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Melissa, Alex, and Running

on February 8, 2013

I have this friend Melissa.  We both teach in the same school district.  Melissa has never been a runner.  Every winter, our school wellness committee hosts a “Biggest Loser” contest.  Melissa decided that she wanted to lose some weight, win the contest, and so she started running to help her weight loss journey.

She did great.  She lost weight AND won the contest.  However, let’s get one thing straight….Melissa really doesn’t like running.  Yes, she feels good after she runs.  Yes, she lost weight.  But that’s really about as far as she goes in terms of liking running.  She is not one of these people who will tell you that she can’t live without running.  Her horses…yes.  Running…no. 

In fact, Melissa VOWED to me she would never enter a race.  No way…not for her.  A couple of months ago in some of our conversations, it seemed as though she was sort of thinking about registering a race.  I suggested that she run with me in the Get Lucky race in St. Paul, MN.  It’s a St. Patrick’s Day themed race.  You can choose either the 4 mile run or the half marathon.  I have run in the Get Lucky Half Marathon for either 2 or 3 years in a row…I can’t really remember.  I suggested that she come and run the half with me.  I thought she was going to fall off her chair laughing at me.  “No f–ing way!” she said, only she actually said the swear word! 

So I let it go, but still, in conversations it would come up and I had this feeling that she sort of wanted to run it wil me.  It would be her first half marathon ever, and I felt like she was debating about it.

Enter Alex.  Alex is Melissa’s nephew.  He is a 10th grader at our local high school.   He is tall, unassuming, kind to everybody, smart…a model young man.  A few weeks ago he had the same cough everybody did.  The influenza hit school and it seemed like everybody was coughing, sneezing, and coughing again.  Alex went to the doctor and they said he had pneumonia.  He received some antibiotics, but the cough didn’t get better.  One night he couldn’t even breath and after another visit to the doctor, rushed to Mayo Clinic… wasn’t pneumonia.  It was Lymphoma. 

Suddenly life as he and his family knew it had changed.  He was in ICU because the mass was so large he had trouble breathing.  Within a few days, they started him on chemo treatments. 

One morning at school, a couple of days after Alex was diagnosed, Melissa and I were talking about him and running came up.  She finally admitted that she wanted to try to run her first half, but she was scared because I had told her the course is hilly.  (Side note: I had told Melissa this story about last year at the Get Lucky.  I was waiting outside the hotel for my friend Trish to come out and a woman asked me if I was running the 4 mile or the half.  We were both dressed in green outfits as everybody is for those races and I said the half.  She asked if I had ever run it before and I said yes.  She asked me if it’s hilly and I said no…it’s mostly flat.  That’s how I remembered it.  Once we got running… wasn’t long to “jog” my memory just how hilly the course is.  I got laughing that the lady who asked me that must have thought during her race…”That girl who told me it’s mostly flat is a LIAR!”)  So this is what Melissa was worried about….hills. 

I started to talk to her about how she can do it, we could walk all the hills if she wants.  Then it hit me.  Alex….Lymphoma….my dad had lymphoma…I ran for my dad in honor of his battle….and I blurted out…”Let’s run it for Alex.”  She instantly teared up and said…”I’m in.”

Then the ideas were flowing.  The color for Lymphoma is lime green.  I wore a lime green ribbon in honor of my dad for my first half.  The students in Alex’s class made ribbons, t-shirts.  Suddenly….our race was all planned.

So on March 16, Melissa and I will be running in honor of Alex and the battle he is facing.  We will be wearing our Alex t-shirts, lime green ribbons, and whatever else we can come up with.  It will be her first half marathon.  We do not care how long it takes us.  She does not care how much it hurts toward the finish line, because it’s nothing compared to what Alex is going through.  We are also running to honor Alex’s parents…Melissa’s sister and her husband…because they are working so hard to do everything the can for Alex.

Both Melissa and I have been struggling lately with motivation to get out and get our training runs in.  We both teach full time, we both have other jobs after school most nights, full time families…’s just hard.  Training for both of us has not been fun or a bed of roses.  Neither of us want to drag out of bed in the morning.  She has chores to do around her farm before school and after school.  We are helping each other and doing the best we can to be prepared for the 13.1 miles that lay ahead of us on March 16.

But no matter how tough the training is….the lack of motivation….the days when we each say “I do NOT want to run today”….it’s no match for facing chemo.  It’s no match for feeling so sick after chemo treatments.  It’s no match for only being able to get to school every once in a while for half a day and not see your friends.  It’s no match to being a parent watching your child go through the cancer battle and feeling so helpless knowing you can’t just kiss it and make it better. 

At the restaurant that Melissa works at in the evenings and weekends, she decided to do this for her nephew………


Our lack of motivation on some days is nothing in comparison.  But, we are putting one foot in front of the other and honoring her nephew Alex in our journey. 



2 responses to “Melissa, Alex, and Running

  1. Jessica says:

    I am running the 4-miler. I have never done a half before. My first half will be the Med City Half in Rochester. I have had very little motivation to get out and run this winter too. I think I live in the wrong state to be a runner. Good Luck to you and your friend!

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