LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - The 11th annual Spirit of Survival Run is set to begin Sunday morning, but the runners are gearing up for the race the day before.
The weekend kicked off with a group training one mile walk or run at the Hilton Garden Inn Saturday morning followed by an all day Expo. It featured fitness companies and local businesses who are supporting the Spirit of Survival. Participants came by to pick up their registration packets, t-shirt, number for Sunday's big race. In the first 10 years, Spirit of Survival raised a little more than $730,000 and had about 24,000 participants. That money goes to Cancer Centers of Southwest Oklahoma, and they hope to raise $100,000 this year alone.
Over the past 12 weeks, Spirit of Survival participant Pat Downing has been training to run a half marathon for the first time in her life. She's been running in the Spirit of Survival for the past 8 years, but she's worked hard and made it a goal to get to where she is today.
"What I wanted to do was try to get healthy," said Downing. "I also wanted to be involved in the goal of Spirit of Survival to offer my energy, my finances, just by supporting the Spirit of Survival."
Downing says she will be running along side with her daughter in the race on Sunday. She says the only thing that keeps her feet moving for the 13.1 miles are the people she's running for.
"I have a lot of family members that have died from cancer," said Downing. "I have an aunt who is living now who is fighting Leukemia. I have co-workers who have battled with breast cancer and some have won and some haven't."
Director of the race Lori Cummins says she's developed close relationships with Pat and many families who participate and give back to help cancer patients in our community. She says watching them cross the finish line and receive the medal around their neck is rewarding.
"I can't even begin to explain and express the emotions that I go through," said Cummins. "I kid with people and say I just stand at the finish line all day long and cry because so many of the people I see, I know their stories it's so touching for me to be there and be able to hug them when they cross the finish line and reach their goal."
Downing says getting ready for her race has been a long, hard, but satisfying process. Going to the gym, eating healthy and staying positive is what keeps her spirits up about finishing the race. Downing says when she starts to get tired, she remembers the reason she's pushing through.
"You get aches and pains during your running, but it's nothing compared to people with cancer and who are battling this go through," said Downing. "So if I can put up with my little aches and pains to try to support them to give them the encouragement to beat this, then that's what I want to do."
Online registration for the Spirit of Survival race is closed, but you can still register at the Expo Saturday at the Hilton Garden Inn until 5:00 p.m. on Saturday. There is also a pasta dinner available for all participants until 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.