For the past four years, I’ve heard the buzz about the 26.2 with Donna: The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer. While I always felt it was a wonderful cause — with proceeds benefiting Mayo Clinic for breast cancer research — it wasn’t until I recently participated in the event that I came to realize just how truly special this event is for both cancer survivors and non-survivors alike.
While I haven’t been personally impacted by breast cancer, it’s a cause that has been close to my heart. And about a year ago, my uncle’s girlfriend, Mary, was diagnosed, so breast cancer hit closer to home. So I — along with friends and colleagues from Rochester and Duluth Minn., formed a relay team and excitedly headed to Jacksonville to share in this unique event.
When I arrived at Jacksonville’s airport, I was greeted with a large “Welcome 26.2 with Donna participants” sign. En route to my hotel, I spotted pink banners hanging from light poles. And when I checked in, the hotel lobby was a sea of pink shirts — clearly others sporting marathon spirit. Over the course of the day, I continued to see marathon signs and overheard excited conversations of others looking forward to the “big day.” My teammates — Sarah Christensen, Kelli-Fee Schroeder, and Amy Stoller Stearns — and I were energized!
The morning of the race, we awoke before the sun, anxious for our race debut. We were surprised that we could hear the buzz before we got to the lobby of other excited participants waiting for transportation. The excitement was electric. Once we arrived at Mayo Clinic, where the race began and ended, we were speechless as we looked around at the nearly 10,000 other participants from all walks of life and wearing every imaginable shade of pink. Some even wore full-on costumes with pink wigs, fun socks and very “creative” team names on their shirts.