Shannon Gray has been documenting her fight with breast cancer for years on social media through her Instagram account and even recently began to log her journey through a blog – but it doesn’t stop there.
Shannon also created the 32-MILES RUN CLUB with the mission to “create new relationships, restore confidence, and inspire hope in all cancer survivors, while providing emotional support by encouraging healing through movement and community.”
The club she created welcomes runners and walkers of all speeds.
You can read more about this run club through our Q&A with Shannon below.
Q: When did you create the 32-miles run club?
A: I created 32-MILES RUN CLUB a few months ago. I set a goal for myself to run the 32 miles of the Alabama coast fall of 2021 after my diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. Creating goals, training schedules, and achieving milestones helped distract me from the weekly chemo and stay focused on what I could control. I created a blog and many reached out inspired to start moving from reading my story. I found so much healing in my training that I had an idea to include other survivors and create a non-traditional support group. I have found cancer leaves you feeling weak and lacking confidence. By running, I have replaced my self-doubt with finish line achievements and grew stronger every day. Survivorship is finding a new way to live your life after cancer turned it upside down. Being part of a community that sets goals and celebrates small victories with you encourages healing. 32-MILES RUN CLUB is an environment that focuses on new relationships, restoring confidence, and inspiring hope in all cancer survivors by providing emotional support and encouraging healing through movement and community.
Q: What was your inspiration behind creating the club?
A: We have started with one or two people keeping each other accountable through text messages and have grown to a group of more than 60 survivors posting pictures of walks, runs and races throughout the country in a survivors-only Facebook group. With each survivor at a different stage in treatment and recovery, each brings inspiration as to what survivors are capable of. From someone newly diagnosed and heading into surgery, seeing a post of someone running a race two months post-surgery creates hope for a good outcome. Someone heading into chemo for the first time can see someone who is on round 61 going for a jog after treatment. Google searches provide fear. We provide a place of hope and inspiration by showing what survivors are capable of.
Q: How often does the club meet and where do you all run?
A: We hold local Survivor Meet Ups throughout the state. These meet ups create an opportunity to meet local friends to further build community. We encourage survivors to bring their families to the meet ups. Spouses and caregivers often get left out and their need to feel heard and validated with their struggles is often overlooked. Having a space for conversation at a local state park can ease fears while spending time outdoors creates a relaxed environment. Children can play together and see other parents who have lost their hair and see that they are not alone- creating a normalcy in their lives which sometimes is missing in the constant doctor visits. Meet ups last for around an hour and then we encourage families to spend the day together exploring the park.
32-MILES RUN CLUB also attends races across the state. By setting up a tent at events, we spread awareness of our group but also provide survivors a chance to come out and experience race days! Having a community crossing the start line with you eases nerves. The experience of crossing a finish line does amazing things for confidence building. Cancer takes so much from us. There is nothing like the feeling of crossing a finish line taking back control of your life and saying “cancer can’t stop me!”
Q: If you wanted people to know anything about this run club what would it be?
A: All we are asking of survivors is to take that first step. We aren’t expecting fast world record times or ultra-distance runners. We are everyday people who want to be better. If you are unable to run, walking is a great start. For some even walking around the block is exhausting. We get it, we have been there. Some have even set a goal of walking a loop inside their house stepping a foot in each room. Every diagnosis is different. Cancer isn’t a cookie cutter recovery. Find what works for you and join us in celebrating our victories. We are trying to find a way to get people to see that cancer isn’t a stopping point. It’s a first step to living the life you want to live. Instead of saying “I give up”, we choose to say, “I am unstoppable!”