Thursday, March 12, 2015

Inspiration: Sindy Hooper, Marathoners Gone Viral and Voices of Experience

As mentioned in my recap from last week, I attended a very inspirational event at the Ottawa Hospital last Saturday night. The event was called "Voices of Experience: An Evening with Ottawa's Fab Four," and it benefitted the incredible research of Dr. John Bell of the Ottawa Hospital.  Dr. Bell is researching the use of viruses to treat (and maybe even cure) cancer.  The evening's hostess and emcee was Sindy Hooper, a hugely inspirational woman and member of Ottawa's triathlon/running community.  Sindy has been battling pancreatic cancer for 26 months and she formed Marathoners Gone Viral (MGV) to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer and to raise money for Dr. Bell's research.

I wanted to share a bit more about Sindy, MGV, and the evening with you.  When you come across something like this, it is hard not to share.  This word, "inspired" doesn't quite fully capture it, but I'll say it again, I was truly inspired by the evening.  Listening to Sindy's story of her perseverance, grace, good humour, and courage in the face of her battle with cancer.  Watching a clip from the upcoming "Vice Report" on the use of viruses to treat cancer, including Dr. Bell's work.  Hearing the tales of big races and expeditions across thousands of kilometres from the panellists.  Looking around the room at the people there listening to it all.  These things all will stick with me for a while and they've all encouraged me to continue to look for ways to give back to the community and to use athletics for good.

First, let's talk about Sindy...

One of the panellists, Ray Zahab, described Sindy as someone you just want to be around.  Having not really actually met Sindy until just before the end of the event, I already had that sense just from hearing her speak and experiencing the energy she carries with her.  She is truly a force.  I was brought to tears thinking that I had heard her speak a year before, and at that time, as she again mentioned during the evening, she was only thinking of the next 6 months of her life. Sindy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 26 months ago.  Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all the major cancers.  The average survival rate is only 6 months, 75% die within the first year of diagnosis, and the 5-year survival rate is only 6%. The survival rate for pancreatic cancer has made Sindy an outlier, by a lot. And not only has she survived, she is living her life to the fullest.  While she was undergoing chemotherapy, she completed Ironman Canada with her husband Jon (7 months after diagnosis).  She also ran a handful of running races during chemo and since.  Since the end of that treatment, she has completed several half Ironmans. This weekend, she will run a half marathon in Washington, D.C. with others from the MGV group.  She's hoping to go around 1:40 (you know, just a casual 1:40).  You can read more about Sindy's journey on her blog: Making Every Moment Count.

Marathoners Gone Viral

Sindy formed Marathoners Gone Viral in order to merge her passion for running, with her desire to raise awareness and funds for pancreatic cancer.  Since its inception, MGV has grown into a group of over 100 runners.  They will be running the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend Marathon on May 24, 2015 together.  Many will be running their first marathon.  Some became runners in order to join the group. Some are Boston Qualifiers.  All of them are working to raise $50,000 for Dr. Bell's research, while raising awareness for pancreatic cancer.  If you'd like donate to MGV, you can visit:

Fab Four Panel

Ian Fraser, Rick Hellard, Ryan Grant, and Ray Zahab made up the panel.  Ian, Rick and Ryan are all former professional triathletes.  Ray is an ultrarunner and expeditioner.  The panellists shared their thoughts on a wide range of topics related to running, marathons in particular, life, triathlon, motivation, work-life-athletics balance, and living life to its fullest. The focus of the evening was definitely on preparing for a marathon, but the conversation was broad and full of advice for all types of endurance athletes.  They talked about the importance of nutrition, pacing, getting to the start line injury-free, and most importantly having fun!  Hearing about Ray and Ryan's adventure running over 1,000 kilometres across Patagonia for impossible2possible was definitely a highlight.

It was a really great evening, which included spending time with some great friends, and it definitely left me thinking about my own life and the ways that I can contribute to the community. I'll be running the 10k at Race Weekend, by the way! While I may not be an MGV member or a marathoner yet, you can bet I'll be out cheering for them all on race day!

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