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Cancer survivor trains for the EP5K and runs the Aramco Half Marathon by mistake

“Running a marathon doesn't start with your feet, it starts with your mind."
“Running a marathon doesn't start with your feet, it starts with your mind."
Photo Courtesy of iStockphoto.

Cancer survivor, Brandy Vargas, didn’t plan to run the Aramco Half Marathon in Houston last Sunday, in fact she had just trained for her first 5K. How did she end up finishing 13.1 miles? Here’s her amazing story.

"Brandy, what were you thinking when you saw that you were on the wrong route and how did you keep going?"

Ok, so I don't know where I went wrong. I was so focused and excited to be keeping up with the pack that I somehow missed the 5K turn around. I started getting a sinking feeling when I was an hour into the race and I saw that we were so far from downtown. I knew from running 4 miles each day, 6x a week, that being at my pace time and so far from the finish line, something wasn't right. It wasn't until we passed the 5K banner with no finish line that I asked a volunteer if I was lost. She confirmed I was on the half marathon route and not the 5K, but she was unaware of the streets or where I needed to go. So I just chugged along until I hit another mile marker (this was right before entering the Heights) and saw the KSBJ prayer station. For me, seeing KSBJ was like seeing a good friend in a sea of strangers. So I stopped and asked another volunteer. This time he confirmed I missed my turn and gave me the option to turn back or go forward. I was leery of turning back, mostly because I didn't know where I was and I didn't want to navigate the route by myself while everyone else was going in the opposite direction. So I decided to keep going. My goal was to do the half marathon next year, not today.

I wasn't sure of myself this morning, I didn't plan on running 13.1 miles, I wasn't mentally prepared for it and I didn't even know where the heck the route was taking us. But I kept running to keep up with the group, all the while trying not to get scared or let that fear paralyze me right in the middle of the race. That's when I saw the other runners, all different levels and paces and when I read that shirt that said, "Running a marathon starts with your mind, not your feet". Reading that made something click inside me.

For the past 4 years I've had to play mental games just to get through cancer. You have to put on your game face to get through the treatments to survive. So I decided that I could and would finish the race. After that, I enjoyed the rest of the race. I did stop at another KSBJ prayer station at the half marathon turnaround. I needed to call my husband to tell him I was ok, since I should have been home by then. They were kind enough to lend me a phone and I was able to get energized the finish the rest of the race.

Did my body hurt? Absolutely. But I kept going and wouldn't you know it - this overweight, two-time cancer survivor finished her first 5K, 10K and half marathon all in the same morning! I'm normally a very stoic person, but there were two points when I was just overcome with emotion. The first one was on Allen Parkway and seeing the 1.5 mile left banner. I couldn't believe how close I was to the finish line.  The second time happened right after I crossed the finish line. I actually did it, I was still breathing and I wasn't left behind!

Brandy – you are a rock star. Congratulations!

For more from Brandy on the obstacles that she’s overcome to be a runner see the second article in this series of two:  "Overcoming cancer to run the Aramco Half Marathon: an interview with Brandy Vargas".


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