The words glared from my computer monitor, mocking me: “This week should be EASY. Your training for the Four Miler is complete.”
The well-intended advice from the UVA Runner’s Clinic, emailed two days before the Charlottesville Women’s Four Miler, was a painful reminder that I hadn’t exactly started my training — at least not the way I had envisioned it. My runs this summer were few and far between, and I had never actually reached the four-mile mark. I also hadn’t gotten up to the 10-minute miles I’d envisioned.
I’m close to at least two breast cancer survivors. One has battled various types of cancer 10 times. Cancer, in its many forms, has taken more of my loved ones than any other diseases combined. I wanted to run the Four Miler to raise money for breast cancer research at UVA, my employer. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about how fast I ran the race.
I even shut out my own mom. We walked the Four Miler together two years ago. I told her we could both do the race, but she’d have to walk by herself.
Why We Really Run
I had knots in my stomach as I bid my mom farewell and joined a pace group of other runners expecting to do 10-minute miles. I re-tied my shoes twice and walked toward the starting line, a little sad as I looked at all the families running together: moms, daughters, sisters, aunts, some bearing the names of loved ones who had won or lost their breast cancer battles. But I focused more on my pace once we started running.
Mile One: Hey, this is pretty easy.
Mile Two: I’m not making the pace I wanted to. I need to pass more people. Hey, look, there’s my mom on the other side of the road!
Mile Three: Wow, this hill is hard.
Then I began seeing the Motivational Mile posters, which are along the last mile of the course and display the names of people affected by cancer. I recognized easily a dozen of the names. A few were acquaintances who I didn’t know were cancer survivors.
It was a much-needed reminder that yes, this race, like any other, is about fitness and personal goals. But the real reason we race is for the women who can’t. 3,500 women get up early to participate in the race because, together, they raised $370,000 for the UVA Breast Care Program last year. My mom and I are far from being top fundraisers, but in our own small way, we’ll be a part of that big dollar amount this year.
After I finished, I stood by the finish line and cheered for friends and colleagues as they finished, and finally, my mom, who finished her walk in almost exactly an hour. My time wasn’t the personal record I’d hoped for, but I didn’t really care anymore. I ran the four miles, longer than I’d ever ran before. More importantly, I was a small part of a big effort to win the battle against breast care.
Donate to the Cause
The Women’s Four Miler is accepting donations until September 22 and hopes to raise $400,000 for the Breast Care Program. So far, they’ve raised 70 percent of their goal.