Sunday, August 11, 2019

Adventures of Runnergirl Race Spotlight: The 2014 Bill Rodgers 5K to Benefit Prostate Cancer

Yesterday was the 5 year anniversary of when I PR'ed the Bill Rodgers 5K to benefit Prostate Cancer. Photos popped up in my memory feed on Facebook. I thought it would be fun to provide photos and a video to accompany the narration from "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953":

One Moment in Time: Race Report Bill Rodgers 5K Run/Walk to Benefit Prostate Cancer August 10, 2014

I was open to whatever my body was going to be able to do today. My mantra for today's race was light and joy. I wanted to thoroughly enjoy the day. I slept well and didn’t have the usual pre-race jitters. I had a good breakfast of a bagel, oatmeal, banana and orange juice. What a luxury to be able to get up at 6:45am on a race day and drive 10 minutes to the start of the race.

I had a sense of trust that this was going to be a good day.

When we arrived, race director Alain Ferry whom you may recall was also the organizer of the OneRun greeted us. He had been following my blog posts about my intention to PR for the race. He gave me a big bear hug and asked me to remind him what my goal was for today's race.

“I hope we see 47:00 minutes or less on the clock when you cross that finish line. Remind me again of your name?” Alain asked extending his hand to Tom.

“It’s Tom.”

“We met at the Heartbreak Hill Marathon weekend. I remember you.”

He warmly shook Tom’s hand and said, “Well I’ve got about a million things to do. See you back here.”

I reconnected with Bill Rodgers at his table while he sold copies of his book, “Marathon Man: My 26.2 Mile Journey From Unknown Grad Student to the Top of the Running World.” He remembered me and my story from Hyannis.

“How did you like the book?” Bill asked me.

“I loved it Bill,” I answered with a big smile. I shared with him parts of the book that resonated with me.

“Life is hard,” he said to me. “That’s why we run. If we can tough it out on the roads, we know we can tough it out in life.”

Bill turned and introduced us to his girlfriend Karen.

“I overheard your conversation with Billy. You’ve had an amazing journey. I’m a breast cancer survivor and started running in my 40’s after the diagnosis.”

We instinctively hugged even though we just met each other.

“Let’s get everyone over to the starting line,” Alain commanded through his bullhorn.

Pre-race announcements talked about the importance of supporting research, early detection and treatment for Prostate Cancer. Alain asked for a show of hands of those running affected by cancer. There was an astounding number of hands raised in the crowd. Alain handed Bill Rodgers the mic. He shared how he is a prostate cancer survivor.

“It is the #2 leading cause of cancer deaths among American men. We need to pay as much attention to prostate cancer for men as we do for breast cancer for women.”

Bill Rodgers went on in his pre-race remarks. “Running and walking is a simple little sport but we as Americans can use it to change the world.”

And then it was gun time and time for me to write another chapter of my story.
We started at the front of the pack with Bill Rodgers off to our left. I went out running fast through the campus of Boston College. Thirty years ago I received my Masters in Social Work degree and spent many many hours on that beautiful campus. The field took off and I adhered to my race plan. We'd run the downhill and I'd run for as long as I could and then move into race walking. When we got to the rolling hills of Commonwealth Avenue, I race walked. The sun was bright and the day heated up fast. We were grateful there was no humidity and we could go on the sidewalk for shade. We brought frozen water bottles that I used for hydration and to keep cool.

Mile 1 - 14:33 pace. I was blown away by my time but I knew that anything could happen over the next two point one miles.

Tom kept checking in with me. How was I feeling? Did anything hurt? I didn't talk much which is very unusual for me and I was breathing hard. I had a single-minded goal but I was running from the inside out.

In my training runs I had stopped to take a "water break.” At times I slowed my pace, but kept moving forward. We stopped for about 30 seconds at the water stop before it was time to tackle the hill with a 221' elevation.

Mile 2 - time was almost 30 minutes.

Okay I think I can. I think I can. I've got this. I can do this.

Tom said to me "What do we do with hills?"

"We eat them for breakfast," I managed to get out.

To the top of Beacon Street and a right onto College Road.

A right onto Commonwealth Avenue heading toward the finish.

Alain came out on his bike, "Oh there you are. "Come on you're almost there."

I was hot and my tank was close to empty.

As we headed toward the finish Alain told me I had less than a minute for my PR.

People gathered to cheer me on.

Alain was just on the other side of the finish line.

I sprinted to the finish and the finish clock read 46:57 gun time!

I knew in my heart and soul that I crossed more than a finish line. As I told Alain, I reclaimed my life. The essence of who I am took center stage. It was another moment of redemption achieved through running. I wrung out the grief from my nephew’s death. I ran as Boston Strong rinsing out the trauma of 4/15/13 with sweat and tears.

It's been one hell of a journey back since Charlie Louis Alper tragically and violently died on March 4th of 2011. Thanks to Alain and the OneRun, I knew I had to come back to the sport that had transformed my life. I realized it was more than coming back to running. It was setting a goal and once again challenging myself. It was opening up to see what my body could do leaving nothing on the roads. It was about testing my mettle and letting go of fear.

Alain shared with me that he didn't expect to find us as far up on Commonwealth Avenue as close to the finish line as he did. He was concerned about the heat and was coming to provide support regardless of the time on the clock. When he saw how close we were to the finish, he wanted that PR for me as much as I did. I felt as though I was being pulled into the vortex of the finish line by his loving energy and all those cheering me on.

"I saw you start to cry and then I saw a look come across your face. You dug deep during that sprint,” he said to me. “It was quite a moving moment for me as a Race Director to watch you come across that finish line with such visible fierce determination.”

During that final sprint, Tom let me set the pace. He could tell I was in the zone. Tom wept with me when we crossed the finish line. We both knew that I left pain, fear and doubt out on the course and in its wake, strength, courage, confidence, and healing surged.

Gratitude filled my heart for Facebook friends who I met for the first time who cheered me on and took photos, and to Alain who was there to celebrate and tend to me post race.
“Here is an ice water for you. Go get in the shade and here’s a couple of oranges for you and Tom. I’m so proud of you!”

Today was one moment in time - many moments in time that I will always cherish when I look back on my adventures as runner girl.

Pre-race photo with Alain:

Meeting Kathleen Healy Fencil, Facebook friend, in real life:

Pre-race photos with Bill Rodgers:

Phil Lipof, Boston News Anchor and Bill pre-race:

At start:

Coming down Chestnut Hill Avenue Photo Credit Kathleen and husband Tom:

Coming into the final stretch:

Hustling for a PR:

I did it!

Post race hug:

Post race celebration:

Official time:

To your health and wellness
From my heart to yours

Be sure to visit my website at

Hear my interview with Kendra Petrone on Magic 106.7's Exceptional Women Show by following this link

My books are available on Amazon and "Feel the Heal" and "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953" are available in Natick Center Cultural District at Paula Romero Dunbar's Celebration Boutique Paper Fiesta coincidentally located on Mile 10 of the Boston Marathon Route.

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