Miles Beneath of Feet: Crown King… Again.


Writer Lanny Nelson
Photography Courtesy Lanny Nelson

Busy, busy, busy. So many things to do. Long days. Never enough time. Appointments to schedule and keep. Family members to see. A wedding to attend. Preparations. Planning. A business to run. Supplies to purchase. Trash to take out.

My life is going full speed ahead. The days and weeks come and go so fast I hardly notice them anymore. Many people I talk to are experiencing the same thing.

“How are you?” I ask.

“Busy,” is the most common answer.

Then, at three in the morning when I cannot go back to sleep, I remember that I have cancer. It’s such an odd thing. I don’t feel it. There is no pain. Nothing. But all the tests confirm that it is in there.

Cancer. Alive and well in my body.

My busy life—the schedules to keep, the tasks to accomplish, the long hours, the bills to pay—does not make the cancer go away. It is still there, like some little alien inside me.

By the time you read this, I will have had surgery to remove my prostate and a few lymph nodes, and all the cancer in my body should be gone. According to my doctor, I will be cured.

My recovery is expected to go well. A month after the surgery, I should be right back at it. Thank you, Lord. This is good news. I am thrilled, but I am also aware of how fortunate I am. Many people out there with cancer cannot say that they will be cured. Ever. Cancer, that alien, may never go away.

My heart breaks for them.

What can I do for them? I don’t know. I can pray. I can tell them to keep going, to hang on, and to have faith. Then I thought of Crown King.

Twenty-six years ago, I ran my first Crown King Scramble, which is a 31-mile race that climbs from Lake Pleasant to Crown King. It follows the dirt road (the “back way”) up through canyons and into the mountains. The route climbs and climbs.

When I ran the race in 1992, I was 31 years old. My oldest son was 4 years old. I went on to run the race a total of eight times, with my last run in 2006 at the age of 45.

In 2016, my oldest son ran his first Crown King and I waited at the finish line with his daughter in my arms. What a great and full circle moment that was for me.

Until now.

Now I need to run it again. At the age of 57, with cancer in my body, and four days before I have surgery to remove the cancer, I need to run Crown King. I asked my doctor if it was okay. “Stay hydrated,” he said, “and go for it.”

Why am I doing this? Not because I need another finisher’s medal. Not because I need to see all those hills again. Been there, done that. No, I am doing this for all those people who are fighting cancer—or who are fighting anything—and need a little encouragement to keep going. To press on. To not give up.

I am running with a friend, Steve Cahow, and it will be his first Crown King. We are going to take our phones with us to make a little video and do our best to spread a positive message: Keep going, no matter what! Do not give up! One step at a time!

Long distance running is what I do. It is who I am. It is what I have always done, cancer or no cancer, busy life or slow life, young or not so young.

With every mile I run, there is hope for another mile. There is the idea that something better—or at least different—is around the next turn. We really can endure and overcome our problems; we just have to put one foot in front of the other.

Saturday, March 24, 2018, I will stand at the starting line of my ninth Crown King, and I will run that mountain one more time. Only this time I will do it with cancer, and I will do it for all those who either have cancer or have some other heavy burden that they are carrying.

When I reach the top of the mountain at 29 miles, I will stand on the edge and give a shout for all of you out there. Press on! Don’t give up!

Two miles after that, I will finish the race, kiss and hug my wife, congratulate Mr. Cahow on his excellent finish, and head back down the mountain to get ready for surgery.

A week or so later, you will read these words.

Press on friends, and don’t give up. Do the impossible. Because you can.

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