If you know me, you know that I’ve battled cancer for the 5th time in 25 years this year. You also know I love to run. If you didn’t know me before now, you know this about me at least. Two of my many running goals for 2013 were to run 2000 miles & also complete a 50 miler to celebrate my 50th birthday back in May. After a DNF at a 50-mile trail/mud fest in June when a health crisis pulled me off the course, I knew I was running out of time to meet this goal and took it upon myself to create an event that I could share with my friends who have accompanied me through my treatment journey this year. I named this run, "Dari’s 50 Reasons Run" because on any given day, I can think of 100’s of reasons to feel grateful for big & small blessings in my life. However, when things get tough like they sometimes do when you are not feeling well during cancer treatment, I wanted to remind myself just how much I really do have in spite of my health issues.
So…. on Saturday Dec 28th, I set out to run my own 50-miler. I posted the date and my intention back in November on FB when I learned that this round of treatment had NOT been successful at eradicating my cancer and I would again be looking at more aggressive treatment at the start of 2014, and invited my friends to join me in a run to celebrate what we ALL have in our lives big & small that we sometimes take for granted. I never imagined that I would be joined by so many people both virtually around the world as well as IRL with me on the rail trail for some or all of my 50-mile journey. This run of mine seemed to take on a life of its own. Before long, RA peeps from all over were committing to run virtual miles with me wearing a bib designed by Keeponrunning in a show of solidarity for me. Overwhelming? I’d say… and just wait it gets better.
On a perfectly sunny day at 7AM with a starting temp of about 28 degrees, we headed out from the beginning of the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Dennis, did a 3 mile out & back with Mississippi, Rockenmama, Ojo & my friend Kenny and then met a bunch of my friends at the start for the 22 mile out and back on a generally flat paved trail to Wellfleet, MA. It’s a beautiful trail that takes you past cranberry bogs, marshes, ponds, lakes & through wooded areas. Mississippi would end up running the entire 50 miles with me and for this I’ll never be able to repay my gratitude. Approximately 15 peeps from the Cape Cod Athletic Club joined me at the start also for their weekend long-run and I was also joined by my near & dear friends from RA in the IRL form of Barbs595, Cherrieruns, Pygirl & Jebl00 (local) – who along with the previously mentioned RA chicks had driven in from as far away as PA to stay the weekend and join me. My plan was to re-fuel at the 1/4, 1/2 way point, and 3/4 mark of the run. Not so coincidentally these points also boast a great coffee & chocolate place and one of the best damn French bakeries outside of Paris. The big challenge at the beginning of this run for me was to not go out too fast as most of my friends were only doing the first 13 miles and then heading out to enjoy the rest of their weekend plans off the Rail Trail. I was wearing a backpack with food & hydration, so aside from salty chix soup waiting for me at the 1/4 mile mark, this was a generally self-supported run. At the 1/4 stop, we picked up another couple of local friends to run (& ride on a bike, which I appreciated for the intended spirit but was actually slightly annoying) some miles with us. The wind picked up quite a bit and would eventually gust to over 24 miles per hour as the day went on and we faced the headwind going back.
Along the run, we would continue to pick up local friends who would join us for some miles. Some were close friends and others were local runners from the club who had heard about my goal and wanted to help me reach it. Each of them inspired me with their own life & running stories and/or their willingness to listen to me try not to whine about my below-the-waist chafing or my increasingly leaden legs as the run crept into the high 30+mile mark. It was around this time that I was truthfully beginning to question whether I wanted to run any farther at all. I was tired, sore & bleeding pretty steadily from nether region chafing.
At the 3/4 mark while changing my now very damp clothing into warmer clothing & grabbing a headlamp for what would soon be dark miles, I was surprised & blown away by the arrival of Redleaf who had flown in from Toronto and had been picked up at Logan Airport unbeknownst to me to also join me for some miles. The choice of whether I continued was now a non-issue. It’s one thing to let yourself down but when you have peeps flying in from outside of the country… well, DNFing isn’t even a discussion you can have out loud. Now, if you haven’t already gathered… I have the best friends in the world. The ladies of the LLR are not be trifled with and will go to unfathomable lengths to support one of their own. I’m humbled everyday by the individual & collective strength & greatness of this group of women. That I get to call myself one of them, still kinda blows me away.
Mississippi & I would continue along gaining and dropping running companions. As darkness fell and the final 5 miles drew close, we would be joined for the last bit by a dear friend Howie, his daughter and their dog, Bandit. I was by this point, just loopy enough to catch a glimpse of this Australian shepherd mix and find myself thinking… "great my beagle, Chili is with us…" Thankfully, I wasn’t planning on operating heavy equipment in this impaired state. We would plod companionably to the 50 mile mark together where we were greeted by applause, hugs, & lots of love from the ladies of the LLR. Total running time? About 10 hours give or take. I also crossed the 2,000 mile mark for 2013 during this run. Some of the stops along the way took longer than others as people joined or departed, bathroom stops were made, clothing changes, photo ops and other fun & nonsense ensued. I’ll be clear here, this wasn’t a race for me, just one of the biggest and bestest days of my life’s journey to date. I will forever be grateful to my friends from near & far for playing a part in this day with me. 2014 promises to hold some more challenges for me. That’s ok. I’m pretty used to it by now. I’ll keep running, loving, fighting the fight, laughing and playing, cuz that’s how I roll.
~ Dari Whitehouse