If you asked people passing by on the street to define “LIVESTRONG,” you might hear several different answers. LIVESTRONG is a Foundation that helps people affected by cancer. It’s a brand. It’s a nonprofit. It’s a wristband. It’s a movement.
While LIVESTRONG might be all of those things and more, to me, our Chicago Marathon team that ran in the race this past Sunday is LIVESTRONG.
LIVESTRONG is team members Wanda and Chad, strangers before this past weekend, who found each other at mile 20 and pushed through to the finish line together after Wanda said, “Come on, we got this.”
LIVESTRONG is team member Phil, who was diagnosed with cancer just a few months ago and who said before he raced on Sunday that “LIVESTRONG helped me focus on the reality that with the time I have left, I must live my life intentionally, and for all it is worth. To pour into others, and enjoy. Not live in fantasy, or regret, or fear. To invest time. To embrace each waking, each breath, each Monday, each doctor visit as what they truly are- gifts.”
LIVESTRONG is team member Sheila, who had a baby just 11 months ago and qualified for the 2014 Boston Marathon with her time in the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.
LIVESTRONG is team member Julie, whose husband Tom passed away after his fight with cancer on 10-13-06, and who ran her first marathon in his memory 7 years later on 10-13-13 knowing that he was with her every step of the way.
LIVESTRONG is team member and brain cancer survivor Matt, who ran his second marathon on Sunday.
LIVESTRONG is team member Greg, a teacher who ran in memory of his 10 year old student he lost to cancer just two months ago.
LIVESTRONG is team member Lisa who ran her ran her first race ever when she joined Team LIVESTRONG in the Chicago Marathon 5 years ago. Sunday was her 15th Marathon and her 5th Chicago Marathon with Team LIVESTRONG.
LIVESTRONG is team member Lee Ann, who after losing her father to cancer one year ago on race day, decided to run with Team LIVESTRONG to honor his memory. Nothing, not even being seriously injured in the Boston Marathon bombing, was going to stop her from running the Chicago Marathon. She crossed that finish line on Sunday with her hands in the air – Chicago Marathon finisher, Boston Bombing Survivor, and one of the most determined individuals this world has ever seen.
LIVESTRONG is team member Daphne, who lost her mother to cancer last year and inspired the team with her words at our Team Appreciation Dinner on Friday night:
“I chose the Chicago Marathon as my first marathon because my mother is from Chicago, and I could think of no better way to memorialize her than to train hard and run the streets of the city she loved so dearly all while raising funds for a charity that helped me through my darkest hours.
“I am so proud of my fellow teammates who put in countless hours of hard work and sweat in the glaring sun, pouring rain, the lonely, dark morning hours, on treadmills, country roads, and city sidewalks. We conquered blisters, ice baths, missing toenails, chafing in places we didn’t know existed, head winds and paths that seemed to go uphill both ways. What and who inspired us to train over the past 18 weeks might be individually different but collectively we have had similar goals. LIVESTRONG has inspired us to seek strength within ourselves that we probably didn’t know we had.”
That strength was obvious in each member of the team throughout the weekend as they shared their stories and encouraged each other on. I am very thankful that I was there for this powerful experience, and I feel honored to have met this amazing group of cancer fighters. This team has been through some of the hardest parts of life, but they still hold on to hope with everything they have. They still pushed through to that finish line. And they showed me and the world what it means to LIVESTRONG.