I guess everybody has their reasons when it comes to lacing up for charity running events.
Some are running because they’ve been personally impacted by cancer. Others, because they’ve lost a loved one, or very nearly lost a loved one. Then you have those people who have no personal experience of something, and are just running to help out – that’s pretty amazing too.
For me, it’s personal.
Mum lost her battle with breast cancer in 2010. The Mother’s Day Classic – which raises essential funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation – took on a special meaning for me after that. I’d run it with my dad, and it gave us something to do together; something positive for us to channel that energy into.
I learned so much from mum, like any kid would. And her passing taught me lessons too: how quickly life can be taken from us, and how quickly our loved ones can leave us. That period of grief, for me, was also a period of huge self-exploration. About reflecting on what I had achieved in sport and life, and where I might go from here, after this enormous loss.
Mum’s background was in equestrian, so that’s really where that passion started when it came to my equestrian career. We celebrated all the highs and lows together, and we were a real team in it all. After she died, I just started to lose that passion at the elite level, and I began to wonder what would be next for me.
In her own way, mum helped me figure that out, too.
When mum’s breast cancer returned in 2010, five years after a lump was removed in her breast, she refused any Western medicine. She wanted to do everything the natural way.
You can imagine how hard that was – to watch your own mother’s health get gradually worse while she refuses any of the treatments that might help extend her life, or make it more comfortable. It caused us all a lot of frustration initially, and a lot of heartache.
But mum just wouldn’t budge. This is what she wanted to do; this is how she wanted to handle this. Eventually our family made peace with it. We knew we couldn’t change her mind, and we were focused on just trying to make the most of the time we had with her. As unlikely as it sounds, we still managed to make some fond memories through it all.
I was mum’s primary care giver through all of this, so there was really no respite for me when it came to dealing with it. It was always right there. But that meant I also had a front-row seat to witness mum’s incredible resilience through that time. She had made her decision, and this was her way of asserting control over her situation. I can’t imagine the strength that must have taken.
I kept that with me after we lost mum: we have one life, and what we do with it is up to us. No matter what. I’ve always been a bit like that, but this experience with my mum just really solidified it in my mind.
I knew I still wanted to represent my country. The Rio Paralympics in 2016 were on the horizon, and someone put the idea of triathlon into my head. I laughed at first, but then I thought, ‘I’ll never know unless I try.’
So I started challenging myself. I started doing things I had never done before. I knew what it took mentally to perform in high performance sport, but I needed to learn a new sport! I surrounded myself with the right people and accepted that I had a lot to learn. I began applying all the self-discipline I had honed during my equestrian career into something new.
Six years after I lost my mum, and having fell short of two Paralympic attempts in equestrian, I represented my country as a triathlete in Brazil. It was such an emotional day for me. I was doing it for us, and I was doing it because of her. She was with me for those six years, and she’s still with me today. Those lessons she taught me will always be with me.
Too many women are affected by breast cancer. Too many women die before their time. And too many mums leave their families too soon. Running the Mother’s Day Classic is my way of saying thanks to my mum, and helping raise valuable funds for all the other women out there who aren’t ready to say goodbye just yet. I do it for all of them.
And this year, I hope you’ll join me.