Saucony 26 Strong: Happy to Run

Cynthia Visser

Amy Shioji

Cynthia Vissers of Fredericksburg, Va., is a 10-year cancer survivor who is currently living with thyroid cancer. And while the struggles of training for her first marathon will occasionally get to her, she tries to stay optimistic about the chance she has been given. Her outlook was reinforced last week when her cousin passed away after a three and half year fight with cancer.

“It has hit me very hard since we are about the same age and I am living with cancer,” Cynthia says. “But I keep telling myself I can do this because I am here and I am breathing.”

Cynthia and her veteran partner, Amy Shioji of Reston, Va., are part of the Saucony 26 Strong project, a collaboration between Competitor and Saucony that pairs experienced marathon vets with first-timers (“cadets”) as they both train to achieve their marathon goals. Cynthia and Amy are training for the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 27.

“It’s been a truly humbling and great experience having Cynthia as a partner in this program,” Amy says. “Her determination to tackle this race—and cancer—is so inspiring. Before we even connected over running, we connected over similar stories of past battles with cancer. Every day I’m able to get out and run is a gift I don’t take for granted.”

While both are hitting their training targets, they have had to deal with minor injuries over the summer. Cynthia had a big flare up of plantar fasciitis at the beginning of her marathon training. It’s now thankfully under control. Amy decided to add some cross-training to the mix to help her avoid injury, only to run into a problem on the bike.

“I’m new to cycling, and went out on a bike ride a couple of weeks ago, where I fell,” Amy says. “I hit some gravel and went down, and as a result, got a pretty severe bone bruise on my tibia where my leg hit the bike frame. I took three weeks off of running because the pain was so severe. I’m still feeling it, but am wearing compression socks when I run to hold things in place.

“I suppose it is a little funny,” she says. “I started riding as a way to supplement my running so I wouldn’t be overusing the same muscles, and to incorporate a little cross-training. I was afraid of getting injured from too much running, so what happens? I fall off my bike and injure myself far more than I probably would have if I had just stuck with what I know. So it goes…”

Despite the setback, Amy’s long run is up to 18 miles. Cynthia has run 13 miles and is working up to the Stonewall Jackson 20-Miler on Oct. 5.

“Living in such a historic area means I get to run on the same grounds the Civil War was fought on, which is pretty cool to think about and read about as you run,” Cynthia says.

Cynthia has also learned how to juggle her training while caring for her three kids.

“Marathon training is like having a job,” she says. “If you don’t plan your runs into your day, you can pretty much kiss that run good-bye. Also, even on the crappiest of runs, you still ran 10 miles. And not everyone does that.”

“I think the biggest takeaway I’ve had this training cycle is just to do your best with what you’re working with,” Amy says. “Life throws a lot of curves your way—whether it’s work commitments, family, injury, or sickness—and all you can do is keep moving forward as best you can. I think running is often a great metaphor for life, and often reminds me that the only place to go is forward.”

Read more about Cynthia, Amy and the rest of the Saucony 26 Strong team at 26strong.com

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