The annual Ragnar Relay So Cal winds nearly 200 miles from Huntington Beach to San Diego, with each team participant running three legs of various lengths ranging from 2 to 12 miles. One of this year's runners is Kristen Albair, a marketing and communications coordinator for Sharp Health Plan, who is part of Ragnar's first all-cancer survivor team, having beat melanoma herself.
Runners will descend from all parts of the country to Southern California to take part in this relay. Dozens of 12-member teams will zigzag their way from Huntington Beach to the shores of Coronado, taking in the spring greenery of Peters Canyon Regional Park and the local neighborhoods of Orange County before heading south to hit the beastly hills of Torrey Pines and follow the breezy San Diego coastline to the finish line.
Albair chose the Ragnar Relay because it parallels the cancer journey. "It's crazy, exhausting and takes it all out of you," she says. "But you don't have to go through any of this relay alone. I will be surrounded by my fellow teammates to get through it, just like cancer."
Most of the team met through mutual friends, although one needed to drop out because he relapsed and needed cancer treatments. Down one man, a local news station aired a story about this all-survivor team and a fellow survivor/runner reached out to fill the empty spot.
Together they have a combined 52 years of cancer survivorship. "Even our two van drivers are cancer survivors," says Albair.
To train, they set up a Facebook page to motivate one another and often met up at night in various areas of San Diego. Albair and her boyfriend supplemented these meetups with hill runs near her apartment. She also used the expertise of the free health coaches from Sharp Health Care's Best Health Team to advise her on stress and time management for the challenges of training.
On a mission to fight back against the disease that threatened their lives, Albair's running group named their team "Stupid Cancer," and fundraised for a nonprofit with the same name. Stupid Cancer, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, focuses on addressing young adult cancer through outreach, research and advocacy. Despite 72,000 new cancer diagnoses each year for people ages 15 to 39, this group is often neglected in terms of resources and support.
Albair is trying to make a small dent in this. "We wanted to make a statement rather than run a race," she says. The finish time does not matter, but the raising awareness and providing meaningful survivorship does.
Stupid Cancer's motto is "Get busy living." It sounds like Albair does just that.
Visit www.sharphealthplan.com/besthealth to find out more about the complimentary health-coaching program available to all Sharp Health Plan members.