MORGANTON, NORTH CAROLINA
by Don Swinford (aka Swinsei)
The Ridge to Bridge Marathon is a small event with about 350 participants. This year’s race sold out in 17 minutes. Last year 32.0% of participants hit their Boston Marathon qualifying times. But before I get into too many details, please let me regress.
On October 26, 2005, I became a cancer survivor. As I thought about ways to celebrate my 7th year as a survivor, my first choice was to be with my family; however, due to busy schedules we just couldn’t make it happen. My second choice was to run a marathon because my cancer journey all started when I was training for a marathon.
The week I ran the 2005 Big Sur International Marathon I found out that I may have cancer, but it wasn’t for certain. Over the course of the next 6 months, I had several blood tests and two biopsies. It was after the second biopsy on October 26th that it was determined that I had cancer. I refer to that date as TEN26. It’s a day I will never forget. It’s the day I discovered a few things about my life: the true meaning of friendship, the love and support of my family, and the strength and peace that only God can give. It’s the day I became a survivor!
Cancer is not the biggest thing I have had to overcome, but it’s certainly one that God has used to help shape my life.
The Ridge to Bridge course started with 6 miles of rolling, mostly paved road. There were more climbs than I expected, but then I experienced the descent! It was amazing as I looked at the richly colored hills: yellows, oranges, reds, greens – this was the peak weekend for the changing of the Seasons. And all I could hear was the sound of the gravel beneath my feet (the course was now on a dirt road) and the falling water along the hillside to my left.
Since I love downhill running, I was enjoying the descent — nine miles with only a few flats and gentle rises to mix things up. After the descent there were about eleven miles to go, still a gradual decline that follows Wilson Creek. There was a lot of beauty along the course to help take my mind off the race — leaves at their peak colors, two dot-on-the-map communities from yesteryear, and the stunning Wilson Creek Gorge.
Ridge to Bridge Marathon was my 18th marathon overall. Each time I run one of these things I thank God that I’m a survivor – that I can enjoy the outdoors as I torture my body! This was my 3rd fastest. My quads and feet took a pounding. Blisters are never an issue, but on this day I was dealing with significant blisters on my toes – a small price to pay to be able to complete 26.2 miles.
The Race Directors, David and Rhonda Lee, were amazing. It was a laidback event, but one that was managed meticulously. The Ridge to Bridge Marathon was one of the best events I have run. I would highly recommend it. If you are interested, registration opens for next year’s event on June 1st, 2013.
In closing, I will forever be changed by TEN26. A creed I adopted during my cancer journey is, “God has given me the courage to face it, the knowledge and wisdom to fight it, and His grace to beat it.”
Thank you for allowing me to share my story (and race report). If you ever want to chat about beating cancer or running, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile at 404-218-8977.
TEN26 …. Face it, Fight it, Beat it ….