"I used to say that people who run are crazy. I don't even run to the mailbox."
Eight years ago, Susan Davenport had much bigger things than running on her mind—she was battling breast cancer. It was through the YMCA's After Breast Cancer (ABC) program that Susan found support, friendship and hope. When she was done with her breast cancer journey, after feeling the impact of the ABC program firsthand, Susan took a job with the Y. This was where she started becoming familiar with fitness and what healthy living looks like.
Taking control of her health
Three years after her diagnosis, Susan decided that she wanted to start running. "I asked a couple employees and the trainers—'If I want to train myself how to run, what would I do?' I decided, at that point, that doing a 5K was a huge deal for me."
Susan began running, and ended up completing the Lambert Dillard Memorial 5K—a race hosted by the North Rutherford Family YMCA—a few times. After her 5K successes, a friend told her that if she could tackle a 5K, she could tackle a half marathon.
"I was like, no way," Susan laughs. "But then, I just couldn't get it out of the back of my mind. It was a 'bucket list' thing. I decided that I'm not getting any younger; if I'm going to [run a half marathon], now's the time. So, I decided to run the Harvest Half Marathon in Brentwood."
Rising to the challenge
Before starting the race, Susan had a tremendous amount of fear, but also excitement. Her husband was right there cheering her on. "He was so sweet and supportive," she says. "He ran every step with me. I run slow, but he was encouraging me all the way. I remember telling him, 'When I get to the end I'm probably going to cry.'"
At the 12th mile, Susan determined that she was not, in fact, going to cry—she just wanted the race to be over. She'd lost her music around mile 6 and her phone (with her running tracker) died at mile 9. "It just felt like there were so many things against me that day. But I was like, 'No, girl. You are not giving up. You are finishing.'"
When she hit mile 13, the tears started flowing. It was an incredibly emotional moment for the breast cancer survivor, a moment that gave her much more than a half marathon finishing medal. "I looked up and my son was there [at the finish line] cheering me on. I didn't know he was coming; he surprised me. So then the tears really kept coming."
Susan marked the half marathon off her bucket list at age 53. "Crossing that finish line, it was just this 'Wow!' moment. Very exhilarating. Tiring, but exhilarating at the same time."
As a kid, Susan was made fun of for her lack of athletic abilities. This made conquering the half marathon even sweeter. "It literally gave me a sense of self confidence that I didn't think I'd ever have. I was told my whole life I was clumsy. I've never played on any sports team. I did nothing athletic. I stayed away from it because I got laughed at and made fun of. So being able to finish that race gave me a sense of self confidence in athletics that I never expected to have."
And, this was after beating cancer. "It was a sense that cancer doesn't win," Susan says. "I'm taking me back, and I'm going to be stronger, better and healthier after cancer than I was before. Thanks to the Y, and running races I never thought I could do, I literally feel that way. I am better and stronger after cancer."