By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Tracy Lake isn't just training for a half marathon. She's preparing for her next battle.
Her cancer treatments left her lungs, heart and body feeble. While Lake survived two turns with breast cancer, she didn't feel like a champion. She could barely walk across her own house, let alone run 13.1 miles. She wanted to build up her strength to beat cancer if it returned for a third fight.
"I felt like I had to find a way to take some of the control back," Lake said.
Lake believes if she can make it from an ICU bed to the Bridge the Gap to Health Race finish line, anyone can complete a half marathon.
For the past year, she's encouraged family and co-workers to participate in the Bridge the Gap race on May 18. Last May, merely seven months after her final cancer treatment, Lake finished the race in 2 hours and 37 minutes. Her husband, Jeremy, waited for her at the end with flowers. Race director Carrie Kimber and the Bridge the Gap community released pink balloons in honor of her accomplishment.
"She is inspirational to everyone who knows her story," Kimber said. "Her oncologist told her to exercise and run like you have no other choice, and she did and you can see it."
Photos from last year's race show a smile brighter than Lake's hot pink and lime green tennis shoes. She had finished the race, but more important, she hadn't done it alone. As she completed a training program for the half marathon, her extended and immediate family trained for the Bridge the Gap 5K.
"She's really integrated running and fitness into her family's life, and you can see it," Kimber said.
Even her children, Avery, 10, and Camrin, 7, ran the race. They supported each other, and they succeeded together.
"It makes you feel a lot better when you do it," Avery said. "Because you feel like you're strong and you can do anything."
Lake had limited running experience before she joined the Bridge the Gap training group. She said the first three miles she ran were the most challenging. She set her own goals, and adjusted the training guide to suit her condition. Lake did as much as she could, but she broke it into chunks and did it at her own pace.
With time, her endurance, spirit and passion grew.
"When I first started, I could only walk on my treadmill for a couple minutes," she said. "I started as low as you could get."
As the family trained with Bridge the Gap, they benefited from a collection of experienced runners, who jogged along with the newcomers. As they ran, they chatted and offered tips of encouragement to those struggling. While they finish the run first, they stay at the finish line and greet each participant.
"It's as if you won the race," Jeremy said. "They celebrate when you make it."
The family hasn't participated in the training group this year, but they've made a point of staying active together. While Tracy does much of her training on the treadmill, the whole family goes outside to jog and ride bikes. Even in cold temperatures, they bundle themselves and go out in the harsh weather and stay fit together.
That sense of togetherness kept Lake going when she had cancer, and it keeps all four of the Lakes moving toward the finish line.
"When I see my kids every day, I know I don't have a choice," Lake said. "I know I have to do it for them. They're a huge support and a huge motivation for me."
The Bridge the Gap to Health Race, which benefits the MedAssist program of Quincy Catholic Charities, will be held May 18 at Clat Adams Park.
The event features 5K, 10K and half-marathon certified courses, a 5K leisure walk and a 10K Indo-Row challenge.
The walking and running half marathon, walking and running 10K and running 5K begin at 8 a.m. The 5K leisure walk begins at 9 a.m.
For more information and to register, go to www.bridgethegaptohealth.com.