Keep calm and carry on: Sarah Best conquers cancer and half marathon in same week
After treatment of her stage one breast cancer, Windermere resident Sarah Best took to Central Park in New York City to run the SHAPE Women’s Half Marathon.
| 10:21 a.m. May 1, 2019
Sarah Best stands patiently among the throng of people on the west side of Central Park in New York City.
It’s 8 a.m. Sunday, April 14, and she’s surrounded by more than 6,100 other women who are prepping for the start of the 2019 SHAPE Women’s Half Marathon.
Although most pre-race corrals are often raucous — filled with people elbowing to get into position — this is much different. Instead of the jostling of bodies, this massive, cordial group of women gives each other breathing space. It was something Best wasn’t used to.
“I was way (in the) back,” Best said. “I’m not usually an amazing runner, but I’m a pretty good runner, and usually if I’m doing a race, I’m one of the people moving up.
“It made it much nicer for myself, because of what had happened,” she said. “ I was just like, ‘OK, this is just a celebration that I’ve managed to come here and I feel well enough to try it.’ That for me was a bit of learning, because I always kind of spoil it for myself by, you know, having to do better than what I did last time.”
The obstacle the Windermere local had faced and conquered was stage one breast cancer, for which she had just finished treatment the Tuesday before the race.
But that treatment was then, and this was now. The only thing she had in her mind was enjoying a peaceful, 13.1-mile run around Central Park.
After the starting gun fired, Best had to wait about three minutes before she could get into her run.
But it was well worth the wait.
“The course was really nice, and often those courses that are like two laps of the same thing are pretty boring, but this was just lovely,” Best said. “I’ve run in Central Park loads of times, but I’ve never ran around the perimeter of it and people had said, ‘Be careful, it’s a bit hilly,’ but I had never seen the different geographies of it.”
IT WAS A NUISANCE
Best’s bout with breast cancer started in November 2018, when she discovered a lump.
Best said she believes she had felt something the summer before, but that had gone away. Then it reappeared.
After going through her adult life without getting a mammogram, Best went to the doctor to get it checked out. In her head, she already knew.
“I don’t know if this was hindsight, but I just had the feeling the whole way through that process — the mammogram, a sonogram and then a biopsy — that no one was just going, ‘Oh this is nothing,’” Best said. “So when the doctor called me at work and said, ‘It’s cancer,’ I wasn’t massively surprised.”
Luckily for Best, it turns out the cancer was in the earliest stage. She had a lumpectomy Thursday, Jan. 10, to remove two lumps. The following Monday, Best was back on her bike working out again — although she was doing so gingerly.
In early February, she started radiation — 33 different doses every weekday over the span of five to six weeks. For Best, the biggest hassle of it all was not the side effects but rather the scheduling of appointments.
“It was just a nuisance,” Best said. “It was tender for a couple of weeks; it got burned — the skin was a bit irritated — but really it was nothing.
“But they like you to have the same time appointment each day,” she said. “I work Monday, Tuesday and Friday, and I play tennis Wednesdays and Thursdays, so I had to try and work out, ‘Well what’s a good time for me to be away from work for an hour, but also doesn’t compromise my days off and what I want to do?’”
BACK TO THE RACES
Even before the race in New York, Best had been running for fun since her late 20s to stay in shape.
She ran plenty of times on her own and even ran the 1996 London Marathon when she was still living in her native country.
That said, the SHAPE Women’s Half Marathon was the first she had run since September 2018, when she took part in the SeaWheeze lululemon Half Marathon in Vancouver. But this race around Central Park felt different.
As she trekked two-and-one-quarter times around the park for two hours and five minutes, she noticed the camaraderie of the runners she had never noticed before.
They were moments — from start to finish — that still stick with her now as she looks for other runs in which to participate.
“The second time you came around Central Park, there were so many people cheering everybody on,” Best said. “No one is holding up a sign for me, but there’s a lot of people holding up signs (like), ‘Come on ladies, you can do it!,’ and also funny signs.
“It was just a really nice feeling,” she said. “I don’t get very sentimental about things, but just because of what it meant to me, it was really nice.”