Post-Cancer: Running Is a Lot Like Life

New iVoice and cancer survivor Jim Higley tackles a half marathon and learns lessons to last a lifetime

I’m not a runner. Honest. But I recently joined a slew of real runners in a half marathon. Yes, I finished. And no, I don’t know my time.

The short story of my adventure goes something like this: I showed up at the start. I crossed the finish line. What I did in between those two events mirrored how I’ve learned to live my life.

I ran a lot—covering as much ground as I could.

I walked without a hint of embarrassment when my body told me to do so.

I high-fived a few hundred strangers.

I stopped to help someone who was hurt. More than once.

I, at first, got frustrated as one hill after another showed up. But then I’d celebrate my ability to conquer it—albeit slowly.

I lived vicariously through countless moments of others, like a dad who—about a hundred yards from the finish—grabbed his small son and hoisted the toddler on his shoulders so they could both share the final steps of an extraordinary moment.

And when I crossed the finish line myself, after a full-out sprint for a couple hundred yards, I cried. Not an embarrassing, snotty, out-of-control cry. Just a good, quick, real, I’m-glad-to-be-alive cry.

Perhaps if you could have read the words I wrote on the back of my t-shirt you might better understand the root of those emotions:

Someday I won’t be able to run. But today I can.

I stole those words from a nameless woman who has had as much impact on my life as anyone. Ever.

She ran in front of me a few years ago in the first distance race I ever participated in, the Lincoln Half Marathon. I was a few months post cancer diagnosis, surgery, treatment and recovery. This was my victory event.  It was the symbolic gesture to reclaim my life.

She was bald, obviously from chemotherapy. She was thin and frail. Yet she was the strongest human I had ever seen in my life. More than anything, what I remember most, was that she was loved. And admired. She was surrounded by family members ranging from little kids who I assumed to be her grandchildren, young adults close to my age, and a loving husband who never once left her side. They were all in pink. But it was her pink shirt that had the message. The billboard. The bumper sticker that spoke to me.

Someday I won’t be able to run. But today I can.

And I never once left my vantage point some ten to twenty paces behind her. I wanted to take in the draft of her inspiration.

And ever since then, I’ve tried to live my days following her words of wisdom.

If I need to do something, if I want to try something, if I dream of being someone, I give it a go. I figure getting a “C” while trying is far better—and way more fun—than never trying at all.

So that’s why I run.

Among other things.

Because today I can.



Jim Higley is one of iVillage’s iVoices. You can read his blog or purchase his book on his website, friend him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter (@jimhigley). This post first appeared on


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