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From Cancer Survivor to Tuwaiq Triumph: A 20k Journey of Resilience, Reflection, and Rediscovery on the Trail

Updated: Feb 21

Trail races are my favorite to run, and Tuwaiq did not disappoint! This was the first race I have done in a while, so I needed to set my sights on something physical to work toward. This run was finally a goal for me to set and get ready for…


Back in early spring of 2023, I had just finished the final phase of treatment for breast cancer. I was unexpectedly diagnosed the previous October (2022). At the time, I had been working with a running coach and dear friend, Jill. I had been gaining consistency again in my training, and the accountability was just what I needed…and then boom, cancer…I had to have chemo, surgery, and then radiation. 


Running during this time pretty much came to a halt. By the time I finished all the treatment, my body was completely wrecked and I could barely run a few minutes without my heart rate going crazy. I felt like a huge unfit blob. I was back at square one…like I had never run a day in my life! 


Once I felt well enough, I started back on a conservative running plan. After more than six months of consistency, I finally felt I was getting somewhere and wanted to shoot for running Tuwaiq. I decided on the 20k distance. My pre-cancer body has run very long distances, marathons and ultras, but this new post-cancer body needed to ease back. 


I signed up with no expectations other than to enjoy the morning out on the trail and find the joy of moving my body in this way again. The morning of the race, I got up early and drove down on my own to the start line. I didn’t even listen to music. It was a very meditative drive. I arrived feeling very relaxed and happy to see how the run would unfold. The weather was ideal;  a little cloudy with a chill in the air. It was still dark out walking over to where the race would take off, and I don’t remember running into anyone I knew at the start. 


So, I set out on my own, tuning out the other runners to the left and right of me, as I kept my easy pace. After a few km, I settled in and just put one foot in front of the other. Then I looked over to my left and I saw the climb! It was a substantial uphill hike lasting several minutes! Needless to say, my heart rate started to soar as I kept going up, occasionally moving over to the right to let the speed goats pass me. I loved this part of the trail. I kept my head down and prudently moved at my own pace knowing what goes up must come down. I made it to the top and proceeded to bomb down! I let my legs go and tried to stay light on my toes and commit to the downhill. It was a little tricky running down, and I’m pretty sure in some parts I might’ve closed my eyes, lol! 


By the time we reached the flat part again, the 10k runners had started their race and our paths joined for a brief part. Not too long after that, I took a nosedive in that rocky part, but was quickly pulled up by two of the sturdy 10k runners! Boy did that wake me up! I got moving again straight away while dusting myself off and doing a momentary triage on the go. All was okie! I don’t remember much after that, other than getting locked behind the lady who would eventually take 2nd in our age group. We meandered for several km and I was feeling good, so I kept running. When we hit the 20k mark, I noticed that we were still nowhere near the finish! Still more to go. By this point, everyone is trying to finish. There weren’t many people around, but the same lady stayed ahead in my sights the rest of the way. Little did she know that she was pulling me along. 


I looked up and saw the finish line was still a ways away, and my poor legs were ready to be done with this run. I started smiling to myself though and even got a little teary eyed. My watch showed over 22k done, but still a little push was still needed to get me over the line. I started thinking about how this feeling is something I haven’t felt in a long time. The feeling of pushing beyond my limits…and yet I’m still moving. I managed to pick off a few runners at the end and finished strong. I hung around for a while after I found a few people I knew. We chatted about our run and how we felt. It was great hearing about how it went for them and how strong they felt! I was so happy to just get to the start line and stay healthy enough to cross the finish. I really wasn’t sure how the day would go.


This race was a huge confidence boost I needed to start pushing myself again!  This race was so well organized and well put together! All of the volunteers were so helpful and so encouraging. It’s amazing to see the growth in these types of events as people from all over the world are able to come together and participate. 


I feel so blessed to be well enough to participate in such a lovely run and look forward to the next one!



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2 Comments


reemnr26
reemnr26
Mar 07

So inspiring Amber. Thank you for sharing your story and making us see the struggles within your triumph

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Truly inspirational stuff. This is what legends are made of for sure! Bravo Amber on beating cancer and pushing yourself to not only start running again but to compete in tough trail races again......WOW!! I wish you the best for the future and I am sure you'll succeed in anything you put your mind too.

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