When asked what I thought the most precious thing in the world is by my boyfriend, Anthony, that was my answer. Time.
It's the one thing you can't buy, and let's face it, who doesn't want more time with family and friends, a more understanding of Earth's treasures, and a longer career filled with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and memorable experiences?
Cancer made me realize that nothing, and I mean nothing, is ever set in stone. It was my 26.2-mile run on the streets of Santa Clarita last November that made me put my running career into perspective though. My first marathon changed the runner I was before that day and the runner I am today.
Only Anthony and my best friend, Amy, knew this, but before my win at last November's Santa Clarita Valley Marathon, I had plans of hanging up the racing shoes for good whether I came away with a win or not. Trying to train full-time, take 15-plus units at Cal State Northridge, work 25-plus hours a week, update this website weekly, maintain a healthy relationship with my family, friends and Anthony, and battle cancer, all at the same time, has been the most difficult thing I've ever tried to do over the last couple years. Imagine trying to juggle five or six 10-pound balls, while suffering from fatigue and nausea all the time. That's what this was and still is.
Ending my competitive running career after 15 glorious years was something I had planned for months last year. But, then, I won the SCV Marathon, accomplishing a five-year dream of mine, and my 2:35:18 win qualified me for the 2017 Boston Marathon, and my friend, Amanda, helped raise funds for me to go. I had several people, from my Mom to my best friends, ask me if I even wanted to keep running and participate in Boston in April 2017, following my win at the SCV Marathon, and even at the beginning of this year, I went back and forth with it. I don't think there's a day I didn't go without talking about it to Amy last month and, to be honest, it wasn't until I attended one of Saugus' practices at the end of January, following several weeks of illness, that I decided I wanted to keep going.
I realized running in the Boston Marathon, let alone running another marathon, is one of those "once-in-a-lifetime opportunities."
Remember when I said time is the most precious thing in the world? Well, in my story, it most definitely was in so many ways. My finishing time was actually one of the factors that convinced me to continue my post-cancer diagnosis career in running. My winning time of 2:35:18 was 13 minutes ahead of the second place finisher and ranks No. 9 in SCV history, but it's not good enough in my eyes. My performance in November was the most greatest moment of my running career, but it didn't reflect the kind of shape I was in at the time. I have so much more left in these legs of mine, and I think that isn't more evident than in my splits that November morning: a 1:18:42-1:16:36 negative split.
I'm competitive, but I'm also really, really passionate about the sport. I love following the performances of Santa Clarita's top male and female runners, but I also strive to be one of those figures. I feel so blessed to have had the career I've had since finding out about my leukemia in May 2013, but I still have so much more left, especially on the roads. Call me selfish, but I want more.
My coach, George Serrano, and I came up with 2:26 when discussing my potential at the California International Marathon in Sacramento at the end of this year (Dec. 4). Only two guys in Santa Clarita Valley history - Peter De La Cerda and Jameson Mora - have run 26.2 miles faster than that mark, and sure, it's a whopping nine minutes faster than my debut three months ago, but why not? If I can run a near-solo 2:35:18 while juggling five or six of those 10-pound balls, why can't I run 2:26 or faster? The last two and half years have convinced me the sky is the limit.
I want to run faster, and I expect to. The most important things I have to realize though, is that consistency and health are most important. This is also a long process , and I, and every other person with goals and dreams, don't have all the time in the world to accomplish them.
So take those goals and dreams you have tucked away and chase them because those expectations you might have for yourself won't be expectations forever. In Meb Keflezighi's words following his run at last weekend's U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, "don't take life for granted."