Allison Douglas is a graduate of Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies and NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She currently resides in Brooklyn with her husband/running partner. When Allison is not casually running, she spends her time as a nurse saving lives and trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. She also plans her runs around when her favorite sports teams (Georgetown Basketball, the Mets, and the Jets) are playing.
This piece is about running your First Mile, but what I consider as my First Mile occurred while I was standing completely still. Before I became a Causal Runner, I was taught how to run in Central Park by my ultra-marathon coworker who was concerned that, at the age of 25, I had developed hypertension and was on medication. She proclaimed “you can take medication … or you can run. You have a choice!”
At that time, I was an ER nurse in one of New York City’s busiest emergency rooms. The daily stress of the job, a lack of physical exercise, a poor diet, and my family history were all factors causing my high blood pressure. I decided I would buy a pair of sneakers, and started meeting her in the park at 5:30am to learn how to run. During one of our runs, she told me I would run a marathon. I thought she was absolutely out of her mind. After only a few months I moved to Brooklyn and stopped running all together. I hadn’t yet fully drank the running cool-aid.
Three years later, at the end of October 2010, my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. The diagnosis was particularly shocking as she never smoked. The prognosis for someone with Stage IV Lung Cancer is very poor, with little to no chance for a cure. Needless to say, my world was turned upside down. I was devastated.
Very soon after the diagnosis, on Sunday, November 7, 2010, standing on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, I stood watching the ING NYC Marathon with my husband and best friend. It was a crisp fall day. The sun shining bright above was antithetical of my mental state. As thousands of runners passed by, I started to notice people wearing orange shirts that had Fred’s Team printed on the front. I wondered who is Fred? (Note: Fred’s Team is named after Fred Lebow, who was the founder of the NYC Marathon. He was treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) for brain cancer. Fred’s Team was the first official charity partner of the NYC Marathon and it raises money for cancer research conducted at MSKCC).
Printed on the back of these orange shirts was an inspiring message: “Imagine A World Without Cancer.”
It dawned on me that everyone who was wearing one of the orange Fred’s Team shirts had been affected by cancer in some capacity. They were running, smiling, and doing something productive. They were raising money. They were moving forward – one foot in front of the other… for 26.2 miles in an attempt to bring us all one step closer to a world without cancer.
While watching the marathon, in my state of despair, I declared to my husband and friend that I was going to run the NYC Marathon with Fred’s Team the following year. (I may have been out of my mind as the only race I had every completed in my life was a 5k mud run and I hadn’t run in a few years.) I decided that running was going to be my main method of coping with my mom’s illness. The decision to become a runner was MY First Mile. Since my decision to become a Causal Runner, I have completed one marathon, nine half marathons, and countless road races. Through running, I have found a healthy way to cope with stress, learned that beer could taste even better when consumed after a run, and have raised close to $15,000 for lung cancer research. I have run in various countries and cities, and learned that I am stronger than I ever imagined.
My mother passed away from lung cancer this past June. To honor her legacy, I am again setting out to put one foot in front of the other for 26.2 miles in the NYC Marathon, and raise money for cancer research. Hopefully my efforts and those of my fellow runners can help future generations live in a world without cancer.
This is the link to my fundraising page. I really appreciate your support, and remember, every bit helps!