26.2 miles of honor and memories at the Marine Corps Marathon

I recently received this weekly affirmation and thought how much it means to me to be running the Marine Corps Marathon as a Determination Runner for the ACS. Please consider a donation to support my efforts and let me know in the comments who to dedicated a mile to in my run. Here is the link to my site where you can donate whatever amount works for your budget and charitable donations at this time -> All donations are truly appreciated! Click here to link to my personal fundraising site.

Or you can always mail me a check payable to the American Cancer Society – Nancy Cook, 195 Stebbins Street, Belchertown, MA 01007

Here is the story from Kathy & Roger Cawthorne

With the Marine Corps Marathon just six weeks away, I went out one morning for my daily training run. I was not much of a runner. I had certainly never attempted anything as ambitious as a marathon, and that particular morning run convinced me that committing to this event had been a monumental mistake. Everything was off. I was sluggish. My calves and feet felt full of lead. The soles of my feet burned, and I couldn’t find my pace. Nothing was right. I was angry and discouraged
when I came into the house.

My husband made the innocent mistake of asking,
“How was your run?”

Before I knew it, I was ranting like a madwoman. “What made me think I could run a marathon?” I shouted,
“I’m the worst runner ever!”

“Was that why you took this on?” Roger asked. “To become a runner? I thought you were doing this
in memory of your brother.”

I immediately fell still and silent. All it took was the memory of my brother’s death to renew my resolve. In that instant, I knew I would finish the marathon. More importantly,
I knew exactly how I would do it.

“I’ll name the miles,” I said. “I’ll name all twenty-six miles. I’ll name one for each of our parents and the kids and our doctors and nurses. I’ll name one for everyone we know who’s in trouble or sick. I’ll finish the marathon because no way could I quit during someone else’s mile. Mile twenty-four will be
for you, and twenty-five will be mine.”

And mile twenty-six – the victory mile –
would be my brother’s mile.

On the day of the marathon, I carried two pieces of paper in the pocket of my running shorts. One was my chemotherapy schedule from four years before; I would tear it up at the finish line, my way of saying “Take that!” to the cancers that had threatened to take both my husband’s life and my own (we had been diagnosed within six weeks of one another). The other was a list of twenty-six names. At each mile marker, I would look at the list. I would keep each person close in my heart and mind as I ran his or her mile. If I fell or faltered at any point, if I was at all tempted to quit, I would think and feel harder about the person I was honoring in that mile.

The plan worked. In spite of blood coming through the tops of my sneakers, wind mixing with the salt from perspiration to make countless tiny cuts on my face and lips, and in spite of a Marine Corps captain who stopped just short of ordering me to get on the “stragglers’ bus, I finished the marathon.

I really don’t believe I could have done it for myself. I didn’t have the will or the courage, the strength or the stamina. But I could do it for all the people on my list, those I loved who were coping with their own losses and pain, and those who had been there for me during my darkest days.

And I could do it for my brother. I could do it for him because he would never have the chance to do it himself. That’s what got me through to my brother’s mile and to the finish line.

I offer this story to you hoping you can use my “secret weapon” to help you get through something you need to do but don’t think you can, something that terrifies you or overwhelms you with its power over you, something you just can’t muster the courage to do for yourself.

Whether it’s surgery or a series of surgeries. Eighteen chemotherapy treatments, thirty-five radiation treatments or treatments with no end in sight. Seven pills a day or seventy. A hundred physical therapy sessions. A thousand needle sticks.

Name them. Name every one of them. Then you can do them. You can do them to honor those you love.

Dear God, help me find ways to strengthen and encourage myself during this most terrible time of my life. And when I have done the thing I believed I could not do, show me the ways and give me opportunities to
strengthen and encourage others.

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Nancy Cook 2021

About Nancy

Nancy Peck Cook is a trainer and speaker who has presented in front of large and small audiences for the past 25 years.  Her work as an executive and volunteer trainer for the American Cancer Society during the growth of the signature activity Relay For Life trained professionals to be more confident and successful in their roles. 

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