Most people don’t see me as a runner. Even while on chemo, Tyler laughed hysterically about my marathon plans. He informed me I was, “Too old, too slow, and too fat!” Its true Nike is not likely to sponsor me. Sports Illustrated has never called for a photo shoot. And no one has ever asked if I was from Kenya. But for 5 months I did the grunt work of 575 training miles, and then completed the marathon.
During the race something dawned on me. Less that 1% of people have ever run a marathon. Therefore, old, slow and fat, I’m still included in the top 1% endurance athletes in world. I got pretty impressed with myself.
As the race went past the state capital, there were 4 or 5 of the “occupy” protesters. They were holding signs and chanting, “We are the 99%! We are the 99%!” I started waiving and yelling, “I’m the 1%! I’m the 1%!” They stopped chanting, and just stared at me.
I wasn’t making any political points. I was just hurting and tired and it seemed funny at the time. Besides, I’ve never wanted to be part of any 99%. It’s too crowded. I would rather be among the 1% in just about anything.
Around the 15 mile mark I began to really struggle. Rounding the corner, the band was playing “You Get What You Give”. The song it home. It was a favorite of A.J. Piniewski, who battled the same cancer at the same time as Tyler. I thought about the courage of A.J., Tyler, and so many other children fighting cancer. And I remembered why I was running, and the disciplines necessary to reach the goal.
I began to think about the 1% that really matters. I started thinking about the 1% that change the world, that truly do the impossible. 200,000 women get breast cancer each year. But what percentage responded like Nancy Brinker, starting the Komen Race For The Cure? 8,000 get testicular cancer, but how many responded like Lance Armstrong?
And then there are the numbers I care most about…two classrooms full of children who are diagnosed with cancer every single day. What am I doing to end childhood cancer? Are my efforts in the top 1%? Completing the marathon didn’t require me to be a superstar athlete. To be among the 1%, I just needed to focus and take the disciplined steps necessary to achieve the goal. As A.J. said, “You only get what you give”.
When Bruce Cleland’s daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia, he decided to train people for marathons. His Team-in-Training has now raised over $1 billion for cancer research. The parents of Alexandria Scott raise $15 million a year through Alex’s Lemonade Stand. The gang at St. Baldricks are adding $25 million each year to the fight. Bob Piniewski, A.J.’s dad, is pulling groups together, informing, educating, and continuing the quest of 1 million signatures on his petition.
So what am I doing? Am I a spectator? Am I among the 99% on the sidelines, waiting for “someone” to do “something” about childhood cancer? Or am I willing to do the grunt work necessary, to be among the 1% who are changing the world?
Here is the truth about childhood cancer: There is a cure. It is out there. We just need to find it. So I will run another mile, raise another dollar, write another congressman, and sign another petition. I will continue to help parents looking to new options, raise funds for families, and speak to groups that will listen. I will act, and never wait on someone else to do the work. I will fight, and fight to win.
And I will remember that the only person I control me. Therefore, what’s going to be, is up to me.
I will be the 1%.
A.J. did not survive. He passed away at age 14, and is a legacy to the need to find the cure NOW! A.J.'s dad, Bob Piniewski runs People Against Childhood Cancer. a great source for information.
Christina O'Bryon has been fighting cancer through all 4 of my marathon runs. She continues her fight with incredible strength and courage. I dedicated my run to her fight, and there is no doubt she will beat cancer. She is a fighting goalie that will never lose.