This past weekend Team EmBen descended on San Francisco for the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (BJALCF) “Your Next Step is the Cure” 5K event. There were so many incredible moments that it is hard to hard to formulate a description that does this fun / inspiring / uplifting / motivational / spirited event justice. I’ve enlisted the help of ‘Best Buddy’ Josh Zazulia though and together we’ve formulated a Top 10 list..
#10 – Team EmBen and Their Fundraising Efforts for the BJALCF: In the week leading up to the event, Team EmBen swelled from 32 members up to 71 members on race day, each person dressed to the nines in hot pink and green. This included a large contingency of friends and family from Southern California who made the trek up to San Francisco. Altogether, Team EmBen raised almost $10,000 for the BJALCF, money that will go directly towards developing more effective treatments and finding a cure for lung cancer. Fundraising MVP goes to Stephanie Hammond who brought in $1,600 in donations. Also, a great big thank you goes out to Emily’s mom, Shelley, who couldn’t be at the race in person, but made sure that the entire group had spirited ‘Team EmBen’ arm bands to wear.
#9 – Taylor Family, Champion Runners: Much has been said about Miles and Emily’s athletic abilities to date, but let’s not forget about the rest of Team Taylor. Miles’ sister, Emily (EmTay), was the 3rd fastest female runner in the entire event. Yes, you read that correctly, not just the third fastest in her age group, but out of ALL the ladies. Mom (Michele) and Dad (Rich) Taylor also had exceptional race performances on Sunday. Michele took 3rd in the ‘Master’ category for ladies that are just a smidge over 40 years young, and Rich took 1st in the ‘Grand Master’ category for men that are just a smidge over 60 years young.
#8 – The Human Tunnel: While the first person who originally envisioned (and enacted) the human tunnel is unknown, he/she was clearly brilliant. The human tunnel saw a lot of action during our college years – what better way to exit the basketball/volleyball court after a great game attended by throngs of cheering fans? Well the BJALCF 5K course was equally as deserving of this awesome formation. A few short tunnels spontaneously appeared along the route in front of runners who may have been in need of a little extra pick me up. The best tunnel by far came together at the finish line though just as Emily was rounding the final corner. Emily was grinning ear to ear as she ran under dozens of outreached hands going crazy and cheering as if she had just won the New York Marathon.
#7 – Team EmBen Flag Bearer: Nate Folk finished the race in 34 minutes, a very respectable time for a Browns fan. There’s more to the story though – Nate carried the “Team EmBen” sign while running the ENTIRE 3.1 miles. Despite gusty winds and sweaty hands, Nate crossed the finish line proudly holding the sign up high. Nate’s wife, Melanie, also ran the entire race carrying the bag of extra Team EmBen wrist bands in the event that someone should need an extra piece of flare mid-route. No one should ever doubt the Folk’s commitment to Team EmBen. Ever.
#6 – Pre-race Meet Up: In true Emily/Miles form, the pre-race get together for Team EmBen was a sports bar near the Golden Gate Park that had ~137 TVs broadcasting every single Sunday NFL football game. While it was weird not seeing Miles and Emily in their usual Sunday Steelers attire, they were perhaps even cuter (and less polarizing) in their matching “Team Taylor” tee shirts. While Emily and Miles played it safe and opted for a healthier lunch option, many of their fellow teammates enjoyed some greasy bar food and Indian cuisine for pre-race fuel. Unfortunately, one of these friends wound up parting with his lunch mid race…4 times over. He still finished in the top 15 though. No pain, no gain.
#5 – Putting Awesome Names and Faces Together: Over the past weeks and months Bonnie, Danielle, and the BJALCF team, Darby Anderson and the Jill’s Legacy team, and Kelcey Harrison of the Great Lung Run and Jill’s Legacy have provided Emily with invaluable support and information on how to navigate the unknown waters that lie ahead. Most of the communication and interaction has been virtual thus far though. Sunday was an opportunity to connect in person and put a warm body together with a name. Everyone was just as friendly, vibrant, and compelling in person as they had been over phone/email. Kelcey is still in the midst of the Great Lung Run (she just reached the halfway point and is heading across Kansas) but we were so lucky to meet her sweet and wonderful mom, Gretchen, instead.
#4 – Spirit of Hope Award: Prior to the start of the race, Bonnie J Addario, lung cancer survivor and founder of the BJALCF, welcomed the hundreds of participants gathered in Golden Gate Park. During her address, Bonnie recognized fellow lung cancer survivors, Brian Kissinger and our very own Emily (!!!), with the Spirit of Hope Award. This award is named for Jill Costello who passed away from lung cancer in 2010 and is given to someone that embodies Jill’s spirit of generosity, motivation, and the ability to inspire those around her. Jill was an incredibly strong, passionate, and inspiring young woman and the foundation thought Emily deserved to be recognized for having those same qualities. Emily accepted the award with grace and humility and there wasn’t a dry eye in the park.
#3 – Spirit of Hope Trophy: Part of Emily’s recognition for the Spirit of Hope Award was a beautiful engraved trophy. Emily accepted the momento from Bonnie and that was the last time anyone else got to touch the award. Emily carried that sucker through the entire 3.1 mile course despite multiple offers from friends and family to hold it while she ran. She even persevered through a pesky forearm cramp to carry it across the finish line. The award may or may not have spent last night resting under Emily’s pillow…
#2 – Miles’ Love for Emily: Miles has been a pillar of strength for Emily through this challenge that life has thrown their way. He used to crumble at the mere thought of a needle, but no longer. He has been the rock by her side during chemotherapy infusions, and late night bouts of nausea, during fertility treatments, and meetings with surgeons. Yesterday, Emily got choked up while accepting her award for being so inspirational, and Miles’ eyes welled up with tears as she walked on stage to receive the award. Emily was so clearly touched by all of the love and support. Miles was so clearly infatuated with the strength and beauty of his wife.
#1 – Coming Together for an Incredible Cause: Sunday’s event brought all kinds of people together, united by a common bond – to raise awareness and ultimately find a cure for lung cancer. It was a beautiful day made up of love, hope, support, and determination to MAKE IT HAPPEN. You can’t really ask for much more than that 🙂
For more photos please check the website of the official event photographer James Hall. He is posting the photos in small batches and everything should be available by Saturday or Sunday.