It’s not If but When

Today’s Workout:
The Plan: 4 Miles – Easy
The Actual: 4.02 miles; 9:10 pace – not totally easy but did my best to keep the heart rate down; SWEAT LIKE A PIG! So it was a good run!!

I contemplated doing a “lighter” topic for my second post but it seemed truly appropriate to lay out why I run at the start of what may be an epic training cycle.  So take a deep breath, read on, and I promise tomorrow will make you laugh.

We all run for our own reasons.  For some, it’s all about the physical challenge, for others it’s about having the “me time”, and still others it’s perhaps just for the fun of it (I’ve never met one of “those” but they must exist, right?).  For me, on this first day of marathon training, I’m literally running away.  Running away from a family history of breast cancer.  My great grandmother was diagnosed at age 78, my great aunt was diagnosed at 68 and my mother was first diagnosed at 38.  All three went through various treatments, and in the case of my mother, when her breast cancer returned at age 53 (just a couple months before my wedding mind you),  a double mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery.  My great grandmother passed away when I was a kid (not from the cancer), but thanks to their own gumption (got to love the crazy Italians!) and great advancements in our treatment of breast cancer, both my great aunt and Mom have not just survived – they have thrived! (stole that from my mom)

My mom has since had the genetic testing and although she doesn’t have the known breast cancer markers there is an “abnormality” which I have always interpreted as it’s not “if” I’ll get breast cancer but “when”.  I like being prepared for challenges.  If I know what’s coming, I can prepare mentally, and then meet the challenge head on.  Hence my almost daily review of my marathon training plan – ha!  I view this whole breast cancer “thing” as a challenge; not just to beat IT but beat the odds of getting it in the first place.  It’s like a game.  “So you think you can get me, cancer? You have another thing coming!”

I’ve been pretty diligent about my prevention and early detection measures i.e. mammograms starting at 25, minimal hormone introduction for birth control, fairly regular self exams (Don’t forget those, ladies!  They saved my mom!) and weight control.  The last point is where running comes in.  Almost every run I take, literally every one, the thought of running from this stupid cancer pops in my head.  Sometimes it stays for a while, most often it’s a fleeting thought, but it’s there just the same.

In most health studies, the benefits of walking versus running as it relates to breast cancer prevention are pretty equal.  The impact of running versus walking is also equally beneficial in decreasing the incidence of other major chronic and/or life threatening ailments like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, etc.  However, a study came out last January from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and reported in the International Journal of Cancer, showing a SIGNIFICANT difference in the impact of running versus walking on the breast cancer survival rate.  We are talking a decrease in mortality of over 40% per MET hour per day for runners versus a mere 5% decrease per MET hour per day for walkers (one MET hour equals a little less than a mile of brisk walking or about two-thirds of a mile of running) .  Also important to note is that most of the runners exceeded the weekly exercise recommendation of 2.5 hours of moderate exercise.  Paul Williams Ph.D., who conducted the study, doesn’t interpret this as walking having no benefit since the sample size was small, but he does see that it’s hard to argue how significant the difference in survival rate was for runners versus walkers and that not just meeting but EXCEEDING the weekly recommendation is a good idea.

So how do I interpret this study?  Well, if for some reason I don’t win the challenge of stopping those pesky cancer cells from making a go at attacking my body, I sure as hell am going to stick with this running so I can kick their butts’ on the back-end.

Run strong my friends!

The full IJC study is available here:

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