Prior to February 2010, I was not a runner. Not even close. My friend, Anna, was a runner. She used to try to get me to run with her - battering me with things like "You'll like it if you try it" and "You'd be really good at it". I'd laugh at her and scoff her suggestion.
In January 2010, my mindset changed. Anna told me she'd been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. She had been diagnosed while she was training for Rn'R Las Vegas. It would have been her 5th marathon, but she had to pull out because of the pain.
Funny enough, the first thought through my brain was "I need to find a run for lymphoma and do it for her". Somehow my brain was thinking there'd be a 5K that I could do. And then I found Team in Training (TNT). The shortest distance I could do was a half marathon. It seemed daunting for a non-runner but when I saw Nike Women's was one of the fall events (an event Anna had run in the past), I knew it was the right fit.
I initially taught myself to run. The Couch to 5K program was my best friend. In late April, I officially signed up for TNT, as soon as the registration opened for the Fall. And in early May, I was introduced to my coach. Coach Sheena.
Sheena knew Anna fairly well through both of their time within the Calgary running community. She understood that this journey was incredibly personal to me - that I had an intense need to honour my friend as she went through her treatments. A cancer survivor herself, Sheena knew the power that a program like TNT has. Her enthusiasm and her passion drove our entire team to succeed. She pulled us together and kept us going when we least wanted to.
When I hurt, she would help me through it. Her experience and knowledge could help me overcome what I thought were injuries but were actually alignment issues. When I felt down - she was there to pump me up. Her laughter was infectious and the post-run coffees with her and the team were often twice as long as the run itself had been.
It is because of her that I became a better runner. It is because of her that I run in the rain during training (and apparently almost every race day). It is because of her that my knees don't hurt anymore and that I know how to stretch my calf to prevent foot pain. She's also a big part of the reason that I am A LOT more diligent with applying my sunscreen (she survived melanoma).
When I ran in San Francisco, I passed her at a point where I was running alone and losing motivation. Standing on the sidewalk, waving a ginormous Canada flag, she yelled out to me "Oh Cori - I'm so happy I got to see you! You go girl!" At that moment, all I wanted to do was run over to her for a hug, but her enthusiasm and encouragement were enough to lighten my steps and propel me forward to finish my first half marathon!
Somewhere along the line, Sheena also became more than my coach. She became my friend and it is a friendship I truly cherish. When her beloved bulldog passed away earlier this year - real tears streamed down my cheeks for her. And not a meetup goes by where she doesn't ask me how cancer dog is doing (Abner has a form of cancer that is like canine lymphoma - he's doing much better and will likely see old age if his upcoming checkup goes well).
Sheena likes to call herself the "Crazy Running Lady". It's in her email signature and she's happy to live it. This year, however, she's going a little Goofy. As in the Goofy Challenge. She has signed up as a TNT alumnus to run a half marathon on the Saturday and a full marathon on the Sunday this January in Orlando! Craziness!
But her passion for both the cause and for the running will mean she does wonderfully at it. It is the reason that I immediately looked up her donation page and pledged her my support before she even had to ask for it.
So, if you have a few bucks that are burning a hole in your pocket and you'd like to see them go to an amazing cause, please help Sheena reach her fundraising goal of $5000. She is an amazing lady and it is because of people like her that one day Blood Cancers will be something we talk about in the past tense.
Do you have a running coach? I'd love it if you'd share your experiences and stories in the comments!