RACEY PINK FOR BREAST CANCER AWARENESS
The wonder of life is that when we put our hearts out for others, the Universe takes care of us.
I wake up before the alarm goes off. No, I haven’t slept enough. I’m simply excited to be running in the Susan Komen Race for the Cure this morning in Miami.
My workout clothes are waiting for me on a pile by my sneakers. Pink is not a color I use so black and white will have to do. This is the first time I’m in a race; I’m trying to figure out the basics to take with me so I don’t have to find a locker or carry everything with me.
As I jump on the metro mover train at 7:18am, I bunch in with a big group of people. Athletes is not the right word. Since everyone (including the men) are splattered in pink, it’s safe to conclude we are all going to Bayfront Park for the race. Most have their event t-shirt with the sponsors on the back so I assume they signed up earlier and got their things in the mail. I stare down past my black top and shorts at my sneakers with the purple laces securely holding my car keys. My dull outfit makes me feel somewhat out of sync, I plan to poodle myself up as soon as I can.
When the train stops at our destination, I see the park below us gearing up to be a major celebration of hope and awareness. A large arch of pink balloons hovers over the street to mark the finish line and I imagine crossing under it very sweaty. The lawn is scattered with people strolling around, white tents, large trash cans, network vans, chemical bathrooms, the registration desks. Yes, that’s where I have to go first.
The line for last names starting with S – T is empty and a friendly face quickly finds my envelope and hands it to me with a small t-shirt. I walk away and pull out my race bib: 16191. Immediately, I realize how magical this number is. I flip the sign over and I confirm it. An ambigram! No matter how you look at it it’s the same. I believe this number was meant for me… a reminder to always be myself. To be true to my nature. I get the message and my enthusiasm spikes.
Music and a woman’s voice on a speaker comes from a distance. I know there will be a ceremony to honor woman who have survived breast cancer so I follow that voice. As I head in that direction, I notice everyone around me. Pink signs hang from t-shirts explaining who they are running for: my momma, my grandma Jane who died, for her friends, for me – five years cancer free!! My eyes swell with tears as I feel this so deep and personal. An older women with a wreath of flowers on her head lets me take a picture of her back. ‘In memory of the most amazing woman I’ve ever known! My mom!’ Below, she explains she’s been 10 years cancer free herself. I feel taken over by all this pain and hope, realizing how bittersweet this event actually is. I look down and take a deep breath to compose myself.
Faces are covered with pink New Balance stickers over their cheeks. That’s what I need! I look above the crowd to see where their stand is. A congress woman has stepped up on stage with her daughter to share her experience with breast cancer. Then I hear someone is donating ten thousand dollars and a burst of cheers comes from the crowd. Two girls with short bright pink whigs and yellow t-shirts are part of the crowd that makes this a lively and joyous event. They huddle with their friend and smile warmly for me.
I find the stickers with the ribbon on them and decorate my face. The volunteer in this tent is also giving out pink shoe laces in exchange for a donation, so I give up one Georgie and wrap them around my wrist. Finally, I accept the reality that the t-shirt is too long and I won’t wear it. I give it away to a woman who is thrilled to receive it. “Can I take your picture!?”, I ask a black woman with a beautiful tall headpiece of pink and fuchsia feathers. She proudly steps back and poses for the picture.
What else is happening in the tents? Corporations have come to support Breast Cancer awareness in general, others to support their runners. I get a pink pen and pass it over to a young black kid who is happy to hang it from his neck. Young girls with ‘Viva La Cure’ tops are handing out pink caps. I could use one of those! I step up to them and she asks me if I’ve had cancer. They’re meant for the runners that are cancer survivors. They put ribbons on the cap to represent the number of years they’ve been cancer free. Wow! Apparently, one thousand participants in the race today have been diagnosed. I thank her and move on. Water and bathroom! Even in our greatest moments we are human. The race will be starting soon… I find a section with water coolers and sip on some water. I need to hydrate but not too much! The line for the park’s restroom is short, people forget they are here and are waiting for the chemical stalls.The streets are full of people herding to the starting line a few blocks away. I head in that direction amused by the attire of different groups. Some girls have t-shirts that read “I pink I can, I pink I can”! Another bunch has pink tutu’s.
Even the men. When I hear the countdown from ten begin, I am way back among the walkers. Darn! I’ve been here for an hour and I’m late for the start? It’s off! The race has started and I’m stuck in the crowd. There are people on the sides running through the parking lot and I join them. While I’m dodging cars and people strolling along, I put my earphones on and my energize playlist. Who cares if I was late? Just run and enjoy it!A mental image of people running like crazy to avoid getting reared by a bull comes to my mind. Yes. People are excited. I run along the sidewalk ducking trees, some strong athletic men dash ahead, while others I leave behind. The streets are clearly delineated with orange cones to guide the runners through the race course in downtown Miami. Policemen and women stand proudly supervising the event. A homeless man with only one leg stands against a wall with crutches under his arms, calmly observing the people who take the divine gift of legs for granted. Another man looks scared, believing that the people rushing past him are part of a hallucination. His eyes are wild and he’s petrified in his body. Volunteers are standing in a long line, with gloves on their hands, offering water to the runners. Their faces show they’re anxious to help and be able to hand someone a taste of moisture. I run along thanking them. The water splashes against my face and it trickles down my neck into my top. I manage to get some into my mouth which has dried breathing life. Just enough.
A young slim white girl with a black (pink rimmed) tutu and flashing zebra hot pants as her skirt bounces in the air is a good distraction. As I run over the bridge, I take out my phone and I take a few pictures, also immortalizing her in them. A large happy black woman spreads her own enthusiasm and puts passion into her job. She’s the first cop that’s smiling and encouraging us to keep it up.
Pink signs keep on drawing my attention. I read those hanging on runners backs and imagine that person is being fueled by the thought of that loved person affected by breast cancer. I’m thinking about all the people who have sponsored me and their support has made it even more worthwhile for me to be here. The race has many participants, but this event has so many more spirits hovering over it.
The mob realizes we are heading back towards the finish line and they have started to run faster. I know I have to keep a steady pace to enjoy it and make it back in decent conditions. Propped against a palm tree, a young boy has overexerted himself and I see his body is convulsing. Only with time and experience do we learn to listen to our bodies and know how much to push it. He’ll certainly learn. Below the train tracks a few men are stretching their hamstrings. I imagine the pain of cramping muscles and I’m relieved I feel fine. Running over the drawbridge, the metal lets me see below onto the canal. I’m not scared by the hight or the bounce of the platform. Above me I see the Epic Hotel’s Area 31 restaurant on the terrace and remember how I was up there looking down placidly at the marathoners during the last ING race. Now I have a sense of what they were experiencing, although they had run 37 more kilometers at this point than I had. If they can do that, I can do this.
Turning the last bend, I decide I can push myself a bit more now. The clock reads 27 minutes and ticking seconds. My newly set goal is to make it before it reaches 28. My stride grows wider and my arms begin to pump stronger. My head lifts. 27:47. The race is over and I’m proud to be a part of it.
Watering my body, I bump into a wonderful gal from Key Biscayne. I spend the next hour with her and friends, walking around and feeling the vibrations of this day. Bonding happens in unexpected moments, in the most wondrous ways. The feeling of accomplishment is empowering. I head back home knowing I’m blessed to be alive and being able to make a difference.