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Twelve women – one mission. Run the Ragnar Relay Napa Valley and cover 200ish miles in 30 hours while raising funds for FORCE.
Our group of friends has an annual tradition, we participate in a run together. This year, the race of choice was the Ragnar Relay Napa Valley on November 4, 2016. This race is a crazy 200ish mile Relay from the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge to Napa Valley, nonstop from beginning to end. We did not know it then, but what made it even more memorable and meaningful was that we did it as TeamFORCE Baja. TeamFORCE Baja consisted of Marisol R., Ana Luisa, Martha, Claudia, Marisol C., Laura, Ana Fernanda, Norma, Gaby, Amanda, Liza and Elsa.
The 12 members divided into two teams, those who would run and those who would drive the vans across the 200 miles. The team members who chose to run had to commit to running 3 legs each in a span of 30 hours, which is how long it took us to complete the race. Runners in Van#1 ran the first 6 legs, the runners in Van#2 ran the second set of 6 legs, etc. The team members who committed to driving the vans had to follow the course and exchange runners at the relay exchanges and cheer the team on. Their tireless efforts of driving for 30 hours kept the team safe while resting between runs. Having the opportunity to get nourishment, re-hydrated and a little bit of rest was crucial to being able to keep up the 30 hours of running.
There were definitely a lot of logistics and complicated planning that went into this event, but it was so worth the effort. Throughout the course we saw amazing views: sunrises, sunsets and beautiful scenery. But we also had limited visibility to just the terrain in front of our feet during the pitch dark night with only our headlamp shining the way. We ran through the heat of the day and the cold of the night. We ran while sleep deprived and while sweaty and stinky (30 hours with intervals stuck in a van with other sweaty women – no explanation needed!) And through it all, we laughed, which comes guaranteed and for free.
The Ragnar Relay and running for TeamFORCE is a beautiful combination of group effort with your running mates cheering you on and helping you out, but at the same time, when it’s your turn to run, it’s only you and your body who are challenged; you and your thoughts. Your ‘evil thoughts’ of’ ‘Why am I doing this? This hill is too steep, it’s too hot, too cold, my feet, my blisters, my (fill in the black) etc. hurt…But then you make yourself ignore that, and beautiful thoughts arise. You remember that you are running because your teammates and friends are counting on you, you are counting on yourself to finish what you started, but most of all you are running for those who can’t anymore. You are running in honor of those who are in their own race against cancer, because no matter how much pain you’re in, you know there is someone now who is going through chemotherapy, surgery, or the pain of losing someone dear. You know that no matter what, you have to finish for them. This is your race.
It’s still surprising how many people are unaware of hereditary breast, ovarian and related cancers. They are not aware that there are steps they can take to learn about their risk and make decisions to manage that risk. People see a man or woman with breast cancer and think they understand, but hereditary cancer is different and there is vital information for people who have a genetic mutation or family history that they need to know.
In my particular environment, we were able to reach the Hispanic Community with information about FORCE and hereditary breast, ovarian and related cancer. Our team consisted of 12 Hispanics writing our own individual posts in the months of training and while running the race. Suddenly, we are reaching a bigger community. You never know where your post might be seen. And of course, running for TeamFORCE was critical in raising dollars to support the many wonderful programs FORCE has to offer to the community.
Since this type of race was continuous and we were not all running at the same time, it was easy to post live feeds on our Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, including the link to our TeamFORCE fundraising campaign on the FORCE website. This made it more genuine, because we were taping it while we were going through the emotions, and we got a lot of donations right there and then. We also offered to run certain legs (or it can be miles) in honor of who the donation was made for.
Another great tip for those who like to get involved in races is to check to see if the race offers spaces for groups running for a non-profit organization. With the Ragnar race, the only available spaces were offered through a raffle process, but because we were running as a TeamFORCE team, we were automatically provided a space in the race. You get to run your race in a more meaningful way, raise awareness and money for FORCE (everybody wins!).