Last year, I started the year with a goal: to race in a Spartan Beast for Avery Heino, who was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor and now has passed on to become an Angel. The Reebok Spartan Races are insane, and the Beast is no joke: 12+ miles with 30+ obstacles, covered in mud. In order to race, you must sign a waiver that you won’t sue in the event of serious injury and/or death. (I suppose if you die you won’t sue but your family can’t, either). Until then, my longest race had been a 5K. I trained with an amazing group of women from my gym, and in May of 2015, three months after Avery’s death, I completed my goal at a Beast in Ohio, but not without blood, sweat, and a lot of tears. At one point near the end, I wasn’t sure if I could finish. My body was bruised and beaten and my head pounded in pain, and I was shaking uncontrollably. My running partners, Jessica and Kathryn, were amazing. They looked at my BrAvery bracelet, and simply said her name out loud. That’s all I needed to cross the finish line.
Two months later, I did another Spartan race, a Sprint, and at the very start of the race, I was stung by 2 bees. I was miserable. This race was only a fraction of the distance of the Beast, but it was a hot day in August and I thought I was going to pass out for most of it. I made it to the finish line once again, encouraged by my BrAvery bracelet, but this time I said “no more.” I hung up the proverbial racing hat (or really my Camelback) and I was done.
Or so I thought…
During Curefest D.C. last year, I met an amazing young man named Harold, but he simply goes by “H.” His smile is infectious, and now he is a tall and handsome 13-year-old that just wants to live a normal life. But he can’t. H has cancer. He has had a relapse that has affected his heart and lungs. He was supposed to undergo a very complicated surgery this week but was postponed due to the wonderful news that his tumors had responded to chemotherapy. Now he must undergo more chemotherapy, and at this very moment as I write this, he is in the ICU with a fever. And through it all, he smiles. He’s tough. He’s probably scared shitless but he sure doesn’t show it to the rest of the world.
It’s been over a year since that day when I thought I had finished my last Spartan race. I’ve made a lot of excuses… mainly that I’m just not interested. But the truth is, I’m scared. Terrified. And yet, I have a choice as to whether or not to do another Spartan race. And the sad truth about Childhood Cancer, which only receives 4% of federal funding, is that children who are diagnosed with cancer have ZERO choices. They are forced to fight for their lives with outdated treatments. And, like H, the kids I meet fight with their whole heart. They face their fears head on, and often with a smile.
I have now made a last-minute decision to do a Spartan Sprint on October 8th (this Saturday!) for H, and all the other amazing children that have inspired me to face my own fears and fight for them: “Super” Sydney, Sara Willis, Julia Alexander, Isla “The Fierce,” just to name a VERY few… there are sadly so many that I can’t possibly list them all (and you know who you are and I love you very much). And of course, to honor the memory of the one that started it all for me, precious Avery, who endured more in her short two-and-a-half years than I will endure in my lifetime. A few hours on a Spartan Course is the least I can do. It’s time for this Bald Princess to Spartan Up. Aroo!
What can YOU do to help? Please consider a donation to the following:
Follow this link to directly support H and his family (greatly needed): https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/s51f?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=fb_share&utm_campaign=php_fundraiser_minidash-fraggles&og_action=hug&ref=share-fraggles&t=3
Follow this link to donate to my St. Baldrick’s page; all tax-deductible donations directly fund Childhood Cancer Research: https://www.stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/872106/2016
Follow this link to support my non-profit organization, Joy to the Kids, Inc.; all tax-deductible donations go into programming for children in hospitals: www.joytothekids.org/donate