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.
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.
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.
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…
And finally entered the 21 minute 5k club!!!!
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.
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?