About this blog

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I am a runner

I am many things.  A daughter. A wife. A mother. A child of God. A lawyer. A survivor. Today, I can add something to my list.

By the grace of God, I am a runner.

This morning, I got out of my hotel bed at 4:26 a.m. in order to get outside and stand in line for 45 minutes with 11,000 other people to run 13.1 miles.  At about 5:45 a.m., we got moving. Sound nuts?  A few years ago, I would have heartily agreed. I remember when a friend of mine began running half marathons a year or so ago. I couldn't believe she could run 13+ miles at one time. It blew my mind. Last May, she challenged me to run the Tinkerbell half marathon at Disneyland. I took her up on it.

I logged over 213 miles since the 3 Day last November training for my first half. I had no idea what to expect. My last long run was over a week ago. My last easy run was 3 miles on Thursday. Then I took 2 days off of exercise completely. (Unless you count walking around Disneyland all day yesterday as exercise!)  I was getting similar "gut checks" that I would get late in pregnancy before going into labor. The feeling of...."Oh my gosh....can I really do THIS?"

Got our bibs...we're ready!
Mom, Isabelle and I drove up to Anaheim on Friday afternoon to pick up our race packets and check into our hotel, the Paradise Pier at Disney. Isabelle was registered to run the kids 1 mile race on Saturday morning. She killed it. She ran it in 9:26 and didn't even break a sweat. We spent the rest of the day at Disneyland. We had a great time, but it was a bummer that my mom had a broken arm and couldn't do most of the rides.

Other than walking around Disneyland, I did pretty much everything "right" yesterday to prepare. I drank a lot of water. I abstained from alcohol. I had some pasta for dinner, but not too much. I got to bed at a decent time. This morning when I woke up before the crack of dawn, I ate a hard boiled egg white that I had brought from home, carefully refrigerated in one of my kids' lunch boxes with cold bags, a banana, and some of my green tea. I got dressed, laced up, and was ready to go.

There was no question of where to line up once we left the hotel. The street was packed with literally thousands of people, mostly women, walking in one direction. We just blended in with the rest of them. I was supposed to line up in corral "B," which was the second of 5 corrals that would send runners out in waves. There were lots of cute costumes: fairy wings; princesses; Peter Pans; etc. I was all business. This was my first half, and I wanted to wear something that I had road tested on a long run! Mom and Isabelle had to leave me pretty quickly, the corrals were for "runners only."

As I stood there shivering in the dark, a lady next to me reached into a baggie and threw some glittery confetti on me, saying it was "pixie dust" for good luck. I told her that was great, I needed it, because it was my first half marathon. We got to talking during the 30 minutes we were waiting for the race to begin.  Leslie is a veteran runner: 38 years, 9 marathons, and other races under her belt.  We chatted about lots of things, I told her a little bit about my coming to running, the cancer, the 3 Day, and so on. As the race time approached, she suggested that we run together since she didn't have her music with her. I said that would be okay, but she shouldn't feel obligated to stick with me if she wanted to go faster. My target pace was going to be around 11 minute per mile. She had mentioned that hers was going to be 10. Besides, I have never run with anyone before, and I didn't know how I would like it. It could be good, but it could be bad too. It wasn't something I had "tested out" before to know how I would like it.

So we started out together. I had my Garmin on, so I could tell what our pace was. The first mile we took really easy at 11:18, warming up and finding our place on the road.  The course was great, especially the parts when we were running through Disneyland. It was daybreak, the sun was just beginning to turn the sky from dark, but the park was alive.  But empty from all people other than the runners. As we looped around the various areas, they would have the appropriate music playing. Like the theme from "Sleeping Beauty" as we ran through the castle, or country music playing when we ran by Big Thunder Mountain. Of course, there were characters everywhere. Many runners would top and wait in line to take pictures with them, but we didn't stop. In Fantasyland, King Arthur's Carosel was spinning, and the Lost Boys from Peter Pan were on them shouting and waving at us. It was so cool!

After running the park, the route took us through Downtown Disney, then out to parts of Anaheim. In the town, it wasn't as scenic. But there were a ton of people lining the streets to cheer us on.  About 50 women in red hats and purple clothes; high school marching bands and cheerleaders; family members with home made signs; a troupe of hula dancers; even a U.S. Army band with soldiers in their BDUs! It was amazing.

My new friend and I stuck together. I actually really enjoyed having someone with me.  It was so great to have this experienced runner take me under her wing (fairy wings?) and show me the ropes. As we ran along, she gave me tips about where on the road to run and so on. About 5 miles into the race, she said to me, "You are a runner."  I would ask her questions about recovery time and training for the next race and she would say, "You don't need me to tell you...you are a runner."  But then she told me anyway!  At one point around mile 10 she stopped to use the porta potties and told me to keep going, she would catch up with me. I did, and she finally did catch up. I'm glad she did, becasue that time alone started to allow my mind to wander and focus on the little discomforts that were starting to pop up.  We talked about other things too: our families; health histories; careers; etc.

My new friend and I at the finish!
For the last 2 miles led us back into Disney areas. The race wound through Disney's California Adventure, both backstage and through the park. I was feeling great. Our pace had been picking up throughout the race-we were in the low 10's for most of the race. When we passed the mile 12 marker in California Adventure, I said to Leslie, "Wanna pick it up a bit?"  We ran that last mile at 9:28.  We saw mom and Isabelle cheering us on right before the 13 mile marker. We were almost there! Was it over already?  When we saw the finish line, Leslie urged me to sprint. For the first time ever in a race, I had it in me to do just that. I went as all out as I could. I crossed the finish line in victory! I introduced Leslie to my mom and Isabelle at the finish and she was so sweet to tell my mom about how I was the one to urge us to go faster at the end.

My final time was 2 hours, 17 minutes and 59 seconds. My average pace was 10:20 according to my Garmin.

It was so much fun. I can't believe that I did it and felt so good. Now as I write this several hours later, I do feel the after effects. The back of my legs right above the knees is a bit sore, and I'm sure I'll be sore tomorrow.  But I did it, and I did it well.  My goal was to be under 2:30. I had no idea if that was realistic or not.  Now that I have a PR, I can try to beat it at my next race in March.  I don't know if I can, but I'll sure give it a try.

Because I am a runner.


  1. I loved it all! As Isabelle & I stood at our primo spot just before your 13 mile mark, I couldn't help but reflect on where we were a year ago. I was meeting you every day at the radiologist's office to keep Jean-Marc occupied while you underwent your radiation treatment.

    When I saw you come around that corner today, looking so dang strong, I was overcome with emotion. Thankful that God has given you an indominable spirit and that you have never let circumstances get you down. You are making the most of life!

  2. You are and did awesome! You most certainly are a runner!

  3. CONGRATUATIONS!!! You are a runner ... I hit 10 years Ovarian Cancer survival last year (2011) and I had decided that a 1/2 marathon was GREAT way to celebrate. I had never run before either. Unfortunately, I ended up with a tibial stress fracture ... but I am back on the road and will be running my first 1/2 in May 2012! I too hope that I will be a runner. Congrats on being a runner, a survivor and an inspiration!