Why I train
Another set of posts will cover why I am running and fundraising for a marathon.
The short answer is the “C” word — cure, and celebration of the 5th year of being disease free. The stories of what I went through five years ago are being documented. See the tab “About this blog” and “About APML” tabs at the header for more detail, if you haven’t already.
But it runs even deeper than that. There are people who I’ll introduce you to, fellow honorees for TNT, who face much more than I have, and I had a lot. There are others some of you may not have met, but who have been lost to blood cancers, and other types of cancers, who I run in honor of.
But the first reason I want to mention is this: I have no idea why any of this happened to me. Why do things happen to a person? Is there a reason for the things we go through? I used to wonder why I got this and what it meant. I also wondered why my prognosis was so good, why my treatment wasn’t as difficult as others have gone through, and why I survived where others didn’t.
I spent the first few years after my survival wondering these questions, and feeling like I never got the reason, the life-changing “I’m going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro” drive that pushes other survivors to understand their diseases and enjoy life more.
But in the last year or so, as I’ve spoken to TNT participants and prospective participants at various functions telling my story, I’ve come to realize something. My story, my survival, is representative of the hope that leukemia research — the kind of research that Team in Training fundraising programs go to fund — can save lives. That research saved my life, and allowed me to be treated in ways that don’t require severe treatment regimens. I now realize that I have a great story, and a great gift in the ability to speak well, and the ability to tell my story of how TNT participation and fundraising saves lives like mine to great effect.
So I am running now, to complete the circle. I have gone from not understanding, to understanding how research into treatments saved my life, and the power of fundraising for research to save other lives. Now, I want to do my part to raise funds as well. I’ll always tell my story to help others understand how raising funds for leukemia research saves lives like mine. Now, I want to start raising funds of my own, and get the benefits you gets when you train and complete the endurance event.
And I also realize another benefit –I have moved participants and trainees in the TNT program, but as an observer, an outsider. As a fellow participant it will be even more of an impact. So this marathon is to help others be able to be cured and celebrate, while celebrating my own cure.
More on the history of how I talked myself, or rather, let myself be talked, into running a marathon….
After finishing treatment in the summer of 2001, I was still on low dose chemotherapy and was still tired, roughly at about 75% of normal. I began volunteering for a Team in Training program, but as an honored patient, not as a participant.
I’ve thought of running a marathon with TNT for several seasons in the past couple of years as I got back to 100% health. I had really considered, told a few people, made a few plans. But I never could do it. I never thought I could finish it, with my travel commitments for work (I still have the same position, now as a manager, but with similar travel). Plus, I never thought I could finish mentally. What was holding me back was more a bit of confidence that I could complete it. Now, I have seen people of all shapes, sizes and abilities train over the years in TNT programs, and almost all finished their marathon. But that was others, not me. Yet another irony — some people when they go through a terrible life-threatening disease have a new appreciation for life, and attempt all sorts of things they never attempted before. For me, though, it didn’t work out that way.
I have other posts which go into detail about the reasons why I’m doing a marathon, from the perspective of the 5th year anniversary, the people I admire, and the need to raise funds. But from a purely athletic perspective, the reason I know I can do this now is a co-worker at AIG, Rene McGillicuddy.
Rene is another consultant from another division in AIG who I’ve known for years. She also has faced a similar health challenge that she’s overcome. After, she began running triathlons, having completed a few sprint distance triathlons. We were talking about her athletic experiences, and I mentioned my desire to eventually train and finish a marathon. She immediately told me I could, and encouraged me. Not just verbal — she has begun running with me after work, pushing me to run farther. Our runs on Marina Green towards the Golden Gate Bridge on afternoons are a great treat.
Since we began running last fall, I have gone from just being able to run a few minutes without stopping, to, as of last Saturday, January 20, I ran five miles. I have never run five miles in my life, but it seemed easy, the right thing to do. In a casual conversation recently Rene, without thinking about it, said “Gregg, you’re pretty athletic, and ….” I don’t recall the remainder of the sentence or the point. But I was honored to think someone would consider me something of an “athlete.” But that’s what you call someone who runs five miles, right?
I have thoroughly enjoyed running with Rene, and now feel fantastic when I run, just incredible. I now know that finishing a marathon is quite doable, and it will be done, even if at my own slow pace. There will be lots of people who will help me finish the marathon, but I can say that it was Rene who first got me to really understand I can run, and got me to understand the fantastic way you feel when you run.