Running the marathon

September 25, 2010

A reminder just popped up on my calendar that I’m supposed to be running Berlin Marathon tomorrow! Obviously I won’t be, but that was the plan up until 31 May. I have run two marathons before, Copenhagen in May 2008 in 3:34 (went like a dream) and New York in November 2009 in 3:47 (struggled through having contracted a lung infection 3 weeks before). Berlin is supposed to be a fast course and I really wanted to finally break that 3:30 barrier. I would like to run another marathon next year, mainly to prove I can. The 3:30 target seems less important these days and I’ll settle for a fun marathon experience (though if I can do that AND break 3:30 I will be very happy!).

Though I won’t be running in Berlin tomorrow, the nurse who usually administers my chemo will! I think it is so cool to have a nurse that is also into running and I will be mentally cheering her on. One day we were chatting about how there are a lot of similarities between getting through chemo and running a marathon.

Of course there are differences, the biggest being that you choose to run a marathon – I guess at some level you also choose to undergo chemotherapy, but the alternative isn’t really much of a choice…. I think everyone running a marathon has moments when they think “maybe I should just stop now”, but believe me, no matter how horrible chemo is, it doesn’t cross your mind to stop. Getting through chemo is a bit like running a marathon with a sniper after you.

However, while you don’t really choose to go through chemo, my running nurse pointed out that you do choose how you react to the process. That reminded me of a comment made by a fellow cancer blogger, Helena, which inspired me at the start of my chemo journey. She says:

You will be met with sympathy by all. It comes easy and can be sapping. You need and can bring about the uplift that only admiration ever gives. Be the hero not the victim.”  

OK, you generally don’t meet a lot of sympathy when you choose to run a marathon – more like raised eyebrows and looks that communicate “you are crazy!”. But during the marathon itself the uplift you get from the cheering crowds is really what gets you through when the going gets tough. In New York, where I wasn’t in top form and was really struggling, it was the cheers and encouragement and that kept me going and stopped me from giving up. In Copenhagen, where I was in top form and enjoyed every moment, it was unbelievable to see my family pop up cheering again and again throughout the course (I think they managed to plan a route where they actually saw me 9 times throughout the course – I think you are probably getting the idea about how much support I get from my family!).

But it has been like that with the chemo too. I can’t describe how much energy and motivation it gives me when I get comments from all of you, here or on facebook, in emails or in person, cheering me on and encouraging me. I can’t believe how many of you take the time out to do that cheering and I appreciate it more than I can say.

They say that a marathon really starts at 30 km. The first 30 km are relatively easy. The last 10-12 km are tough and you get through them purely on will power. I have just had the 6th out of my 8 chemo treatments and it feels a bit the same way. The last couple of times it has taken me longer to “bounce back” after the treatment, and I think I can say that this last couple of weeks struggling with the infection and being hospitalised have been the equivalent of hitting the wall.

From now on it is going to be willpower and your cheering that keeps me going, so keep it coming! And while I’m struggling through I’m already fantasising about those cheers I’m going to hear when I run my marathon next year and the amazing feeling I’m going to have when I cross that finish line……


7 Responses to “Running the marathon”

  1. Dennis C.. Says:

    Hep Hep Hep Hep!!!! 🙂

  2. olekassow Says:

    Kirsten, I’m blown away by your mental willpower, both as a marathon runner and in your response to cancer. I can’t wait to see you back on the marathon track and beat that 3:30 in Copenhagen next year. You’re truly one of a kind.

  3. Lina Says:

    Hi Kirsten,

    We’ve met at the womenrun with Kerry and at the dhl run I believe. Anyway, I just red your blog and I want to be the sideliner stranger cheering for you at km 32, cause I remember how hard it was, runnning and seeing it and thinking “ah only 10km.” What a mistake. But every cheer, smile, eye contact with people helped me. You truly have an amazing way of seeing life, run away from that cancer and beat it at the last 10km. Berlin will be there for you next year.
    Best of run for the last bit you’ve got to do.
    woot woot!


  4. Atanas Says:

    Way to go Kirsten. You are stronger than a rock and I have no doubt that not only will you bounce back but I am certain there will be many people cheering for you at the 30km of many marathons to come.

    Cheering for and thinking of you 2000km south-east.

  5. […] I have no idea how I have looked during the two marathons I ran, but I have decided that when I run in Berlin in September I am going to make a conscious effort to relax and smile and interact with the spectators. I suspect that if you force yourself to do that even when you feel overwhelmed, then you will feel better and get more energy. Hmm, a bit like getting through chemo I guess! But then again didn’t I previously liken getting through chemo to running a marathon???? […]

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