Friday, July 04, 2008

RR: "IN HONOR" - Run for the Rainforest 5K

June 21, 2008
Run for the Rainforest 5K - Arlington, VA
TIME: 37:02

On Saturday June 21st, after 2 failed attempts due to extreme thunder and lightening storms, I ran the Run for the Rainforest 5K. The goal of this 5K was simply to run each mile "IN HONOR" of the two CT5K runners from our Spring program, Jessica Datta (whom I will refer to as Jessy) and Cindy Clark who were unable to complete the program due to injuries they sustained and for my close Cyclist Combating Cancer teammate Cindi Hart, who is currently undergoing a second round of Chemotherapy for a Breast Cancer reoccurrence.

The back of my running shirt...

Joining me on my run, were Jessica Tanner, fellow CANCER to 5K teammate and her friend Chaaron. Waiting for us at the finish line were fellow CT5K teammates Ben Fabella, Arnetta Davis as well as Michael (Jessica's fiancée) and Chaaron's boyfriend. The race followed parts of the Bluemont Trail, W&OD Trail and Custis Trail and wound us through very familiar neighborhoods that Team CANCER to 5K had trained on all spring. It couldn't have been a more appropriate place to race. We waited with Ben, Arnetta and a pretty large group of about 300 runners for the official start of the race while a DJ played classics like "Eye of the Tiger" to get us pumped up and motivated. With a simple shout of GO, the race director started the race (we never did know where the actual start line was) and off we went along with the pack.

Mile 1, I dedicated to Jessy Datta as I ran with Jessica and Chaaron. The course led us along Bluemont Park in a rolling downhill and Chaaron joked about how she was going for her _slowest 5K ever_ while she recovered from her first 10k the weekend before as we merrily ran along in the midst of a pretty full pack of runners. Jessica and I chatted about the day, talked about her Survivor Harbor race and talked about Jessy and how she was doing. I talked about Jessy's seemingly unshakeable "SPIRIT" and how it seemed that regardless of the obstacles that life keeps throwing in Jessy's path - she just keeps finding a way to move forward. We both agreed that Jessy is an amazing women and a good example of how CANCER can bring out a tremendous strength in you. It is no surprise to me that as we ran this first mile for Jessy, we rolled along solidly and with strength.

Mile 2 was for Cindy Clark, another CANCER to 5K teammate who had some knee issues that kept her from the last 2 weeks of training and race day. About mid-way through Mile 2, as I joked to Jessica and Chaaron that they were way off the mark for running the _slowest 5k ever_ , the pace really caught up with me and I had to take a walk break. Jessica and Chaaron went on ahead and I had to laugh with irony as I realized less than 30 seconds later I hit the race water-stop. I thought of Cindy in that moment and imagined what she might say, at a time like this. My guess was that she would say _Well I told them exactly where I wanted my water-stop and here it is!_ So I took the water gladly and then got back to the business of running.

Those of you who have not had the pleasure of running with Cindy, have no idea just how funny and sharp her comments can be so it was no surprise to me that, as Mile 2 turned onto the Custis Trail, I had another _Cindy Clark would say that_ moment. There was a volunteer at the right turn, leading us onto the new trail. As we made the turn I said "Thank You" to the volunteer. She looked me dead in the eye and said, "You might not be thanking me in a few minutes..." I laughed OUT LOUD because I was familiar with this section of the trail and I knew that we had some steep hills ahead and so I said to her "Well I do know what is coming ahead and I am still saying Thanks!" and it was the volunteer's turn to smile. There is no doubt that had Cindy been working that corner, she would have found a way to warn us about the hills and make us smile anyways.

As the runners around me and I tackled the short steep climb that led in to the start of Mile 3 things got very quiet on the race course. Now was the time to settle in and focus and Mile 3 was my time to run "IN HONOR" of my close friend and CCC teammate Cindi Hart. Cindi is an amazing friend, mother, athlete and inspiration in my life. I had the pleasure of meeting her in person for the first time when she was in DC meeting Eunice Shriver as part of her work as a Coach for the US National Special Olympics cycling team. We had dinner and she shared her amazing story of meeting Eunice in person and listened and cried with me as we spoke of the unexpected things that CANCER had taken and brought into our lives. Cindi was also my roommate for the LiveSTRONG Summit in Fall 2005 and Cindi was the first person that I ever shared my little "CANCER to 5K running program" idea with. She was the first person to encourage me to go ahead and make it happen.

The 3 Amigas at the LiveSTRONG Summit 2006...
(KeliAnn, Holly & Cindi)

Cindi is a true cancer WARRIOR and as I ran along, struggling with the hills, I thought about Cindi's recent reoccurrence and about her emails to the CCC team, telling us the news. Cindi took the news of reoccurrence and went straight into FIGHT mode - no time for sorrow, no time for anger, just time to FOCUS and PUSH HARD and start treatment to fight this latest reoccurrence. The same STRENGTH and ENDURANCE that Cindi puts in her coaching and her personal athletic achievements (she is record holding Track Cyclist and Speed Skater) is what she puts into her latest FIGHT with breast cancer.

Cindi, multi-tasking during chemo treatment
(May 2008)

And so it was, as I climbed the small rises and took advantage of the down-hills, that I did my best to race as I would imagine Cindi would want me to. I pushed to climb each crest knowing that I could use the downhill running to recover from my latest effort and get ready for the next climb. As we neared the finish, I passed a fellow runner who was struggling and worrying out-loud to his fellow runner that there were more hills head. I turned to him as I passed him on his left and said "Do you see that corner just ahead? That is our last turn and it is all down hill from there to the finish line. We can do this! You are almost done!" He thanked me for the encouragement as I passed him and I smiled, knowing that Cindi would have done the same thing.

Coming down to the last right hand turn, knowing it was downhill all the way to the finish, I put on my biggest smile and just bounded down the hill around the corner and to the finish. COWBELLS were awaiting my finish, thanks to Arnetta - along with the cheers from Jessica, Chaaron, Michael, and Ben F. It was a fine race and a good day and having Jessy, Cindy C. and Cindi Hart with me all the way made it effortless.

Coming into the finish line!

Thank you ladies, for your friendship, for your inspiration and for letting me run "IN HONOR AND SUPPORT" of you!

Remember Life is Good! LiveSTRONG!

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