By Brittany Youngman
As runners, we are all challenged with the question: Why do you run? As if each runner is to come up with a different answer. I came across a number of reasons – health, camaraderie, strength (physical and mental), medals, the challenge, and the list goes on. One reason I didn’t foresee became my best reason to run – helping my Aunt Susie battle breast cancer.
Growing up, my Aunt Susie was my Mom-away-from-home. She inspired me to become involved in philanthropy and leadership development. Her daughter Kelsey wasn’t far behind – inspiring me (really, bribing me) to run my very first 5K race. “We are on vacation,” I said. She gave me seven small words that changed my life – “one foot in front of the other.” It was as simple as that and sure enough I was hooked.
Late December 2013, Aunt Susie was practicing a routine self-exam and found a lump in her breast. Before we knew it, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and her schedule of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation was all set. For our rock solid family, this was a pretty heavy blow and no challenge we have faced in the past compared to the fight we were about to endure. However, one thing our family does best is support each other through thick and thin. This is what got me thinking.
By March 2014, Aunt Susie was knee deep in cancer hell but didn’t dare show it. Meanwhile, I felt helpless. I was hundreds of miles away, unable to comfort her other than tell her I was thinking of her and sending well wishes her way. Cancer is one of those beasts that eats up your strength, your energy and most importantly your norm. As I learned more about the Run for a Reason program through the marathon I signed up for, I realized that there really was something I could do to help!
I signed up for the Susan G. Komen Team and received a welcome package in the mail. I set up my fundraising page and asked Aunt Susie if she minded my sharing her story. My goal was set to raise $1,000 and I was off to the races. All of a sudden, there was a little more to each of my training runs, each of my strides and I realized my reason for running was bigger. The profound opportunity to fight cancer through running was something special. After sending my request for donations to family and friends, I was overwhelmed by the response. My Aunt Susie and I got on the phone and shared in our amazement of the support we both have received. It was a proud moment that I won’t soon forget – that moment of positivity I was able to share with her, even from a distance.
Marathon morning, I lined up in my corral and had my “I’m running for Aunt Susie” bib pinned to my back. I was proud to have surpassed my goal raising over $2,000 for breast cancer research. As the gun goes off and as each mile passes, I think about Aunt Susie and how hard she has to fight each day to survive. The things she loved that she had to postpone and the way the chemotherapy and medication has affected her. Once I started embracing the crowds, I heard “go Aunt Susie!” and “fight hard, Aunt Susie!” I couldn’t comprehend what I was hearing. Around mile 15, a fellow marathoner ran up next to me and said, “How’s Aunt Susie doing? I bet she’s super proud of you!” This support and shouting continued all the way to the finish line, where I broke into tears.
It was my most meaningful run, knowing that I could help others by doing something I love. It’s hard to put into words how much it meant for me to share this challenge with my Aunt Susie. Running for a charity is a special opportunity and many races across the country give their runners the chance to run for a purpose. Charlotte’s Novant Health Thunder Road Marathon has a Charity Runners Program and if you want to run for a cause, help make a change and visit www.runcharlotte.com.
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Brittany Youngman is a running enthusiast who recently moved from Pittsburgh to Charlotte. She is the Community Engagement Director at Event Marketing Services and Thunder Road Marathon. Her goal is to make an impact on individuals in the community to lead healthier and more active lives. Contact Brittany at Brittany@runforyourlife.com.
///Courtesy Endurance Magazine, LLC