When I first heard about the LiveStrong Challenge, I was interested because it was a fitness event. I saw it as something concrete to train for. But somewhere along the way, the cause became bigger than the run.
Even when I picked up my race number at the Livestrong Village on the day before the race, it was clear where the focus lay. Volunteers had set up a memorial wall where people pinned their tributes to family and friends who have/had cancer.
I painted my own mini-memorial wall on the back of my Livestrong tshirt. Actually, "mini" is a relative term; 24 names, and I still have more to paint. The cancer gene runs strong in my extended family: my dad, his sister, his father, his mother, all 3 of his mother's sisters, two of his father's siblings, many of their children, and so on. That's way too many, and that's why the Livestrong Foundation's work is so important.
Race day was fun, impressive and moving all at the same time (and you can get more gory details here). The fun part was getting little freebies, getting my mock magazine cover photo taken, meeting up with my teammates, running through an outdoor shower right after crossing the finish line.
The impressive part was getting to see Lance Armstrong in action. I'm not a stalker or anything, but I'm a huge admirer. I've always thought that he must be some kind of super-human being, a freak outlier of the normal curve of humanity. I got to see him take off at the starting line (that's him in the yellow jersey in the lead, thanks Linsey for the photo)....
.... saw him streak across the finish line after his 65-mile ride....
.. and even caught a glimpse of his very athletic behind as he did a cooldown lap, yellow survivor's rose in hand.
The moving part, of course, were the people and the stories. I was surprised at the waves of emotion that hit me while I was gasping for breath on the course. If you saw me, I wasn't wiping sweat from my face. I was wiping tears. I was moved to see so many who came to show support for their loved ones as well as survivors who came to celebrate life. Survivors like my teammates Linsey and Courtney (click here and here to read their incredible stories). Like the group of women I met, who had flown in from all over the country to support their sister/sister-in-law/friend, who had beaten not 1 but 2 cancers.
People like Judy Ann Regan, who is still recovering from brain aneurism surgery that occurred a year ago, who did the 100-mile bike ride on a stationary cycle because her doctors said she was not fit enough to do the actual bike ride (she actually beat Lance Armstrong; she reached 65 miles about 5 or 10 minutes before Lance crossed the finish line!). Now that is what I call leaving cancer behind in the dust.