DBacks Race Against Cancer 5k: A Meaningful PR

I signed up for the Diamondbacks Race Against Cancer 5k sort of on a whim. A high school classmate posted on Facebook how her and her husband participated in it last year as part of a fundraiser/awareness for their daughter battling a rare type of cancer (DIPG). I remember when she shared that original post, the one where her daughter was present.

She wasn’t at this years.

For the 9 months or so that Gianna fought cancer, she did so with strength that I could never imagine. At 5 years-old, no little girl or boy should have to go through what she did. Her mom chronicled Gianna’s fight through her Facebook page, and there were times that I just couldn’t bear to see the posts. I would get so angry at the unfairness, so sad that there is so little treatment and research for what she was fighting.

Gianna the Warrior Princess

About two weeks ago or so, Gianna’s mom said they’d be back at the 5k event as part of the opening ceremony for the family fun walk portion of the race. She said they were organizing a team and that anyone who wanted to participate could join them. So I signed up knowing that the race would be done in Gianna’s memory.

The race is pretty popular and when I arrived, I didn’t think I’d be able to find Gianna’s mom. But as I was walking to the porta-potties, I spotted her. I gave her a big hug but I couldn’t say much.

I saw her again at the race start and when they announced why the parents were there, the tears began to flow.

Gianna’s mama in white

I gathered myself together because moments later, the race started and we were off.

There were no corrals but I positioned myself in the front. There were a lot of little kids who wanted to start right at the front but I didn’t mind because they were so excited. It was cool to see a lot of adults make room for them instead of grumbling that they were in the way (as I’ve seen in other races).

I ran unplugged, as I wanted to focus solely on Gianna’s bright spirit. I was running in her memory and wanted to be free of distraction.

My goal was also to PR. I didn’t know if I had it in me, but I was willing to try. At my first track workout last Wednesday with my coach, I did two 2Ks at 7:30ish pace, and it hadn’t felt too bad. So for the 5k, I wanted to shoot for a 7:15 first mile and then negative split.

When the first mile beeped 7:03 I thought I’d blown it. Way too fast and there was no way I could negative split with that as my starting point. But I didn’t let myself get too down or count myself out. I would simply continue to try and keep it under 7:15.

Mile two–7:18.

I was sooooo bummed. I really wanted to keep it under 7:15 and I felt like I was running fast (I mean, I was, but I thought it felt faster than 7:18, lol). I also thought that my secret long-shot mini goal of seeing a 6 was gone. If I hadn’t done it in the too fast first mile, there was no way I’d be able to have a six-minute-something mile 3

Well, wouldn’t you know it, my third mile was 6:57!!!! You have no idea how I freaked out when I saw that. And then I saw that I was very close to getting under 22 minutes so I ran the fastest I think I ever have in a race…

Sub 6 minute mile for 30 seconds!! Whoa!!

And finally entered the 21 minute 5k club!!!!

6th Female Overall, 2nd Age Group–I’ll be presented my award at an upcoming baseball game!

When you finished, runners/walkers were able to take a victory lap inside the Diamondbacks stadium. I don’t go to baseball games often (as you can tell by my Instagram, I’m more of a basketball girl 😉 ) but it was fun to see it in a way I’ve never seen it.

In the dugout–Put me in coach!

When I was done, I called my husband and told him how bittersweet this PR was. I was happy, but I was sad.

I was there because a little girl wasn’t.

It’s easy sometimes to avoid sad things, avoid them so that you’re not affected. I chose to be there. I wanted to be. I never met Gianna, but she touched so many lives, and my own, in her short time on earth. I’m a different person, a different mother because of her. Because every time I think of Gianna, I think of my own little girl–and I hug her a little tighter, a little longer…

–Do you know someone affected by cancer? I feel like unfortunately so many of us do…

–Do you have a meaningful PR?


31 responses

  1. I ran my second half marathon 2 years ago to raise funds for the hospital that looked after my friends little boy (age 7) who faced a battle with Leukemia. Thankfully he is lucky enough to be in remission and even came out to cheer me on, I gave him my finishers medal and I also got a PR. I thought about him with every step, whichwas emotional. So I know how this race would have felt. I had dealt with a few adults in my life facing cancer before but when it was a child it just seemed so much tougher to deal with.

  2. Congratulations on your new PR and even better that it came in a race where you ran for a cause and for little Gianna. I’ll admit that even reading and a new reader I got so sad when you mentioned that her parents were on stage and she was not. Her spirit was definitely with you during the run though and it shows. I love charity races like this one because of the causes and people. You see where your race entry fee goes even if there are no bands or frills. These races are really more important and what the spirit and sport are all about.

  3. Great Post! Those splits were impressive. Unfortunately I have lost a few family members due to cancer. Running for me, is running for those who cannot, even though some may care less what I am doing. : )

    • I hate how so many of us are affected by cancer. Ben’s mom is currently fighting. We don’t talk about it much and I don’t write about it, but it’s hard to see your loved ones (and anyone!) go through it

  4. Congrats on your PB and what a special event to do it at. I’m sure your friend appreciated you being there. Yes, hug them a little longer, a little tighter. I wish I didn’t know anyone but know to many who have had cancer, my Dad included.

  5. What a very, very special reason to run. You made me tear up just thinking about this. As a parent, it really hits close to home and is just so scary. You are such a kind soul. Congrats on the PR. Sometimes when we run with our hearts, amazing things happen.

    • Oh Sarah, I cried so many times following Gianna’s journey. My daughter is the same age as her and I couldn’t imagine her going through what Gianna did. Every time her mom would update, my heart would break again

  6. Great race, Helly! Congrats on the PR.

    I’ve done a few races that were held in the memory of a loved one. I pretty much break down on the inside whenever I hear family members talking about their beloved and why they/we were there.

    Off topic: From Insta, I noticed that you got yourself a coach. Gonna blog about this? Pretty please!

  7. Congrats on the PR!! That 3rd mile was awesome! Your post about Gianna made me nearly cry. It’s so sad to see a child (and parent) go through that. You really did a great job in honoring her memory.

    • Thank you. I followed her journey from when she was first diagnosed and it was so hard to watch her and her family go through what they did/are. I’ve learned so much from Gianna and her family about the human spirit ❤

  8. So speedy!!! How is it you can just keep going and going and going? I’m amazed by you! And also I love the story behind this… I think you can be touched by someone you never met before – sometimes there’s just this connection and tug on the heart and it makes a race or an experience that much more special ❤

  9. Pingback: Why I Hired A Coach | hellyontherun

  10. Pingback: Update: A Trophy, Missing the Century Mark, and a Humbling Half | hellyontherun

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