And there we have it. The “marathon” part of “Marathon B4 Mastectomy” is complete.

As many of you know, I ran my very first 1/2 marathon on June 13, 2010. I had decided in January 2010 that this would be my goal, and that I would spend my time blogging about this experience. Along with a great team of friends and supporters, I ran the Worcester 1/2 Marathon, on a rainy and humid morning, and battled doubt and fear. I ran some of it with the Mb4M team, but a lot of it by myself (that’s what happens when you come in nearly last!). I wanted to quit a few times during that race, and whenever I saw a friend along the side of the road, I cried. The finish line was wonderful (heh, once I actually found it!), and I entered into the final stretch with my daughter-survivor, Joli.

After the race, I felt so proud and so good that I decided to honor the true “marathon” title and complete another 13.1 before my mastectomy. I quickly signed up for a 10k just a few weeks later (July) and created my own 5k (August) because I couldn’t find a convenient race. My friend Jim told me about the Boston 1/2 Marathon, and I was able to get into the race.

Just 24 hours before the race, for lots of reasons, I decided not to do the Boston 1/2 and instead go back to my homegrown roots. Instead, I got together my own “Brave

Brave Girl by Jennifer Carriere Spock

Girl 1/2 Marathon” and was joined by a great group of friends! Now, 12 hours after the race, I am so thankful for this clarity and strength to make this change!

At 8:30am, same as the Boston start, cancer mom Donna Castagna, college friend Carra Gamberdella, my brother Jon, and I started our run. We mapped out a 3.2 mile route, and we needed to complete 4+ loops to get to 13.1. It was 30 degrees and wonderfully quiet!

As the day went on, my decision to change the race location kept being affirmed.

  • I left my house at 8:05 and arrived at the race site at 8:10am. Definitely beats the 2 hour lead time we would have needed to get to the Boston race and shuttle.
  • We started out as a small group, and with the repeated loops, our crowd grew and could easily catch up to us.
  • At mile 5, my brother who was already injured going into the race, experienced crushing pain in his knee. Because we were in loops, Jon was able to stop after the 10k and pay medical attention to his knee. This definitely would not have been possible if we were in Boston.
  • With the loop system, we were able to meet up with our cheering squad every few miles! And, the cheering area was so relaxed and happy playing  — certainly beat making kids stay still on a busy road or trying to wrangle everyone to the right place!
  • Two words: REAL BATHROOMS.
  • It was an easy course, a familiar course, and I was always surrounded by all my friends and family during the entire 13.1!
  • Thanks to Carra Gamberdella, Jon Talusan, Donna Castagna, Lisa O’Donnell, Chuck Hannaford, Ligaya Hannaford, Elizabeth McGuinness, Jorge Vega, and Jenny Matthews Talusan who ran/walk and kept me going for 13.12 miles today.
  • Thanks to all the spouses and families who supported the day!

A few times, my teammates reported back what people were writing in via Facebook or emails. During my run, I heard about Emily Cobb Henry who decided to run along with us from upstate NY. She ran 13.1 miles today in her own self-made 1/2 marathon. I received a text message from my friend Jim who had finished Boston when I was somewhere around mile 8 in my own run. I heard about others who had finished Boston, those who had run an extra mile today during their daily workout, and from people who decided to do a run/walk at home.

During the 13.1 miles, I never felt alone. I never felt scared. I only felt surrounded by love, laughter, and encouragement. I only felt strong, empowered, and joyous.

Even surprising to me, I never cried.


Somewhere around mile 9, my daughter Joli asked to run with me. About a minute

Thank you Boston Baby Photos!

in, Joli said to me, “Mama, thanks for letting me run with you right now. Did you know why I wanted to run?”

“Tell me, Jo. Why?”

“Because, Mama, I want to survive, too.”

“What do you mean, Jo? What do you mean you want to survive?”

“I want to survive from cancer, too, Mama. I want to help you survive, too.”

I stop running, grab her hand, squeeze her tiny fingers, and say,

“You already have, Joli. Every day you give me a reason to survive. Do you know that?”

“Thanks, Mama. You’re nice.”

“Thanks, Jo. You’re brave.”


Brave Girl Marathon Team Mb4M

The 4.1 miles after that seemed like nothing. I kept thinking about Joli’s brief conversation with me. Survive. Brave. Thanks. I can’t think of any better three words to describe what this physical, mental, emotional and spiritual journey has been these past 10 months. And, I know that the next 5 weeks will fly by very quickly.

Thank you for coming along with me. Thank you for being a part of my survival. Thank you for helping me be brave. And, thank you for reminding me that I have so much to be thankful for, each and every day.

ouch! one of the many hazards of running 13.1 miles.

Peace, love, and gone the distance,

13.1 miles done!


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2 Responses to SURVIVE. BRAVE. THANKS.

  1. Anne Mattina says:

    Congratulations, my brave & wondeful friend!

  2. Elizabeth Moser says:

    Wow, You are bringing tears to my eyes. I am so proud of you. Way to having a goal and accomplishing it. But best of all to be surrounded by friends and family the whole time.

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