Race start

Women’s cross country team to run 24 hours straight to raise money and awareness for cancer

By Edward Weinman

Unless you’re an oncologist, you’ve probably never heard of Multiple Myeloma. Unfortunately, the women’s cross-country team knows all about this rare but serious form of bone marrow cancer.

Annie Watters
Annie Watters

A mother and father of the Lady Missionary runners have been diagnosed with the disease, which has a survival rate, depending upon staging, of 29 to 62 months.

To fight back, the team is planning Who Do You Run For? a 24-hour relay run around Ankeny Field from noon to midnight Dec. 5-6. The event is being held to raise awareness and show support for those who are battling, or have battled, cancer.

“Cancer can make you feel helpless,” said Colleen Bell ’14, whose mother was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in August.

“We all want to do anything we can to support people affected by cancer, and this is just one small way we can bring awareness and show solidarity and support.”

Bell says it’s important to have the support of friends and family when coping with cancer, which is why Who Do You Run For? is primarily about forming a community rather than fundraising.

“Cancer can make you feel helpless.”

“Since hearing the news, my team has been an incredible source of support. Every day I think about how lucky I am to be part of this team. It’s an amazing community,” Bell said.

“It’d be great if we were successful in raising money for Multiple Myeloma research, but this event mostly started as a way to come out and show the community we are in this together.”

The event is open to the public, but the Lady Missionaries plan to have at least one of their teammates continuously running laps around Ankeny Field, which is about a half-mile per lap. The men's team is also participating.

Athletic Director Dean Snider says the event shows the positive impact Whitman students have on their community.

“I am proud of the way our students respond to real life issues,” Snider said.

Alyssa Goard
Alyssa Goard

“They are making a meaningful and impactful response to the challenges facing their teammates families, and so many other families in our community, nation and abroad. I just simply want to thank them.”

For those wishing to donate, rather than run, one dollar buys a nametag, and a community member can write the name of a person for whom they want the team to run 10 laps around Ankeny. All money raised will go to the Multiple Myeloma Foundation. After the event, the nametags will be placed on a poster and hopefully displayed in Sherwood.

“When we race in competition we tend to write the names of the people we want to run for on our arms, to make it about something bigger than ourselves,” said Annie Watters ’14, a senior captain.

“Running has been an important way members of our team have coped while our loved ones deal with cancer.”

The women’s team has not only been hit hard by Multiple Myeloma, but their coach, Scott Shields, is a cancer survivor, and numerous runners have lost friends and loved ones to cancer.

Alyssa Goard ’14 says that having the cross-country team as a support structure has taught everyone on the team the value of solidarity.

“Running requires a positive, upbeat outlook as a sport. You have to tell yourself to keep going, to try harder than you think is possible.” 

“Running requires a positive, upbeat outlook as a sport. You have to tell yourself to keep going, to try harder than you think is possible. We've learned as a team that optimism is much easier to foster in a supportive community,” said Goard, who plans to run the 3 a.m. shift.

“We want to welcome both the Whitman and the Walla Walla communities to run with us to honor those who have dealt with or are dealing with cancer. I hope the event demonstrates that communities truly can provide tireless, 24-hour support.”

Alyssa Goard hair tie