Race for the Cure: Exercise as Service

I met Jane Hess when she interviewed me to talk about We Are All Athletes, my latest book. (How fun to meet eye-to-eye with another woman who’s six-two!)

But television host is only her part-time passion; her fulltime passion is inspiring others to “get out and give back,” as she calls it.

Recently she raised $3000 for breast cancer treatment and research while getting in shape and building community. She writes:

The last time I ran for exercise was back in 1986… So, when I volunteered to run a 5K (3.1 miles) as part of the “Christmas Fish” team for the Race for the Cure, it was like volunteering to sing the National Anthem at a baseball game – something I’d always wanted to do but for which I was innately unqualified.

Nonetheless I began training two months beforehand as if I were running the Marine Corps marathon. I charged up the iPod and started – just run until the song is over, I told myself. Then run for two songs, then three songs … and by race day, I could run 3.5 miles, dropped almost ten pounds and was back into my “skinny” jeans.

Then it was race day. Nearly 45,000 of us, outfitted in our “Race for the Cure” T-shirts, gulped water, bananas and granola bars as bands played, celebrities spoke and breast cancer survivors were recognized and applauded. When the race began, the street was as crammed with runners as a shopping mall the day after Thanksgiving.

A few times I had to run in place behind the people in front of me, waiting for a chance to maneuver ahead. Outwardly I complained that they slowed me down. Inwardly, I thanked them for the break.

Some of the runners and walkers pinned flyers to the back of their T-shirt to honor breast cancer survivors or remember the women who had lost the fight. Some flyers had pictures, with “Mommy” or “My wife” or other heartbreaking words.

My goal? To run the entire 5K without walking, and to not come in last. As the race started I turned my iPod on to Aerosmith, Van Halen and the Weather Girls (“It’s Raining Men”) to rock me to the finish line. Thirty-eight minutes later it was over. Our non-running posse met us with water bottles and high-fives. I hit my two goals and the “Christmas Fish” raised over $3,000.

And that Saturday morning, as I was surrounded by 45,000 people who raised 2.6 million dollars for breast cancer research and care, I finally understood the value of community. Every single one of us was united by someone we’d either lost to breast cancer or were still cheering on to defeat it.

I ran for Leslie, Sheri, Abby-Jill… and everyone else who’d fought or are still fighting this stupid disease. So if getting up at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday to sweat like a pig for three miles is what it takes, then I’ll keep on doing it.

There are worse ways to lose ten pounds.

Get out and give back.

More about Jane’s work: http://www.getoutandgiveback.blogspot.com.

Mariah Burton Nelson
American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation

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