By Anna Scodel
When I moved to Berkeley from Philadelphia to start graduate school in 2013, I knew I was moving to the land of fancy cheeses on beautiful hikes, daily avocado toast, and year-round winery trips (and, of course, public policy coursework). What I didn’t know was that I would become a runner, and what I really didn’t know was that I would run a half marathon just three months later. Before I moved here, I had never run more than three miles, and those three miles were never easy. But, as it turns out, Northern California is not just a great place to eat – it’s a great place to exercise!
After my first half marathon, I ran a few races here and there, and tried to keep up with running but often found myself unmotivated. Then in August 2015, my best friend and Cancer Support Community Program Director Rosie Morrison told me she was running the Strides for Hope 10K in Jamaica in December the day before my 28th birthday and suggested I sign up. Naturally I was in – what better way to celebrate my birthday than looking at my new shiny medal on a beach in Jamaica?!
Then she said I would have to fundraise…
Until that point, I had really only been running races for my own personal sense of accomplishment. Sure, most races donate some portion of your registration fee to a local charity, but I had never thought about running for a particular cause, and definitely had never fundraised. But something I had certainly thought about was support – the support I got from my newfound graduate school friends during my journey towards becoming a runner, and, more importantly, the support from lifelong friends and family that gets a person through the more difficult times in life. And so raising money for the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor, an organization in my hometown that provides much-needed support for people touched by cancer, while training for a 10K with my friend halfway across the country who would be running her first race was another no brainer.
Rosie and I encouraged each other with some pretty unattractive post-run selfies, and we got a lot of love and laughs from our friends when we posted these pictures for the world to see on social media. But the greatest part was knowing that the financial support our friends gave to CSC would have a direct impact on people’s lives.
That same motivation was the only thing that got me through race day. I knew it was going to be hot in Jamaica – but dang! It was hot! The mild Berkeley climate had not prepared me for a race in scorching humidity and I was unprepared, to put it lightly. But I knew that I was there as a direct result of the generosity of my friends and family, and that we were all running in the same heat for the same cause. I was proud to cross the finish line in my 100% drenched Strides for Hope t-shirt, knowing I was part of a team (even if I missed out on the group runs in Michigan). Running my first half marathon almost 2.5 years ago remains my proudest physical accomplishment, but crawling through this 10K and raising money for the Cancer Support Community was a lot more rewarding.