"Every Mile Matters" is the slogan for this year's 4K for Cancer Run. The run, which began on June 16th in San Francisco, will be completed by 22 individuals. These 22 individuals will run 12 miles each day for 30 days. It is a true test of physical and mental abilities but it will be aided by various motivational forces. The runners will individually dedicate every day to a special someone, someone they view as a warrior.
"I lost my 25-year-old cousin, Ryan, to cancer, osteosarcoma, this past Christmas," said Molly Gebler, a 22-year-old from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
"My grandfather battled prostate and colon cancer for many years," said Shana Callahan, a 22-year-old from Annapolis, Maryland, "and he passed away this past December."
Will Friedmann, a 21-year-old from Tucson, Arizona, said, "I am running for my sister, who passed away from cancer when she was 8."
"My best friend passed away in January of 2012 from cancer," said Laura Grau, a 20-year-old from Colombia, South America. "She was 11."
"About one month after I signed up for this run, my mom was diagnosed with cancer," said Gebler. "It has been hard."
The hardships were apparent in the teary eyes of these young people as they told their stories. However, the tears only fuel the runners as they trek across the county on this incredible journey.
The group holds a dedication circle every morning before they begin their run. This ritual allows them to reevaluate the purpose of their journey and to choose who they would like to honor on that particular day. The name of the chosen person is written on the back of their leg.
"When I write a name on my leg," said Grau, "that is the person I will be thinking about all day. Running 12 miles is tough and you can't do it by yourself."
The chosen warriors motivate the runners and they give them an additional push when they feel like they cannot take another step.
"I am literally telling myself that Christy is pushing me," said Gebler. "You know she is pushing me. She is telling me that I have to do this and that I have to make it up there. She is telling me to get to the top of the hill. I use it literally and, when you say it out loud, it makes it more real. It works mentally."
When the mental motivation is failing, a fellow runner is usually able to provide the necessary support.
Gebler said, "When you have somebody who is strong next to you, it makes the miles easier."
Now, the miles are dwindling. The runners are inching closer and closer to their final destination, Baltimore.
The culmination of this 4,000 mile run will be a realization for Grau. She has questioned her strength since her best friend lost her battle to cancer in 2012. When she crosses the finish line, she hopes to rid herself of her questions. She hopes to find peace in her accomplishment.
"Once I get to Baltimore," said Grau, "all I will think about is maybe I am strong enough to be your friend now."
The team will be running into Baltimore on July 14th. If you would like to make a donation to their cause, you can visit this website, www.4kforcancer.org.