As the sun began to rise, transforming night into day, the full moon remained visible in the early morning sky. For me, it was the perfect way to wrap up another 12 hour Relay for Life event. The final laps, as always, were run with tears leaking down my face and an attempt to hide the emotions from those that had braved the night. It never fails. I always cry knowing that this celebration of hope is, once again, coming to a close. I cry for those that we have lost, for those that are courageously fighting and for those that have won. I cry for the families, friends and caregivers. I cry secure in the knowledge that our children can one day live in a world where cancer is irrelevant.
Five years ago, I attended my first Relay for Life event. I didn't know much about it or what to expect. I only knew that I needed to go, needed to find a way to make a difference. Just six months prior, both of my parents had been diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo extensive surgery and treatment. Before that.... Cancer was just a word. Something that didn't affect me or those I loved. It was just one of those bad things that happened to other people. And then.... BAM!! I found out real fast that it was a horrible disease that does not discriminate and does affect everybody - not just other people. During the many weeks of camping out in hospitals, I would find time to slip out and hit the road for a run to clear my mind. Best therapy ever.
During the many miles that followed I stopped asking "Why?" and started asking "What can I do to make a difference?" Somehow I came up with the idea to run a 50 miler and carry an Honor Scroll bearing the names of those that have battled the beast and, hopefully, raise some money to donate. I had been running for a few years and my running resume' included a few marathons and a 50k so it seemed reasonable to think that I might be able to cover 50 miles. I also knew that we had an event in Ozark County each year that had something to do with raising funds to fight cancer... just wasn't sure exactly what it was or if I could be a part of it. I reached out to a friend and she immediately signed me up on her team and helped with the logistics of fundraising.
The first Honor Scroll run was a great success, raising over $1,000 for the American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life. I somehow managed to navigate myself across the rough terrain of the Ouachita 50 miler in Little Rock, AR without completely falling apart. Looking back, it was probably the best day of running I've ever had and it completely opened my eyes to a new world. We can make a difference. We don't have to just sit back and let cancer win. If enough people do care and band together- we can win. I carried these thoughts into the Relay for Life that June.
I showed up at my first RFL with some extra shoes and a pink tutu in my bag. Why a pink tutu? Because somebody had pledged $100 if I wore it for one hour during the night while running around the track. I was NOT going to say no to a nice donation no matter how embarrassing. Believe me, it WAS embarrassing. For those of you that have seen the pink tutu at Dogwood Canyon the past few years - you now know how and why it all started. My plan was to run all night, for 12 hours, around our old high school track. Of course, you can't really run 12 hours at a RFL event due to ceremonies but I managed to get around 10 hours and 56 miles of running while raising a few more dollars for the ACS. I was a little surprised that there weren't really many runners at the event. A lot of people were walking, which is awesome, but I had the idea that there would be more runners. Obviously, I had a lot to learn about what exactly the Relay for Life was all about.
Over the next few years I was on a team but really not a part of the team. They were great fundraisers and really knew the ins and outs of Relay but I kind of did my own thing all year and just showed up and ran. I feel very lucky that they brought me into the fold and generously helped me understand how things worked. Last year, I decided to start an Idiots Running Club team and see if we could get more people involved. It was a great experience and several runners jumped in to help out. We raised $8,800 and "won" Rookie Team of the Year honors.
There is a huge difference between just showing up with a pair of shoes and actually being the Captain of a team. For me, the biggest and toughest adjustment is the amount of mileage I am able to run. This year I ran 27 miles.... less than half of the first years total. That's been the toughest part for me to digest but when I look around and see so many people actually RUNNING during the event, I know it's okay. Runners from all over the area (and around the country in a virtual sense) have joined the team and logged several miles. At this year's Relay on June 13th and 14th, fellow Idiot, Derek Glos made the trip to our little town and put in 36 miles to earn the top spot for most laps. Our team combined for over 160 miles of running throughout the night. That's 640 + laps around a high school track. That's a LOT of laps.
This year, the Idiots Running Club team raised close to $11,000 total through the combined fundraising efforts of many runners during the year. For us, this year's Relay for Life actually started last October with several Idiots donning pink shirts for the Dogwood Canyon events. Next up was the Rocky Raccoon 100 Miler in February where pledges of 10 cents per mile were collected. Shirts, drinking glasses and ornamental flowers were sold during the spring months. Everything wrapped up with personal donations and pledges for laps during the Relay for Life.
Runners are a special (by that I mean "weird") bunch of people. They are used to working hard and dedicating themselves to training for personal goals, PR's, qualifying times and trophies but this event does not offer those same rewards. It is not a race or competition. It is not about personal gain or goals. It takes a lot of time to put together a fundraiser and between work, kids, training and all of life's responsibilities there isn't much time left for stuff like this. And, to be honest, it really doesn't make a ton of sense to run several miles during a humid June night on an old asphalt track. I am so proud and thankful to be a small part of a running community that bands together with that same dedication to make a real difference. Not for medals, trophies, buckles or Boston Qualifying times just the knowledge that they are a part of something much bigger than any of those rewards.
Everybody that participates in the Relay for Life has a special place in my heart. Obviously, it takes much more than one small team of runners to truly make a difference. The Idiots Running Club team was a tiny part of a huge effort in Ozark County this year. The grand total raised was over $70,000. It always blows my mind that a county made up of tiny towns that nobody has ever heard of can come together and pull this event off with such success. People are generous and hard work always pays off. I am very proud and fortunate to be a part of the Relay for Life. I strongly urge anybody that hasn't participated to get involved. For everybody that has been involved in one of these life changing events - Thank you.
There are a lot of races and events that people look forward to running in. For me the races are few and far between. A grand total of 6 races is all I made it to last year. This year I have cut down on my mileage due to two things, a newborn and a knee injury. But there was one event that I wanted to make this year and that was the Rely for Life event in Gainesville, MO on June 15th and 16th.
I have seven family members that battled cancer. One of those seven is my step-dad who is currently battling prostate cancer and three out of the seven lost the battle. The three were at very different stages in their life. My cousin was in his mid 30's in great health, married with two beautiful daughters, my uncle was in his 60's with tons of little grandkids running around and my grandmother was in her mid 90's, she left a great legacy for us all. Included in the seven are my dad, great-aunt and grandfather.
Last year I bought a purple jersey and had all seven names embroidered on the back of it and ran 31 miles in honor of them. This year I pulled out the same jersey with the same seven names to try and run 25 miles at the Relay. I wasn't near as conditioned to run 25 miles as I was to run 31 last year. I was way under trained only having 15 miles for the month of June before the event. I also new that my knee would be a factor since the longest run I had in the past month was 10 miles and the last time I went over 20 miles was in March.
Despite the lack of training off I went leaving the house around 10:45pm arriving at the track around 11:15pm and finished 25.47 miles in a little over four and a half hours. It goes without saying and I've heard it said before but the pain I felt in those 25 miles was far less than those that fight cancer on a daily basis for weeks, months or even years at time. It was a great feeling to finish and felt surprisingly good in the days after. So, I accomplished my goal but it seemed easy in knowing why I was doing it.
Part of the reason why I went was to run with David Murphy who has been a good friend to give encouragement especially when I under rate what I think I can do. (P.S. He was even a little worried about my knee;) He also really hates cancer so being there to run and support him was a huge privilege. We also had a little gang of IRC peeps running together racking up the miles while at one point taking up all lanes of the track. In the end I couldn't think of a better way to spend four and a half hours on an asphalt track in the middle of the night. Running with friends, fighting cancer, honoring those that fought the battle and remembering those that lost the battle.
Idiots, I need your help.
Today is Memorial Day and it happens to be the 8th anniversary of my dad’s death. I am in the process of writing a book to honor him. He fought an 8 year battle with colorectal cancer. He truly hung the moon for me. He was the type of man that lit up the room. He was hilarious and always had a story and a smile for everyone he met.
After he passed away, I traveled to my hometown of Kansas City to help my mom with funeral arrangements. I stayed in his room and unearthed a treasure. While going through his closet, I found a box of his artwork. He loved to doodle, but I never realized how talented he was. I want the world to see his art, and read stories that offer encouragement and motivation to all who pick up the book.
I wrote about this last year. If you would like to read it, and see some of the artwork please click here.
The last time I saw my dad, he told me to remember we each get one life. That has stuck with me. I think of his words every day, and I even have it tattooed on me (in French) along with his art). Those words have helped me to accomplish more than I ever dreamed…like running a marathon. Of course, I wrote about this too. If you would like to read more, click here.
So, here is what I need from you. I am looking for stories to fill the pages next to the artwork. Specifically, the types of stories I would like are:
Because we are the Idiots Running Club, I would prefer that the stories have a running aspect to them, like mine (never running 1 mile, getting pissed at cancer, then running a marathon within 18 months just because my dad put those little words in my head). You don’t have to be an ultra or a marathoner to share your story. You just have to be an Idiot.
I hope to receive many submissions. I anticipate that I won’t be able to use them all, but I look forward to reading every one. My goal is to continue to work on this throughout the summer and have a complete package by my dad’s birthday (October 24). Yes, that’s a lofty goal, but I have learned I can do anything I put my mind to and I will accomplish this with your help.
I’ll admit, I have never published a book before. However, I have written and illustrated several children’s stories, and hope to self-publish my first one this summer. My life-long dream is to be an author. My dad’s words helped me learn just how strong I can be and I owe it to him to make my dream come true and honor his loving spirit. Proceeds from the book will go to the American Cancer Society from the Idiots Running Club. ~Amie LongstaffIf you would like to share your story please submit it using the following form.
April 28, 2012 I ran a full marathon in Nashville, Tenn. I ran this marathon with a lack of training and I had no real conviction going into it. My nerves were running full steam ahead, and I felt horrible. Prior to the race starting, I was seriously second guessing myself. I knew that I hadn't properly trained and that I was not anywhere near ready for the run, but I couldn't back out. Starting the race was great and running with family made it better.
My early jitters decided to fill my bladder so quickly within the first two miles that I began cramping very bad. I tried to fight it off, but had to stop for a pee break. The short, but grueling line felt like it took three hours to get through (really only about eight minutes). I decided that I couldn't run this thing alone because I would never finish, so I stretched out my strides and zigzagged in and out of traffic like a drugged taxi driver to catch up with my running "team." Everything seemed to be going fine when I caught back up with the group. We ran for awhile at a nice comfortable pace. At a water stop my cousin Jenny and Uncle Tim stopped to fill their drink containers.....I being unprepared had no water container. I instead chugged a few glasses of Gatorade and water and continued on my way.
I ran by myself from this point out.....really crappy idea with no iPod and no one to talk to. By mile 8 the sun was hot and my endurance was fading quickly. I decided that I could not finish 26.2 miles and intended to take the turn-off for the half-marathon. From the 8-mile point to the 11-mile point I was able to maintain a jog, but every step solidified my resolve to take the half-marathon turn at the 11.5-mile mark. As I approached the turn-off, spectators started yelling at me...a lot of them actually. Now at first i really thought it was weird that I would get singled out, but looking at this later i am quite sure that being 6'4" 225 lbs. and wearing a neon pink shirt and neon yellow leggings probably made me stick out a bit from the other runners. The fact that the spectators were yelling did not phase me. What they yelled, however, changed everything about me at that point in time.
People who I never met and don't know started yelling and cheering, screaming "run for Cara" and "REFUSE to give in." When I heard these cheers all I could do was think about a little girl who I had never met fighting a fight that I could never imagine fighting. I saw that little girl's mother at the starting line so full of emotion and I COULD NOT turn right for the half-marathon finish. My body wanted to quit, my mind told me to turn right everything about me told me to stop, but I couldn't. I don't know why and I can't explain it, but I turned left...full-marathon bound. For the next 14 miles, a little girl I have never met and her unknown support team in Nashville, Tenn., pushed me forward. Everytime I wanted to stop, someone would read my mind and yell those same two lines "run for Cara" and "REFUSE to give in". By the 18th mile I had no steam left, I had no drive left, I had no motivation, I had no will, but my legs never quit. I did not run again until the last two blocks of the race. I walked in pain, agony and worst of all heat, but every time I wanted to quit, a new Cara supporter rose up from a curb, a porch, or right behind me as they made their way past me, and they pushed me to continue. This little girl who doesn't know me from Adam would not let me quit, she refused to let me give in.
I finished my marathon, it was not a graceful finish or a fulfilling finish, but It was probably the only finish that I will always remember. I have never been a very spiritual person. I have went to church and I have read the Bible, but have never really known what my position was and I guess I still really don't. I do, however, know this, at 27 years of age I did not finish a marathon because I was in the shape to do it. I did not finish a marathon because I had the will to finish. I DID finish a marathon because a little girl who I do not know pushed me harder than any drill sergeant was ever able to. I wish that I could do more for that little girl than just run wearing a shirt with her name and picture on it, because she has done something for me that no one else has been able to do. She gave me faith.
Adventures and Races Submitted by Idiots