Jason Altschiller (back right) with Running Beyond Cancer group at Rock Creek Trail.

They’ve outpaced cancer, and now the members of our first Running Beyond Cancer training group are gearing up for their goal race next Monday, the New Year’s Day 5K, hosted by the Montgomery County Road Runners Club.

Running Beyond Cancer kicked off in October at the Shady Grove Adventist Aquilino Cancer Center. So far, the members say they are grateful for new friends and the fun they’ve found along the trails.

Here, runner Jason Altschiller shares what the program has meant to him.

I am very impressed with this group and glad that my cancer is under control enough that I am able to participate, even though I continue to do chemotherapy maintenance treatment once a month to keep my cancer under control.

On Saturday, Dec. 2 during our run, I actually ran close to 2 miles without stopping.  This is a major accomplishment that I would not be possible without this group. The coaches and members have taken their time and helped me grow at comfortable pace for me to accomplish this milestone.

Why is this 2 miles of running such a major accomplishment for me?

The last time I ran was the late ‘80s, during the mandatory Presidential Fitness Test in middle
school.  Pre-cancer, I had been active in sports like volleyball and tennis, but I would not consider that “running.”

For the past 5 years, while fighting Stage 4 colon cancer and working full-time, I have been leading a primarily sedentary lifestyle because of chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy, or CIPN.  I had made small strides to be more active in late 2015, until I got a blood clot in March 2016, since which I had regressed.

Before joining the running group, I was also a member of Rebuilding Strength, a fitness program offered through Adventist HealthCare on Thursday nights.  When Running Beyond Cancer coach Don Shulman made a guest appearance to speak to us, I felt comfortable enough to attempt running. He said if we never ran and had to walk the whole time on New Year’s Day, that would be acceptable. At that time, I was afraid I would not be able to run more than a mile on race day, if at all.

Benefits of Running Beyond Cancer

I have achieved many benefits as a member of this group. I feel more comfortable on my feet and walking in general. This program has helped me kickstart better eating habits and keeping a consistent sleeping schedule. When I joined the group, my biggest pain point was waking up to run at 8 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Now, having a reason to wake up early on Saturdays is helping me at work. I am less tired on Mondays because I have a more consistent sleep schedule all week long. Overall, Running Beyond Cancer has helped me work toward and live a healthier lifestyle.

Thank you to Adventist HealthCare for partnering with this group and allowing me the opportunity to join.

Jason Altschiller