Last year, Karen Cole was celebrating her best friend Eve’s upcoming nuptials. That happiness was dealt a cruel twist – a few weeks before the wedding Eve was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
To honor her friend and support her fight against the disease, Karen made a commitment to run and raise money for cancer research with Team in Training (TNT). Over the past year, Karen has achieved a lot. She’s run 3 half-marathons and her first marathon while raising more than $5,000 dollars. Karen documented her experiences at her blog The Purple Train.
Karen and I work together at UPS and I’ve admired her athletic accomplishments and devotion to her friend. We recently sat down together to talk about her journey over the past year.
How long have you been a runner?
I’ve always been involved in sports, particularly soccer, but didn’t start running until 5 years ago. My first race experience was the 10K Classic. However, I didn’t start becoming a serious runner until joining TNT. Growing up, my mom was a big marathon runner so it’s funny to think that I didn’t start running sooner.
What was your experience like with TNT? How did it help you prepare for your goals?
When I originally committed to running and raising money, I felt uncertain about my ability to actual complete a race. I’m not sure if would have been possible without the support and friendship from my teammates with TNT. The group atmosphere and bonds I developed with other runners striving toward a common cause was a huge motivator. The TNT program helps runners stay consistent and committed to training for races. I started with the program the week before Thanksgiving in 2009 and ran my first fundraising race at the ING Georgia Half-Marathon.
Why did you choose to start a blog to share your experience?
My friend Eve started a blog to chronicle her treatment. It turned out to be a meaningful way for her friends to stay connected to her experience without having to ask for an update each time we saw her. Her courage and openness inspired me to write my own blog.
You ran the Nike Women’s Marathon in October. What was your training like?
This was my first marathon and we started the training program in May. It was a hot summer in Atlanta and the heat was incredibly difficult to handle at times. Regardless of the weather, I stayed committed and my coach Ed Ferrell kept me motivated. Ed really helped me prepare physically and emotionally for running the marathon distance. Over time, it helped me develop confidence in my ability to persevere. Long runs took place on Saturdays and the TNT team typically started out around 8 a.m. Sunday was a cross-training or rest day. During the work week, I’d meet up with my training partner Carol around 6 p.m. for 4 to 6 mile runs at the Alpharetta Greenway. The TNT team also met on Wednesdays at the Suwanee Greenway for evening runs.
So, how was your first marathon?
It was an amazing experience. The Nike Women’s Marathon is a huge event for TNT and it was inspiring to see so many TNT runners in their purple apparel. The weather started out as chilly and overcast – which wasn’t bad. But when I reached the 13-mile mark, it started raining and the temperature dropped. Around the same time, a knee issue started triggering some pain. With the rain, chilly weather and knee pain, it turned out to be the toughest running experience that I had encountered. But I made it to the end and it became a valuable lesson on perseverance.
How is your friend Eve doing?
She’s continuing her battle with cancer and on her second round of chemotherapy, but she remains hopeful. Eve is one of the most positive and willful people I know, and the great thing about her is that she finds the light in every situation. She's had to endure incredibly difficult physical and emotional challenges in the past year, and I admire her so much for her courage.
What’s next for you?
Unfortunately, I learned that my knee pain was the result of torn cartilage. I’m having surgery in January and hope to return to the Nike Women’s Marathon in 2011.