In March of 1992 I signed up to run a race called the Crown King Scramble. It was a 50 Kilometer (31.1 miles) race that started at Lake Pleasant and finished in the small mountain town of Crown King, Arizona. The common joke about the race was that there was only one hill, but it lasted almost the entire race.
I had to try it.
I was thirty-one years old. Our oldest son was four. Our youngest son not quite two. And our third son? He had not yet arrived on the planet.
I finished the race in 6 hours and 30 minutes. The experience was difficult and intoxicating. We had a late winter that year and the streams were full and ice cold water and you just had to plunge right through them. There was snow on the mountain and along the road during the last two miles. The finish line was a celebration and a party and a feast.
I would go on to run another seven Crown King Scrambles. My last one came in 2006. I was forty-five.
Not one time during any of my Crown King runs did I imagine that one day I would be diagnosed with cancer. As a long-distance runner, you sometimes think that you are immune to physical problems and difficulties. Running can be viewed as a cure-all. And so when bad news arrives, it often comes as a shock. “What? Cancer? Me? No way!”
Although my cancer (prostate) is, by comparison, a moderate type of cancer and curable, it has changed me. I have been humbled. I realize that running is not a cure-all for life’s problems and that I am no better than anyone else. The truth is, even with this cancer in my body, I am a lucky man. Things could be much worse. Over the past five months I have heard story after story about how cancer has ravaged people, torn them up, and in some cases taken them from us.
I am reading a book called Running Out of Time. It’s about a woman who beat cancer. She and her husband changed their diet (fresh fruits and veggies only) and their lifestyle, and with much support from family, she beat the cancer. To celebrate and to do something to honor those who were fighting similar battles and to increase awareness about how to fight cancer, she and her husband decided to literally run “around” Australia. And they did. Over a period of one year, they ran completely around Australia and they averaged one marathon per day … for 365 days.
26.2 miles every day. For one year. And let’s not forget that they were in their mid-sixties. That’s right. They were not kids.
But just to make sure the record was solid, they ran another marathon on day 366.
Crazy? Perhaps. Heroic? I think so. Did they increase awareness about cancer and touch people’s lives? Absolutely. And now, five years later, they are still actively working to promote awareness about cancer and they are making a difference.
Well. Sometimes things happen in our life, and we feel the need to do something. Anything. How can we help? How can we inspire? What can we do?
With that in mind, I have decided to run the Crown King Scramble again. It has been a while since I have climbed that hill. But I need to do it. And I need to do it this year. I will tow the line knowing that there is cancer in my body. The little c-cells will be alive and well. Four days after the race, a surgeon’s knife will cut them out of my body forever.
I am not running this Crown King race for me. I have “been there and done that.” I don’t need another finisher’s medal. This time I am running for those who have or have had cancer. This time I am running for those who are dealing with hard things in their life. This time I am running for those who feel tired, worn out, lost, and discouraged. My message is simple.
Keep going. You can make it.
With God’s help, and with the love and support of friends and family, anything is possible. Life is hard. It really is. Nobody is immune from problems. And sometimes all we can do is press on.
I do not have the time or the money to run around Australia.
But I can run a long race up a mountain.
And I can do my best to cheer on those who are suffering. Because these people are now my family. My friends. I am with all of you. My heart breaks for you. If I could snap my fingers and heal all of you, I’d do it.
Press on, dear friends. Don’t give up.
As I run, I will pray for you. With all my heart.