Last Updated on December 10, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
So recently I joined this neat little online running community, “tribal running”. A blog topic on the board was to post your most inspirational running moment. Honestly, the most inspiration moment was how I started running in the first place. This is the story I wrote…
“My Story”. Well really, it’s “Her Story”, but her story tells the tale of how I was inspired to become a runner, so I’d like to share. February 2005. My loving, crazy older sister had somehow convinced, months earlier, my younger sister and I to run the Myrtle Beach half marathon with her.
Thinking it was no biggie, and we’d have plenty of time to train, we said yes. Well, working, partying, and other more important things (hey I was a 23 year old living in a vacation town) got in the way, and I don’t believe I had run but, oh , maybe a mile or two on the treadmill the week prior to the race. Race morning came, I donned my two and a half year old worn out Nike’s, and took my place at the start corral. I had no idea what I was in for.
To spare you a pathetic story, it sucked. I couldn’t walk for a week. But darn it, I finished that stupid half marathon, I still have the medal and pictures to prove it. I couldn’t understand why anyone would put themselves through that kind of misery, never mind jump at any chance they could to register for a race, like Holly was always doing.
That afternoon, laying on my couch in misery and pain, Holly said she had something to tell us. Recently, she had noticed a spot on her back that was new and questionable. She had been to the doctor already, but after the race would return home for some more testing. But we shouldn’t have to worry. So, I didn’t. Until I got a phone call about a week later.
Holly was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, stage III Nodular Melanoma. At the time of diagnosis, Holly had a calendar full of races, including the Marine Corps Marathon that fall. She now had to add to her calendar 2 major surgeries to remove the cancer and some lymph nodes, as well as 4 weeks of high dose chemotherapy, followed by 48 more weeks of low dose chemotherapy. But in true Holly fashion, this did not deter her from her goals. Holly continued training for the marathon.
That fall, I joined Holly to run the 2005 Army Ten Miler. I was still not a runner, and the race still sucked for me. You would have thought the half marathon would have taught me a lesson, but I am a bit stubborn and hard headed. Needless to say, I struggled. As anyone who may have run the 2005 Army Ten Miler will remember, a bomb threat on a bridge on the race course resulted in a detour, which resulted in the race becoming the “Army 11.4 miler”.
It was a little confusing towards the end, as no one on the course had any idea where we were going, what was going on , or how much further we had to go. None of the volunteers on the side of the road would utter anything other than “just keep going”. But Holly had reached the end of her rope, and started to break down. The confusion, the exhaustion, the uncertainty, it had all gotten to her. The pale look on her face and knowing what her body was going through terrified me at that moment. Should we even be out there? But we pushed each other through, and as we finally crossed a bridge towards the finish line, Holly screamed out “F*CK CANCER!!!” (excuse the language!).
I have never in my entire life been so moved or in awe of another human being as I was at that moment. There I was, feeling downright sorry for myself, struggling to finish a race when I would have probably preferred to be in bed. And there was Holly, her body worn and broken down from months and months of chemotherapy, but she was running, giving every last drop of energy she could muster up, and she was happy to be doing it. I felt selfish. Selfish for taking my body for granted. And amazed at my beautiful sister and her strength.
From that moment on, I wanted to be a runner. I wanted to be as proud of my body and accomplishments as my sister was. I wanted to be just like my hero. On October 30th, 2005, Holly “beat the 14th street bridge” and successfully finished the Marine Corps Marathon. She continued on with 6 more months of chemotherapy treatment, and successfully beat cancer.
She also managed to successfully turn her little sister into a running junkie. Since that race, I have run countless more races of all different distances, many of them with Holly by my side. But I wasn’t the only one she would have that affect on. Holly later founded the Cancer to 5k program, with the help and support of the Ulman Cancer Fund. Holly and her team of volunteers help coach other young adult cancer patients and survivors to become runners, and complete their first 5k .
She is making a difference in the lives of everyone she comes in contact with. In my eyes, she is nothing short of amazing. Thank you Holly, I love you!
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.