April 6, 2012
As I sit in my Southwest Airlines seat headed back home to Baltimore, MD from the 2nd of 3 trips to be with the Rev3 / Ulman Cancer Fund Run Across America Team, it finally hit me….
Why is this 21 day, 3,080 mile cross-country run is so darn impressive!
This may sound silly because when you tell people about the Run Across America they’re easily impressed by the shear magnitude of the endeavor (running 3,080 miles in 21 days) and the worthy cause (awareness and fundraising to fight a disease that touches all of our lives). But there’s way more to it and it took me this 2nd trip with the team to truly appreciate what was going on. It has to do with the small team of amazing individuals waking up every day and hammering out 150 miles of running through some of the most grueling terrain and conditions in the most remote parts of our country, all for one goal – to help others in the fight against cancer.
Tomorrow (Easter Sunday) marks the first and only day of rest (sort of) for the Run Across America team. I say sort of because they actually have to run 14 miles tomorrow to stay on pace for their April 16th arrival in Washington, DC. Just one example that supports the topic of this blog…read on to hear me where Im’ coming from.
As excited as I am to make it home tonight at midnight to be there for my 11 month’s old first Easter tomorrow, I’m equally inspired by what I’m leaving and just witnessed and I can’t wait to get back. The Run Across America is about a lot of things but the one thing that sunk in to me over the past three days is that this epic journey is about SACRIFICE. Much like the patients and families we work with on a daily basis at the Ulman Cancer Fund, much like our supporters that dig into their pockets to make donations that they probably don’t have the income to support, this group of runners and support staff are making an extraordinary sacrifice to fight this disease and make a difference in communities across the country.
In our dedication circle this morning before our run, Charlie Patten, Jr. (the President of Rev3 Triathlon) dedicated his run to a statistic I had shared with the team earlier that week – “I dedicate our run today to the 8 young adults that will be diagnosed with cancer every hour we run today.”
I thought to myself, those words are powerful. Here is this guy who has a wife and three young kids at home he hasn’t seen in weeks. He’s got a company to run that produces some of the top triathlons in the country with events starting in less than a month. And it’s the day before Easter and he’s in the middle of no-where in a dirt field in Oklahoma – and he’s dedicating his next 24 hours and the 20+ miles he’ll be running to eight young adults he doesn’t even know that will be diagnosed with cancer in our country. Wow – that’s selfless and downright inspiring.
Cancer is a ruthless disease that doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t listen to what you say. It comes when you least expect it and invades your life ruthlessly. The patients and families we’re fortunate to meet at the Ulman Cancer Fund are forced to face this reality and sacrifice a lot to fight the disease. They have to stop school. They’re forced to quit their jobs. They’re sick and weak from treatment. They can’t pay bills due to expensive treatments. They’re stuck in hospitals for weeks at a time.
It has been evident in all my conversations with the Run Across America team, they are all committed and have chosen to sacrifice so much to do something positive for those that have it far worse off than we do right now. A core group of ten people and another 20+ part-timers have put three weeks of their lives on hold to dedicate their hearts, bodies and souls to the cancer fight.
To help you better understand the profoundness of this, I challenge you to digest the following…
If you decided to wake up tomorrow, pack a back-pack (because that’s all you’re allowed), hop in a 15 passenger smelly/sweaty van (because that’s what you’ll spend 10 hours of your day in while you run) and spend the next 21 days running across America, just think about the things you’d miss or give up in order to just be a part of it – this doesn’t even take into consideration the physical challenge of individually running 20+ miles a day. If you have a spouse you may go days without speaking to them because of time differences, limited cell/internet access and the fact you’re either running, sleeping or eating. If you have kids you won’t see them for days/weeks and you’ll have to squeeze phone calls in with them in the back of a van that is about to drop you off on the side of the road to run your next leg. If you have a job you’ll have to take off precious vacation time or try to juggle work while running 10 hours of the day. And then the simple pleasures – you most likely won’t shower for several days at a time and you’ll have to live in an RV the size of the school bus that drove you to elementary school with 10 others. Your morning and daily rituals of grabbing a Starbucks, walking the dog, reading the paper, watching the news, browsing the internet – all gone.
The list goes on but my point is this. We all live extremely blessed lives. Every hour eight young adults will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States and 4 young adults will die from cancer. These people and families we meet at the Ulman Cancer Fund sacrifice a great deal to face and fight this disease. Yet, they rarely complain about it or ask for help.
I see this same quality in the people I’ve spent the better part of the past 2 weeks with on the Run Across America. Every day is a harder than the one before and they’ve chosen to do this. No one every forced them and they never complain. Ever day is a great day and they’re always smiling at the opportunity to do arguably one of the hardest things I’ve witnessed. Why are they doing this – because they believe their SACRIFICES will help those that need our help and they’re an amazing group of people that care.
THANK YOU to all involved in the Run Across America for the extraordinary sacrifice you’re making to change the lives of those facing cancer. And for those of you that are watching from the home, I encourage you to consider making a donation to support this amazing group of individuals that are giving so much.