“It took me a really long time to love running. It was kind of a love-hate relationship.”
On a sunny, warmer-than-usual February afternoon, Jane Allard pulls into the parking lot of Hall Ranch, a park tucked away in Lyons, Colorado.
After lacing up her shoes and zipping up her running pack, she takes a seat on a flat boulder to take in the view.
Over the last three years, running has quickly taken over Jane’s life. Her running habit began with a simple 5K in 2015, which quickly turned into another. Then another. And another.
Over time, that distance grew from a 5k to a 10K to a half marathon, and finally, a full marathon in August of 2017.
150 races later, she jokingly admits that it’s hard to view herself as a runner, let alone a marathon runner.
“I’m not super fast. I don’t go out there to win," she says with a chuckle. "I’m really happy if I can place in my age group, especially since I haven’t been running that long.”
The 51-year-old from Brighton says that running gives her an escape, allowing her to put all of her problems “on the back burner”.
The goal of her first marathon was simply just to finish, but that’s not the case with the Little Rock Marathon. Not only did she set a time limit of five hours but this will be her first time back in her hometown in more than a decade. A homecoming of sorts, her two best friends from high school plan to be waiting in the grandstands as she crosses the finish line.
The six-month training process began back in October, a mixture of training runs around three to five miles during the week with her longer runs falling on the weekend.
She was only a month into the grueling training schedule when another challenge came into focus.
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“My health was perfect. I think the last day I took a sick day was 10 years ago, maybe,” Jane recalled. “I might get a minor cold once a year. I eat healthy. I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 20 years. Even before I started running I was exercising daily.”
Jane was the definition of perfect health on the outside, yet nothing could stop what was happening on the inside.
“Because I was so low risk, no family history, healthy lifestyle, my last mammogram had been seven years prior.”
In 2011, Jane found a suspicious lump. After thorough testing, doctors determined it was a cyst.
“And it did go away, it eventually went away. So when I found this lump, I thought -- It’s just another cyst. Nothing to be concerned about.”
But this wasn't another false alarm.
“Sure enough, I got a call from my doctor. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving last year and it was cancer.”
Initially, Jane was dumbfounded. Her friends and family were shocked as well.
“Everybody I’ve told -- you? Not you. You’re perfectly healthy and you have a healthy lifestyle. But cancer is not picky. Anybody can get it.”
According to the Susan G. Komen Organization, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
The diagnosis for Jane was Stage 2A, one of the most common and most treatable forms of breast cancer.
“The breast cancer itself, I’m not too concerned about. We have so many advancements now. It’s not like it was even 10 years ago where it was a death sentence. But if it does metastasize, there is for sure no cure. And most of the time it will metastasize to the lungs, the liver or the brain. So that scares me.”
Thankfully, the cancer had not spread and because her self-check allowed her to catch it early on, doctors gave her the option to forgo chemotherapy.
As Jane and her doctors at UCHealth came up with a game plan to defeat the disease, there was another question weighing heavily on her mind:
“Can I continue to train for my marathon and finish my marathon?” she recalled, letting out a big laugh, her competitive nature shining through.
Even with her endless doctors appointments and therapy sessions, her training only suffered minor setbacks. On December 20, she had surgery to remove the tumor. Once that healed up, she began radiation therapy – 20 treatments over the course of four weeks.Jane undergoing one of 20 radiation treatments at UCHealth Anschutz.
The radiation appointments are quick, lasting around 15 minutes, but as the treatment progressed, so did the side effects.
“I’m starting to feel a little tired sometimes but it’s nothing that I haven’t felt before. Nothing unusual. Little bit of tenderness in the area that’s being radiated,” Jane said climbing down from the table, her white gown falling around her knees, covering most of her small frame.
“But still, I wouldn't even know I was having treatments so I’ve been very, very lucky.”
Some may call it luck, but others, like her friends and fellow runners in the B Something Running Club, would see it as Jane just being Jane.
“She’s so strong and so positive and I think that’s a huge thing,” Miranda Sorensen explained. “And I don’t know, it helps keep the rest of us positive, too.”
“Her whole goal was like, I still want to do that marathon. I still want to get there,” Kelly Vist added. “And so just seeing her push to this accomplishment and I know she’s going to finish it and do amazing so it’s just been really neat to see her through this journey.”
It’s a journey of two races and two finish lines.
With every step, she grows closer to feeling ready for her marathon.
And with every treatment, she gets closer to the day of finally hearing she’s cancer-free.
"I’m glad I decided to continue my marathon training. That I didn't give up," Jane says as she gets up from her seat on the boulder, her arms stretching out over her head. "I’m glad I pushed through it and decided to keep plugging away and keep going for it.”
And with that, she turns onto the trail, the sun slowly setting over the hillside.
THE FIRST BELL
February 26, 2018
Jane walks through the doors of UCHealth Anschutz, her heels clicking all the way to the carpet flooring of the Cancer Pavilion lobby. Like every day over the course of the past month, Jane makes the trip from work to get in another round of radiation. But unlike the previous 19 visits, today is a special one.
“[I’ve] been more tired this week then I have been but that could have been my training schedule or the radiation or probably a combination of both,” she says, the ever-so-glamorous white gown flowing down her work pants. “But I’m glad I pushed through it and decided to keep plugging away and keep going for it.”
The Little Rock Marathon is now six days away, but today she gets to cross the finish line of another important race.At the end of her 20 radiation treatments, Jane finally rings the Survivor Bell.
She takes a big breath and walks towards the “Survivors Bell”. Her smile reaches from ear to ear as she grabs the woven string, giving it three big pulls as the sound echos throughout the entire room. A laugh escapes her wide-open grin, the few patients and staff members in the room, clap joyfully in support.
“Yes, yay!” Jane exclaims. “Glad that this part is over with. Just tiring coming back here every single day and now I can start making plans and moving forward.”
She will continue to take have doctor visits (every four months over the next three years, and after that, every six months for another three years) but for now, she can look ahead to a cancer-free life.
Little Rock, Arkansas
March 4, 2018
It’s a cool Sunday morning in downtown Little Rock. The street lights are still on. Cones and wooden gates block off the side streets. A gray car pulls up as far as the barricades will allow. Jane climbs out and hugs Monika Grundman, one of her high school friends. A couple blocks north, Jane walks into a crowd of more than 12,000 runners. She’s not normally nervous before a race but the nerves are beginning to take over.
“I think just because I’ve been working towards this for so long and it means so much you know,” Jane says, the tension and anxiousness stretched across her face.
“It’s an emotional race for me. An emotional event.”
Jane pins on her bib, checks and rechecks her backpack for all the essentials and heads outside. The sun is now up and the race is about to begin.
As she lines up in her corral, an announcers voice blares through the speakers.
Jane takes another glance at her watch, punching the buttons until straight 0’s pop up on its’ face.
2…1...Alright, you are off!
Within the first couple of miles, Jane is already ahead of schedule. She checks her watch once again.
“I was going faster than I wanted to start out but I just felt so good. And I kept looking at my watch, checking my pace, and I said, okay, I gotta slow down a little. This is a marathon not a sprint.”
Around Mile 7, the clouds above this little southern city turn dark gray. The pressure drops. A couple of raindrops fall on the pavement.
Always prepared, Jane pulls out a pair of gloves from her backpack. A few miles later, the sun comes back out. She makes the turn north up Park Street, the sound of a drum line growing louder as her former high school, Little Rock Central, comes into view.
“It was kind of neat to be nostalgic and go back out there and be glad that not much had changed. Still looked pretty much the same.”
After passing by the capitol building, Jane beings the three-mile climb up the steepest part of the race.
“Legs were getting a little tired around Mile 11 or 12,” she says mid-race, pausing between breaths. “Got my wind back around Mile 15.”
At the top of the climb, she makes a quick stop to pet a Great Dane, something she says she “has to do” every time she sees one. (Back home in Brighton, her own Great Dane and Great Dane-mix are waiting for her return.)
She returns to the course, the crowd cheering and waving as the runner’s pass by.
“It’s so awesome to have them come out and so motivating. And when you most need it, there’s a kid there to give you a high-five as you go running by,” Jane says. “And that helps. It really helps a lot.”
At Mile 20, she passes the point of her longest training run. A few miles later, she hits what runners call: “The Wall”.
“The last probably three miles, it was pure willpower just to keep running. Just said a prayer, God get me through this. And all of a sudden it hit me that I had been praying that God get me through this cancer too.”
Back at the start/finish line, Monika and Candy, another high school friend also battling breast cancer, are anxiously waiting in the grandstands.
As she hits Mile 26, the crowd gets bigger. And louder.
When she finally sees the finish line, a wave of emotions overtake her.
“Just knowing I’ve trained so long. I fought so hard. I was so determined to do it.”
Surprisingly, she finds an extra burst of energy and kicks out the final 100 feet. When she crosses the line, her arms stretch outward in a moment of victory.
THE SECOND BELL
Little Rock, Arkansas
She is worn down completely, her clothes wet from sweat and a second, quick rainfall around Mile 24.
As she heads towards the runners-only section, a marathon staff member grabs her attention.
“Did you PR?” she asks Jane.
She checks her watch one final time. 4 hours and 45 minutes. 15 minutes better than her original goal.
Jane happily shakes her head, “yes”, and the staff member guides her to a group of runners who are waiting to ring the “PR Bell”.
In shock, Jane covers her mouth in awe. She passes her phone off to another runner to take her picture.
Still exhausted, Jane chuckles and says, “Second bell I’ve rung this week.”
She grabs the cord and pulls twice, letting out a yell as the bell swings.
It was the perfect surprise ending for this breast cancer survivor.
“The bell at the end. I did not know there would be a bell at the end. I just rang a bell six days ago on Monday, finishing my radiation treatment and then I got to finish a marathon and ring a bell.”
She’s still shaking her head in disbelief as a massive medal is placed around her neck. A few minutes later, she’s reunited with her friends. There are hugs and there are tears but there are also smiles and words of encouragement, especially to Candy.
“We’re gonna beat our next challenge, too”, Jane whispers in her ear. Candy is currently battling Stage 4 breast cancer.
“She’s helped me. She really has. Her diagnosis prompted me not to procrastinate on going to the doctor,” Jane says afterwards. “Seeing her at the finish line, knowing we both have this other battle that we’re doing was indescribable. And I told her we’re both going to beat this next battle too. We’re gonna make it.”
This homecoming is a long-time coming and the group of friends stick around to chat and catch up. Jane is wrapped up in a jacket, sipping on a bottle of chocolate milk. As one of her friends start to tell an old high school story, Jane lets out a laugh, that same full-faced smile stretching across her face.
After returning home to Colorado, Jane got right back to training. Her calendar has a race penciled in nearly every weekend this summer and this Sunday, she’ll compete in the Colfax Urban 10-Miler.
Source : https://www.9news.com/article/news/janes-race-a-story-of-perseverance-for-runner-fighting-cancer/73-555097262