The AF Canyon Run Against Cancer is proof that schoolteacher and cancer survivor Joani Richardson won’t let anything stop her.
This June, when 65-year-old elementary schoolteacher Joani Richardson runs the AF Canyon Run Against Cancer, she’ll be running with — quite literally — a whole new perspective.
That in itself may not be so unusual, but this is: it will be the third whole new perspective she’ll be running this race with. You might call these perspectives “before,” “during,” and “after.” And if you're looking for a reason to run and an example of cheerful courage, you could not do better than listening to Joani's story.
Listen to our conversation with Joani on Apple Podcasts or Google Play, or listen to it right here:
The first time Joani ran the AF Canyon Run Against Cancer, her reasons for doing so were pretty simple. “I knew nothing about the race other than that it was in a pretty canyon,” Joani says. Which, for a runner like Joani — someone who’s always been remarkably healthy — is easily reason enough.
Even so, as she ran down American Fork Canyon, Joani noticed something special about this race. “I started down the canyon and there were signs along the way — uplifting signs. There were people running for their loved ones who had either passed away or had been survivors and that was very uplifting.”
But what really struck Joani was when she got to the finish line. “I was just blown away by the reception at the end; of all the people that had been touched by cancer,” she says. “I thought, ‘I've got to do this race again. It has such a great feeling.’”
And she did do it again. Several times.
Then Joani got breast cancer. She got through a mastectomy. She got through chemo. But even on chemo treatment days, she kept walking. “Sick as I was,” Joani says, “I went out every day. And you know, I always felt better when I came back in, because I got a little fresh air and a little bit of exercise.”
“Plus,” she adds, “I've done something for myself other than sit and feel sorry for myself.”
And then, just days after finishing chemo, Joani said to her husband, “Danny, let's do the American Fork run this year. Let's do the 5K, and see what we can do.” So they did.
And that’s when Joani got a very nice surprise.
“I looked up and there was a sign,” says Joani. “It said, ‘This is my celebration run.’ And I thought, ‘That's what I said on my application. Then I looked and it had my name on it I went, ‘Wow, that's a sign about me.’ So of course, I had to stop and have my picture taken.”
And how was it different for Joani to do this race, now as a survivor? “I was proud of myself,” says Joani. “I never thought I would make it through those five months of hell that were put in front of me, but I did. I felt good and I kept moving. It really was a celebration.”
But Joani had another surprise ahead of her. As she describes it, “
When Joani lines up for the AF Canyon Run Against Cancer this year, it will be to mark her year anniversary as a cancer survivor, And Joani is going as strong as ever — perhaps even stronger, in many ways, because now she is a true example to others who are fighting cancer, but wanting to stay active.
What advice does she have? “Be darn proud of yourself that you're still moving and that you're out there and you're getting fresh air and that you're actually doing something,” she says.
And Joani is taking her own advice to heart in a big way. In addition to running the AF Canyon Run Against Cancer, she is planning on doing more races this year, as well as volunteer at other events.
“I've run lots of marathons and half marathons, and I've always been a participant. Maybe now it's my turn to be a volunteer and help out,” she says. “So I plan on doing both.”