The DONNA 26.2 Marathon is the only marathon in the nation to support breast cancer. It’s been a journey for the founder of the race, Donna Deegan, as she is a three-time breast cancer survivor. This year, the DONNA broke additional new ground by allowing cyclists to take part in the race. Enter Brooks Rehabilitation Adaptive Sports and Recreation. Several of the program’s athletes made history on February 12 and I was blessed to join them.
Color me humble
It’s 5:30 a.m. and we’re going over race assignments. I’m partnered with my friend Shauna, who is racing in a recumbent bike. Shauna has been cycling for a while, covering 30 miles plus. And I’m supposed to keep up with her. How? Because my “official training” includes 11 miles on my beach bike. I got this.
Shauna and Deb, The Race Warriors. Photo Credit: Jet Belleza
The Brooks team gathered at the front of the race pack, with a 7:25 a.m. start. The runners followed at 7:30 a.m. Many shared their enthusiasm with welcoming wishes and supportive cheers. It was evident; it was heart warming. Thank you race organizers for enabling access for all athletes.
Moving through 26.2 miles
Mile 2: Lost Shauna. Yep, at mile two. I simply couldn’t keep up with her or the other athletes.
Mile 9: Passed by a runner. When his bike partner rolled up, I asked about his pace. It was a 5/6 minute mile so I exhaled a little. However, I was eventually passed by three more runners. This is when it turned into a different race for me. I simply wanted to get through it.
Mile 14: Rode by my house and had a fleeting thought of pulling over. It was fleeting. The Brooks racers ahead of me were lost by sight but not by mind, heart, grit and determination.
Mile 16: Moment of realization – the sideline cheerleaders were amazing. There was a continuous chorus of joyous shouts, as well as drinks, music, costumes and noisemakers of all kinds.
Mile 24: Looming ahead was the JTB Bridge. I estimate the incline at a zillion miles and the decline a half mile. Thank you Tyler with team Brooks for standing guard at the base to get me up and over.
Mile 26.2: Noodle legs upon dismount. I had a hard stop over the finish line and graciously thank the random dude and chick who were there to make sure I didn’t fall on my face. And then utopia.
Photo Credit: Jet Belleza
It’s been a little over one week since the race.
I’ve run 5ks, 10ks and even a half marathon. I’ve never moved 26.2 miles, nor have I raced with a group of athletes who take on physical challenges and simply put – smash them. While we did not necessarily move side-by-side through the race as initially planned, we were yoked heart-to-heart across the distance of 26.2 miles.