A Run-In with Cancer

I’ve been working my way through the July 2011 issue of Runner’s World.  It’s a special edition devoted to cancer and running.  The entire issue is a tremendously rewarding reading experience because I am simultaneously humbled and inspired by each featured subject’s amazing athletic accomplishments preceding, but even more impressively, following his/her embattled run-in with cancer.

They’re not all professionals either.  For example, there’s the woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35, when 24 weeks pregnant.  She had a breast plus 6 lymph nodes removed, then gave birth, and then went through radiation therapy.  Now 42, she’s running marathons and embracing healthier living.  Or how about the 48 year old who lost a leg and a lung to cancer decades ago.  With the aid of a carbon fiber leg, she has since done 3.5 hour marathons, Ironman, and most recently the Western States 100.  That’s 100 miles of continuous running through mountainous trails over a 24 to 30 hour period.  Of course, don’t forget the guy who fought off end-stage prostate cancer and went on to win the Tour de France (and is now mostly running and swimming), but I think I’ve already covered him in an earlier post.

I was particularly taken with this statistic:  17% of surveyed Runner’s World readers are being or have been treated for cancer.  17%!  Whether that is causal or merely correlative doesn’t really matter, although I do think it’s a bit of both.  Many people seek out non-pharmaceutical methods of helping their bodies recover from the ravages of cancer and traditional treatment: yoga, prayer, acupuncture, diet, walking, meditation, reiki, and the list goes on.  In that vein, for both neophytes and seasoned veterans, running can be a very powerful tool to rebuild muscle mass, regain cardiac and respiratory function, regulate body fat, improve sleep, and benefit mood.

Also striking is the community building aspect associated with running, and with running and cancer in particular. Ever heard of Team in Training?  How about the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure?  Together, these and other similar running programs raised $650M for cancer research, education, and treatment last year alone.  Take the spontaneous camaraderie rampant at any of your local 5K or 10K’s, douse liberally with the emotional connection to a loved one’s struggle with cancer, add in a dash of philanthropy to help a very worthy cause, and you’ve got a winning combination to do quite a bit of good in the world while getting healthier to boot.

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