’m a road-runner. Asphalt and I are friends for a reason: I am a lazy exerciser. I want to get it done, do it well, in as little an amount of time as it can take. Having to sweat from being hot on top of actually working out? Well, that’s just inconvenient.
It was the longest 3.1 miles I’ve ever done in my entire life. I thought I was going to die (Okay, not the best choice of words to use when discussing an anti-cancer race, but it was pretty awful, and I really thought I was done for). The terrain was so unpredictable–at one point I ran straight into mud, and seriously said out loud, to no one, “Ohhhh, my new shoes!“–I couldn’t get into a mind set or a groove. David was jogging with me, and apparently I was running an 8-minute mile to keep pace with him (this mama has never run an 8-minute mile. I run so slowly sometimes I think I actually jog in place) and just pooped out, slowing down at an incline around the 2-mile marker (I really wanted to crawl, but there’s this pride thing I have…). So David asked if I’d mind if he ran ahead. Sure, I said, and watched him take off. But I fibbed. I didn’t want him to run ahead. I wanted him with me. I was going to need somebody to help carry out the stretcher when I finally collapsed on the side of the course.
But we did it, David a little more quickly than I. I cut across the last loop (see aforementioned note about keeling over my muddy shoes and dying from heat stroke) because I didn’t think I’d make the last stretch (all uphill, through a small forest, over a giant ravine, into the Sahara…you get the idea), then got so mad at myself I waited to cheer him across the finish line and went back to the 2-mile mark and finished the course. The bonus to this is that I got to tell David that even though he ran faster, I went for distance. No?
But we did it. And thanked my family for overextending their bicep muscles by pushing that gigantic stroller up those hills, of course. I shouldn’t complain, really. I got to run through woods and mud and down hills and climb “mountains.” I basically got to behave like I did as a kid for a half hour, just with older muscles and better arch support. I watched two older men crossing the finish line–obvious marathoners–and the one man told the other that it was the hardest course he’d ever done. “It was like climbing Mount Everest!” the other said. “Well, not exactly. But close….”
Lots of purple yesterday. The runners and walkers created a sea of it. Survivors got up to introduce themselves during the opening ceremonies. That was a little rough. I do wonder what my dad would have thought about all this nonsense. He might have told us to go watch some football instead, unless he knew the Redskins had a bye. Obviously, we couldn’t help my dad yesterday. We raised a little money, though, and David’s company, bless their corporate hearts, matched the amount, which made me feel pretty good. My dad didn’t find out till the very end of his life how bad the odds are for this disease–it’s not something people really volunteer while sitting around getting their chemo. But if we can just add a small drop to the puddle that is research, and hope–if we can help one other person feel that there’s a chance, that he’ll see his grandkids grow, then, well, I’ll run that awful course any old day.
Cancer is so hideous a creature, it boggles my mind that so many people get it. It’s not right. It’s not fair. And it doesn’t discriminate. Know it. Fight it. End it. A 5k was nothing, even if it was uphill both ways. Our family members that fell victim to this thing would just shake their heads at us. Struggling to finish, complaining about the course, well, that’s the privilege for those of us who are alive.
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