How A Marathon Training Run Picked A Fight With Cancer

To be honest, when I first mapped out the route to what essentially would become the Happy Half Marathon course a little over two years ago, I was simply looking for a way to end a long run at a pub in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

At the time the pub I had in mind had one of my favorite beers on tap and since I’m a big believer in beer being a good recovery drink, I was all for having a beer or two after the run.

If there was anything extraordinary about that training run, the fact that we were going to end it by drinking a few good beers was it.

Fast forward to this past Saturday and that 13 mile training run I did with my two cousins has evolved into a lot more than a beer run. Thanks to the initiative, vision and hard work of my cousins and some of their friends, nearly 200 people ran the second annual  Happy Half Marathon – the first official half-marathon ever held in Springfield, Ohio or Yellow Springs.

Being the first official half-marathon in the area might be enough of a feather in most people’s cap, but my cousins, as ambitious as they are, didn’t stop there.

They turned our run into a cancer fighting machine.

The Happy Half is now a local community event  with sponsorships from community business leaders, but its even more than that.

When we first ran the Happy Half course in 2011, we were all training to run the Columbus Marathon to help support a family member’s fight with cancer. While he lost his battle soon after our run, we still ran the race in his honor.

Unfortunately, that story isn’t unique. Nearly everyone has been touched by that horrible disease in one way or another.

What is unique is what my cousins did to our little training run.

Their vision and hard work has turned what amounted to a training/beer run (for me at least) into an annual event that has yielded thousands of dollars to help the American Cancer Society find a cure. Maybe it’s because I know of the race’s humble beginnings, but I was incredibly moved when I read the story of Sean Green running the Happy Half in memory of his friend or when I saw a runner who had scrawled a message on the back of her shirt professing that a loved one who has fought cancer is her hero, or when I read a runner’s Facebook posting the morning of the race dedicating her race to her dad.

This race has gone far beyond just a simple training run – this is now a vehicle for a community of runners to take a real, meaningful and personal step toward ending cancer.

Running with purpose is the ultimate motivation

I write a lot about how to get motivated to run.

There are a lot of things you can do to make getting out the door to run a habit, but one of the most powerful things you can do to keep running is to run with a real purpose. Running to stay in shape or to chase PRs is a great motivator. If you’re anything like me, running with that focus will inevitably cause your motivation to ebb and flow. It’s easy to take a run off here and there once you’ve hit your PR or you’ve reached your target weight.

It’s a lot harder to skip a run when you remind yourself that the race you’ll run will be in honor of a loved one’s battle with cancer or that even the hardest hill work out or training run you do will be worlds easier than any chemo treatment someone you love has or will go through.

I’m proud that my cousins have created that type of heightened motivation with the Happy Half Marathon. By committing the proceeds of the Happy Half to fighting cancer, they’ve given an entire community a higher purpose to get out and run.

Hope to see all you at the Happy Half next summer!




  1. Great article! So many things start out as a notion/an idea/a whim, sometimes they fizzle out, but with the right people they can become so much more. I applaud you and your cousins for taking this idea and making it a reality-and the cause for the Happy Half could not be better!


  2. What a wonderful way for a race to evolve and I’m sure it will get even bigger as the years go by. I love your advice of running with a purpose. When I’m having a really hard time on a long run, I think about all of those people who would give anything to be in my shoes and I finish…for them. It’s made me a stronger runner, but also a very grateful one.

    • Thanks for the reply! I agree that it will only get bigger as years go by – people really seem to enjoy being a part of it.

      What a great outlook on hard runs. I did a post on this awhile back and reminding yourself that you get to run instead of feeling like you have to really does make all the difference.

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