This week on That Girl, we are celebrating Sally Ekus, who is a cancer survivor and a marathon runner–even though up until last year she had never run a mile! Sally remembers what it was like to have cancer as a child–to have needles poked in her at age 4 and to be too weak to walk up the stairs. Now she runs for the Leukemia & Lymphoma’s Team in Training program so other children won’t have to endure what she went through. We love how she says that she used to think sports and athleticism were defined by trophies and college scholarships–but now, she realizes it’s more about a relationship with her body. Read her story and be inspired!
27 years old
Fitness/health accomplishment you are most proud of:
I am most proud of training for a full marathon in October of 2011. I am a childhood Leukemia survivor and I had always wanted to train with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program and run a marathon in celebration of being cancer-free. When I began training in the Spring of 2011 I had never run a mile without stopping to walk. On October 2 of that year, I crossed the finish line of my first full marathon after running 26.2 miles!
What inspires you to get fit every day?
I run because my body is healthy enough to run and there are hundreds of thousands of people around the country fighting blood cancers right now. I run because I remember what it was like to have needles poked into me at four years old. What gets me out to run or work out is simple: When I was young, my body was so incredibly weak from the chemotherapy I couldn’t walk up the stairs. Now my body is strong and healthy. I don’t want any other children to have to go through what I did.
What do you do when you don’t feel like working out?
Luckily at this very moment I am training for a half marathon with two other people. My team inspires me to get up and go running. We hold each other accountable. You can read more about Team in Training and what our team is trying to accomplish here. When I don’t feel like working out I think about my team and all the people who have donated to our cause. Believe me, the unwavering support gets me out to run!
Favorite energizing meal:
Since I work in the food industry, that is kind of a loaded question. What I should say is toast with peanut butter and a banana. What I will say is that I typically eat a boring pre-run snack. Then I spend the whole run fantasizing about what my breakfast will actually be. Usually “cooking breakfast in my mind” gets me through at least four miles. By the time I get home I throw a sauté pan on some heat, wilt some hearty greens with onions and mushrooms and crack a fresh, rich duck egg over them. A tall glass of cold pulpy orange juice washes it all down, and I am one happy girl!
What’s your favorite way to chill post-workout?
On my deck, in the sun (eating my favorite energizing meal).
What is your top kick-ass workout?
Pretty much every run I go on kicks my ass. That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the majority of my workouts, but I am still getting the hang of this whole running thing.
Where is your favorite/most unique place you’ve ever exercised?
This sounds silly since millions of people run here, but my most memorable run, and the run I will forever refer to as my “breakthrough run,” was in Chicago. I was in the middle of training for the marathon and had to travel to Chicago for work. I mapped out a long 15 mile run along the water. I woke up early to get a stretch and snack in, and set out along the bike path. It rained–no actually, it poured–the entire time. I remember hitting the mile marker where I was set to turn around and thinking, I can’t believe I am already half-way there–and I can’t believe how hard it is raining! I don’t know it is was the rain or being on a completely unfamiliar path, but it was the first time I ever felt like a runner. I will never forget being connected to that moment.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through sports?
Growing up I was about as athletic as a sack of potatoes. I was really great at being on the JV teams and never winning a game. I always thought sports and athleticism were defined by trophies and college scholarships. The biggest lesson I have learned is that I am capable of teaching my body new things. I have a physical presence in this world that shifts as I change my relationship with my body. I have learned that I am incredibly strong, physically and also mentally. And with this strength I can make an incredible difference for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and people fighting cancer at this very moment. If you want to help support my fight against cancer please take a minute to read this page. Running has changed my life; a life I wouldn’t have without the help of the people who ran before me.
Photo: courtesy of Sally Ekus