I spent yesterday at the Lafayette Family Cancer Center with my grandfather. Soon after entering the building, we were directed to the front desk to check my grandfather in. After filling out piles of paperwork, the receptionist handed him this 1/2 inch thick plastic black half-circle shaped tag to clip to his shirt. It wasn’t huge, it was about 2 inches across and had a green switch like thing on it. Inside of this gadget was a microchip that had all of his information. He clipped it to his shirt and we joked a little about him being scanned like at the grocery store.

As we sat in different waiting areas and walked around to various appointments, I couldn’t help but note all of the people who were wearing the black tags, and their tag-less family members with them. I really hated seeing those things, but of course they were everywhere at the cancer center. I knew what that tag meant in this building. Cancer. The dreaded “C” word that has taken so much from so many.

I was thinking about this when I was on my run – the people with the tags, my grandfather, the families without the tags. Then something hit me (a thought, not a truck or a moose).

The “C” word that those black badges represent is not cancer.

No way. I have decided that those badges represent courage. It was everywhere in that building. Not the big loud courage we often hear about and gets all the press – I am talking about the quiet strong courage present in our everyday lives. You don’t have to go to a cancer center to find it, but it took me going there and reflecting on the run to really understand what Lt. John B. Putnam Jr meant when he said, Courage is not the lack of fear, but the ability to face it.

I saw it in the piercing blue stare of the young girl wearing a scarf on her head.


In the elderly lady leading 10 relatives down the corridor, head held high.


In the couple holding hands sitting across from us, the husband holding back his tears; his wife saying quietly, “I am going to be OK. I am going to fight.”


In my 90 year old grandfather, shaking off the news and staring it down, ready to fight.


Thinking about this really fired up my run, and inspired me to work even harder to be my best. This same thing is going to fuel my 2011. Thinking of their courage is going to get me through the dark hours on the bike, past the lonely long runs, the rough open water swims that are all sure to come and be part of my training. It doesn’t take courage to do the easy stuff. It is when things get hard that you have to remind yourself how lucky you are just to be out there, and push on.

About Mandy Farrar

Mandy is a marathon runner, a triathlete, and white water raft guide. She works as a forester and spends 99% of her time outside doing something. Bailey the dog is her trusty side kick on all adventures that include the couch or the truck. Caratunk, the small town in northwestern Maine where Mandy lives, boasts a population of 60 in the Winter & 120 in the Summer.

Read Mandy's full bio here, and read more about her adventures on her blog "Caratunk Girl"

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