Subbitted by Susan Mitchell
With a few exceptions, in all the years I have been running races (starting at age 48 -- I’m now 65), I have always been a solo runner. Not because I’m anti-social, but because I do better running at my own pace, and actually tend to get anxious the few times I’ve run with someone, thinking “I’m going too slowly! I can’t keep up! I’ve no breath to talk with!”
Even so, I put my name on the IR4 list in October of 2014 to be matched with a buddy to run for. I also joined the Ainsley’s Angels in Florida group when my friend, Run Jodi Stoner, began its inception as Ambassador, even though I wasn’t entirely sure I was Ainsley’s Angel runner material.
Then, in early January of 2015, when two biopsies confirmed that I have angiosarcoma, a rare cancer of the inner lining of blood vessels in my spleen, I backed away from both of those organizations, not knowing my future health-wise. I reluctantly asked the IR4 team to take my name off the waiting list, although I was very close to being matched then. I also dejectedly gave Run Jodi my AA things, thinking someone else could use them.
Both groups were incredibly supportive of my decision – IR4 said they would put my name on a Medical Hold list and later on down the road, if I felt better, they would match me with a buddy. Run Jodi told me that she would hold my AA things for me and would give them back to me later – she was positive that I would be running with Ainsley’s Angels in FL some day, even though I wasn’t entirely sure myself.
Amazingly and thankfully, I WAS able to run in the months that followed (which helped keep me positive), feeling well even with diminished stamina from the chemo, so I continued to run in races at a slow pace while cheering on my IR4 and Ainsley’s Angels friends. In September, 2015, after having gone through several chemo treatments and still running, I knew I could be a runner for an IR4 buddy, so I contacted IR4 and was soon matched with a remarkable 12 year old named Pete, whose kind mother was aware of my having cancer, yet still welcomed me as his runner.
At the same time, I was ready to be part of Ainsley’s Angels, wearing the pink that symbolized so much, even if I wasn’t yet able to be teamed up with AA runners and riders; I would definitely slow everyone down! So after contacting Run Jodi, I signed up for the Run For the Fallen 10K that my Ainsley’s Angels friends were running, wearing my new AA tank top for my first race with them as an AA solo runner!
From that point on I continued to run at my own pace in races, but now it was as a runner for Pete as well as a member of the Florida Ainsley’s Angels at races they ran in locally, including Run Jodi’s October 2015 Inaugural Ainsley’s Angels in Florida ½ Marathon!
In April of this year, I signed up for a 10K race the Florida Angels were running up in Gainesville with the intent to once again run solo, but the night before the trip up to Gainesville I got a message from Run Jodi, asking if I would help push a rider that had just been added to the list in the 10K, alongside my friend (and Jodi’s husband), Gene. Jodi stressed that there would be no pressure to go fast; I could set the pace and Gene would be fine with that. To be able to earn my wings as part of an Ainsley’s Angels team, pushing a rider “Captain”, had me feeling both excited and petrified at the same time!
The day of the race I met our sweet rider, a young boy named Marcos, who was going to be earning his Angel wings that day, too! While running the race, Gene and I were joined by another Angel, Erica McElhinney, and the fact that Gene and Erica were willing to walk when I need to just touched my heart so – they wanted me and Marcos both to have a successful first time!
I can’t express the incredible feelings that I felt while pushing, then running alongside Marcos -- talking to him while hearing and seeing his own expressions of joy! -- then back to taking turns pushing, throughout the entire race! My heart swelled even bigger than it already was at the realization that I really was a member of an Ainsley’s Angels team, with Marcos pulling us jubilantly over the finish line!
I still have cancer. I still run. But I have enormous support and prayer from family and friends, my CT scans show things remain stable (a very positive thing!), and I am very thankful for so many things, including being able to run, having a wonderful buddy whom I can run for, and for Run Jodi and an amazing group called Ainsley’s Angels, who helped Marcos and me experience inclusion, and get our very own set of wings!
Together we shall!!