My dear friend and running buddy Truc has put up with a great deal from me over the past few years. Not only has she allowed me to con her into running in the frosty pre-dawn hours of many a miserable winter morning, but she has also graciously allowed me to drag her to running races when she obviously had better and more comfortable things to do.
Case in point: Every Mother’s Day weekend, the Stanford Native American community holds a pow-wow in a eucalyptus grove on the north side of campus, including a low-key 5K (3.1 miles) fun run/walk as part of the festivities. It had been a few months since the last time I managed to coerce Truc into entering a race with me (at the Kaiser Permanente Half-Marathon in SF back in February), and I wanted to do one more before entering cancer treatment. She could have enjoyed the morning while boogie boarding with her family at one of our beautiful Northern California beaches, but instead she magnanimously opted to come and run with me.
After biking from our homes to the starting area on a surprisingly nippy May morning, we milled amongst a crowd of contestants numbering no more than 50 children and adults, runners and walkers, Native Americans, Asians, Caucasians, students, retirees. The casual, intimate gathering presented a stark contrast to our last race, a full-blown affair with corporate sponsors, thousands of runners, and mazes of traffic. The morning’s course ran 3 times around the pow-wow grounds, passing by the attendee camping area and up Palm Drive and swinging back around the circular cluster of teepees, food vendors, and jewelry hawkers.
While running, I concentrated on my form and marveled at the beauty of the trees. I thrilled to the customary feeling of well-being that rushed through me as I kicked up the pace with each mile. As I turned into the final stretch, I realized that I want to experience this exhilaration again and for a long time to come. I would fight cancer. I would work hard as I have for everything else of importance in my life. I would outrun cancer, outlast it, defeat it.
I managed a personal record that morning. Clocking in at 26:28, I beat my previous best 5K by almost a minute and also ended up running faster than all the other women in my age group (admittedly, there were probably just 5 of us). More importantly though, for the first time in a few days, I felt a resurgence of optimism, control, and dedication. I can do this.
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