It was an incredible privilege to get invited to attend New York to do the 5 mile race of Join the Voices Against Brain Cancer (jointhevoicesnyc.org). Not quite sure what to do with the fact that it seems the flatter city I am, the hiller the race gets. Didn’t quite know how to approach it and having looked at the pictures from last weekend's half marathon, I was starting to wonder if it was time to retire since Kiana looked so big in the stroller (Kiana addressed that quickly and said, no I still fit but we can get a bigger stroller sometime). Still, getting a chance to walk and run through Central Park and museums the day before made me realize that if you have a good breakfast, you can take in more than six impossible things.
We arrived before hand at the festival for the Voices Against Brain Cancer and while Kiana was playingaround, I interacted with neurosurgeons, oncologists, brain cancer patients, their care takers, their friends and families. Both privately and onstage, voices were less than normal as people shared their stories. Those with the most enthusiasm were the stories about having been given a few weeks or months and to still be standing a few years later. Other’s voices seemed more liked whispers as they shared the story of someone as they shared how they had to relearn or compensate for lost biological and mental function. There were voices that cracked for who had gotten much shorter than their prognosis, others who the treatment or side effects would end up proving a shorter life than if they’d left it alone. There were other ones like Mario Lichenstein, the founder who had been robbed of their child who could unfortunately relate to those who had lost their friends, their family. The voices from these ranged to a broken heart to incredible anger. But everyone I met was there for the same reason, the ones they loved, those they were for, gave them a very strong reason to indicate why they were against brain cancer. Some people had seen the NBC piece that had aired the night before and commended me on it but I can say nothing other than I was embarrassed that it took brain cancer for me to get right some of the basic things in life while they clearly had for far more years than I’ve done it (http://www.today.com/video/today/53581524 and http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/53576124/#53576124).
After what seemed too short of time with some of these guys, I had to head down to the race. They had originally said that to be courteous to the other runners they were going to give me a 5-15 minute head start and for me it’s tough to keep pace when I’m alone so I was going to use it somewhere between a race and a tough training run, slower than I usually race at that distance but faster than I usually train so I was going to try to keep a 6:15-6:20 pace. Then, literally moments before the race, right after I had the privilege of addressing the crowd, they said I was going to get only 30 seconds. The race started and there was a hill… and another hill… I guess there were some down hills but I don’t remember them to but on that I actually grip harder on the stroller just for fear of it going without me. This was the first race I’d ever had to pick up a water cup instead of having it handed to me. Let’s just say that on the first one, I picked up one and knocked down quite a few. On the next one I picked up the very last one with two fingers while holding the stroller in one hand. A cyclist who was riding beside me said he was impressed and I’m like yeah, “I can’t believe I got that water.” He said, “I meant with the way you’re running up hill with a stroller.” I kept getting passed until mile 3 and then someone passed me and I decided to see if I could keep up with him for the last two miles. Because he was 30 seconds officially ahead of me, by keeping up with him, I had to speed up my pace. We finished pretty close together in the end but with about a third of a mile to go I looked down at my watch and realized if I could hold it for just about two minutes I would achieve what I’d been trying to for over 2 years, getting a faster time with Kiana in a stroller than without one, getting a 29:51 on a 5 mile race, a sub six minute pace. I have no idea what my facial expressions are when I’m running that hard but everyone said I came in smiling and well, that’s why.
People may think it’s cause I’ve been training harder and that’s true but that’s not the biggest part of the equation to me. It’s no coincidence that the races are I’ve trained the hardest for are the ones that let me in with a stroller or the ones with a cause. But on the times Kiana’s with her mom for the weekend, some very meaningful races have happened the Brain Power 5k, the Austin Livestrong Marathon, the Livestrong Century, the Angels Among Us 5k at Duke’s Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center (a huge highlight of the New YOrk trip was to reconnect with the guy who beat me at that race and our families getting to meet but it surely puts in perspective that right now he’s not able to run due to treatment). In every one of those races it was my best time at that distance the first time I participated in the event. Unfortunately, none of these two things have ever combined before. Between that and this event being by far the biggest cancer or brain cancer event I’ve ever attended (this may be for no other reason than of the population of New York), I ran with serious conviction.
Afterwards, they were kind enough to hand me a medal for courage. Like every medal, in any race Kiana’s been a part of, it came off my neck and went on hers. It was an amazing privilege to receive and it belonged to the princess that gives me courage and the one who I am trying to make sure this cancer affects as little as possible. For a guy who got a courage award, let me state, nothing scares me more than anything going wrong in her life, especially because of this cancer or its side effect.
I was asked to address the crowd after receiving my award for a couple of minutes. If you read this blog,I’m fairly long winded so keeping it short is not my strongest suit. But between being overwhelmed by it all, I said some of what I’d prepared and some thoughts that came to mind. See, the reason I train hard for these events and raise money for them is because most people to get up and do something just need inspiration. I admire the guys at these races because they keep going despite sometimes lacking information on how to do so. I know and have met cancer patients who give up on life before it’s over so I’m greatful for events like this where we can connect and see that we’re in this together.
I am not saying cancer is the worst way to die. In my book there are very few, if any good deaths, whether that be a a random disease, accident or old age. But what I admire at every athletic event, and what I reflect on when I sit here sore from these events that I do, is that people who are active who push their bodies, their minds, their souls, whenever we die, we’ve given what we can to die young as late as possible. That, that is the way to live. All death feels senseless but the tough struggle for me cancer patients in general and us brain cancer patients in specific, we have to accept that the very essence of who we are, our brains, has betrayed us and we are fighting a disease inside our own heads, the part of us that I think makes us human. So when I got to address the community, all I could say say was thank you because their efforts provides me and far far better people than me more information to have a chance to continue to pursue inspiration. And I thanked them because that day, they provided me inspiration and in a perfect aligning of events, I got a personal best time faster behind Kiana on a hilly course than I ever had on a flat course without her.
There was a variety of problems that Kiana and I saw that day from brain cancer some emotional, physical, financial. I have some of all of those. But I am still standing and I still have a voice and it was my privilege at that race to join theirs. Longfellow wrote “The human voice is the organ of the soul.” Being against brain cancer, not every chord is a good one, but yesterday, I loved that the voices joined for a very good harmony.