Too often those that bring home the trophies from a race are given all the praise when those that have done the more remarkable feat are further back in the pack.
Angela Ivory has completed over 300 marathons and ultramarathons. She has completed six 100-mile ultras. Her accomplishments will never make ESPN or Sports Illustrated, but that is only because we live in a world that judges any accomplishment by who is the first to come across the line.
Angela has been battling Metastatic Breast Cancer for quite some time. I’ve been told it has now consumed most of her body. She has been battling it for years, and the last two, I have known her. I know her from running…really long distances. I know her because she is one of the friendliest and nicest runners I’ve ever had the joy of competing with. She has never mentioned one word about cancer to me, but I know. I’ve known for about as long as I’ve known her.
Runners talk, especially about runners that we respect and do things that amaze and inspire us. She has running friends that truly love , respect, and want to share her story. That is how I know what Angela is battling.
Angela has continued to complete one ultra after another. Her times might have slowed, but her indomitable will has risen to a level that perhaps only someone like Aron Ralston would understand.
In 2011 to date, Angela has completed 27 ultras and marathons. 297 of her 303 marathons/ultras have taken place since 2004. You can do the math.
Angela’s last race was on September 24th. The cancer and medications are really hitting Angela hard right now. She is struggling to get enough oxygen into her lungs to do even the most simple things like walk a block.
But Angela is still going ham against her immune system and that bastard of a disease. She is still prodding away one step at a time, but now her 100 miler is a simple 3-miler.
From Angela Ivory’s Most Recent Blog Post, ‘3 Miles a Day’ (Read Full Blog Post):
Yesterday, I could only walk the three miles. I had a fever and neck and shoulder pains. I was so cold on a bright, sunshiny day, even with a hat and two long-sleeved shirts. I saw runners out in shorts and short-sleeved shirts, and I envied their even pace and smooth strides. Surprisingly, the three mile walk was only about five minutes longer than the three mile run/walk the day before. The major goal is to finish the three miles under an hour. It’s not much of a goal, but it’s attainable and doesn’t stress me out too much. On Tuesday, I finished in 53 minutes, and on Wednesday, I barely made it in 58 minutes, picking up the walking pace in the last mile to my townhouse. I plan to get the three mile course I’ve mapped out under 45 minutes, and then I’ll do a 5K to truly see where I am.
I can run for a block before I get dizzy from lack of oxygen. It takes me two blocks to breathe comfortably and then I can run another block. I’m hoping that as my body becomes accustomed to surviving on less oxygen that I can run two blocks and walk one block for recovery. Ideally, I would love to get to the point where I can run a mile before taking a walk break. I’ve mapped out a pretty flat route, so that I won’t have the added challenge of tackling an uphill climb. That’s coming from someone who would use hills as speed work, because she hated running on a track for intervals. Wow! Things have really changed. Now I walk all hills, and I love 12 or 24 hour races on a track, because I’m only 1/4 mile from my drop bag and a camp chair, lol.
The best thing about my three miles a day routine is that I get to be outside. It makes me feel better mentally to be able to still move although I am incredibly slower. It’s raining and very cold today, but I don’t care. I’m still a runner at heart, so a little wetness and coldness are not going to scare me off. I’ll still be outside on a beautiful, rainy, and cold day, dressed like I live in Alaska, lol.
So many people in life don’t fight even when they have every advantage imaginable at their disposal. Some people get punched once in the face and never get off the canvas.
Then there are the very rare people, like Angela, who do things that the most abled of us deem impossible or even foolish.
The men and women that win races, place, and take home cash deserve the praise and adoration they receive, but most often the person overcoming the most, climbing the biggest walls, battling the ugliest demons, or having their own Don Quixote moment are doing so near the back of the field in complete anonymity.
We all run for a reason, some of us from something, others of us towards something, and yet others of us to help overcome something.
What Angela has done and is continuing to do is an inspiration that we should all remember. She can’t afford to take a day for granted, yet most of us do because we’re pathetic.
Be sure to take a moment at your next race to congratulate someone besides the winners on what they accomplished that day.
When you see Angela out there on the course give her a hug and thank her for how she has encouraged so many by her intense will. Running binds us in such a tight and intricate way that the non-runner will never really understand.
And if Angela can continue to do three more miles with an evil, host invader claiming more and more of her body then your excuse better be damn good!
UPDATE: I’m sad to learn today that Angela is no longer with us. She was 44-years old. She showed all of us that knew her what bravery and courage is all about. (May 31, 2012)
Angela Ivory’s Blog: ‘See Tiger Run‘