Caroline Watson didn’t just suffer one major tragedy last year. She was hit with two.
The New Hampshire 25-year-old (pictured below on the left) has watched her mother, Robin, battle breast cancer since she was 16 years old. And more blows kept coming over the years. Her father, Bill, was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2017 and succumbed to the disease last June. Then, a few weeks later, Robin passed away as well.
Having buried both of her parents just seven days apart, Caroline had no idea how to cope. She was lost in a sea of grief. But she knew she had to do something to keep herself busy.
“After what happened with my parents, I had to find a way that maybe I could help someone else,” she said. Through a bit of online research, she came across the Ulman Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping and supporting young adults with cancer or family of people who’ve died from the disease. Caroline learned the organization was planning a cross-country relay run to raise money for the cause. It was the perfect way to honor her mom and dad.
Caroline says she was never much of a runner, but for her parents and others affected by cancer, she was willing to try. And she really hit the ground running after joining the Ulman Foundation’s 4K for Cancer Team Boston. The group planned to run 4,000 miles across the U.S. in 49 days, all the way from San Francisco to Boston!
But she trained hard and built up her endurance. Plus, it helped that the group’s runs would be broken up into doable segments. Each of the 27 runners — all between the ages of 19 and 28 — jogged for a few miles before another teammate took over, allowing them to rest. Then they’d repeat the drill until each runner completed 10 to 16 miles a day.
“We would wake up at around 4:30 a.m. each day,” Caroline told Runner’s World. “The first group would start running at around 6 a.m. and the second would drive to the halfway point. We were paired with a different person to run with every day, which was how you got to really know someone.”
Each member was required to raise at least $4,500 before they began on June 16. And they did everything in their power to raise even more along the way through pledges. They saved as much as possible, too, traveling in vans and forgoing hotels to sleep in churches and locker rooms. They even made time for volunteer work in a number of cities.
By the time the group finished their run in Boston on August 3, they’d raised an amazing $191,000 for cancer treatment and research. Not only did Caroline honor her parents, but she helped make a real difference. And she’s just getting started. Now she’s thinking about joining Boston’s chapter of Back on My Feet, a national organization which “combats homelessness through the power of running, community support and essential employment and housing resources.”
Bill and Robin would be so proud.
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