In the course of my work, I am fortunate to speak to many incredible people who have faced cancer either personally or in their close family, and who wish to raise awareness and funds to fight the disease.
Their willingness to help others and improve research in the future often sees them taking part in events such as Race For Life, 10k runs, obstacle courses, half-marathons, triathlons and either running or walking marathons (if you haven’t done one, please don’t underestimate how hard a walking marathon is, especially an overnight one).
Some of these amazing volunteers have also become very good friends, and I have trained and completed events with many of these special people.
They constantly inspire me and, in this Inspiration series, I wanted to pass on some running tips and experiences that they (and other people who may have faced adversity in other ways) have had, and how running has played its part.
To kick the series off…I would like to introduce my friend Alice.
Alice was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2003 while she was pregnant with her daughter Macie, and then again in 2013 with Ewing’s sarcoma (which is very rare in adults). I asked her to explain why she runs.
“Running is my time to de-stress and get outdoors. It’s also a chance to meet up with friends and it’s good for your state of mind too.
Whatever is going on at work or home, it is all forgotten when you get out of the door.
My main motivation is that there have been long periods where I just couldn’t run and I would moan about it.
So now, when it is difficult and I am struggling, I just think about the fact that I can. Even if it feels torturous, that thought alone makes me smile and think ‘I might be out in the pouring rain but I am here’.
It goes through my mind surprisingly often and not just on long runs either. And I also think about the fact that there are other people who haven’t survived who can’t be there and that stops me grumbling.
One of my proudest moments was my first event after my treatment ended – a Sport Relief mile about a month after a year of chemotherapy had finished. It was a huge milestone and very emotional.
I ran with Macie and it felt amazing to be on a start line again, pinning on a race number after so long. It was my comeback and it was so important.
At that point, I had this idea about doing the London Marathon. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time but thought it was out of my league – then I decided to sign up and I just knew I would finish it somehow.
The big day was only a year after treatment too – I just went for it!
The atmosphere was incredible and I was doing it for CRUK so that meant a lot. The best bit was doing Tower Bridge – that is my memory of seeing it on TV and the sound of it in real life was incredible – I will never forget that noise.
All of it was hard going, but when I got to Big Ben, I knew I was nearly there.
I was still so relieved to get to the end – there were not too many crowds left in the finishing straight by that point, but there was a stand of CRUK cheerers who were still going, and then I was so delighted to see Macie and my partner John.
My illness has definitely made me more resolute, and I think that shows in my running. I describe myself as slow but one tip I have learned not to try to compare myself to others or try to achieve what they do.
And if anyone is just starting to run, I would say to keep it small and don’t put pressure on. Sometimes just getting outside is the achievement and that is enough.
The first time I went out, I just got to my local park and back, and though I would never do that again. But I did.
Other people are great to motivate you too, and so is doing other activities that you enjoy too. They build up strength and can give you another reason to get fit too – you can do more stuff when you are a bit fitter.
I train as best I can but I never seem to have enough time to follow a plan properly and I usually have to fit in runs when I can and a few exercise classes too.
Overall, I do like a focus or an aim to get me going – even if it’s not an upcoming race, it might be trying to get my parkrun time down.
Obviously I would love to be a bit faster but, for me, it’s all about entering events and finishing them– it gives me such pride and I love my medals.
That said, I did check my Strava after a run recently and I had got an amazing number of PBs, which was great. Then I realised I had left it on when I drove home, so that was slightly disappointing – I thought those PBs were too good to be true!”
Alice is also a CRUK media volunteer (more information here) and is a member of CRUK’s Involvement Network to help shape the charity’s work.
She is on Twitter at @aliceroythorne and Instagram at @royth