by Sara Lavigne and Nancy Laythorpe
It all started with a simple phone call to my friend Sara “do you want to join the Running Room?” Who would have thought that we’d be running _ Marathons now. I just wanted to start doing something, having just finished school I had a lot of free time on my hands and I knew Sara had run with the Running Room in Toronto and just had William, her now 2-year-old son. So we thought what a better way to spend some time together. We didn’t know what was in store for us.
We, like many others, started off in the LTR Clinic. We had a wonderful instructor, Brianne, who was very encouraging and nice. We finished that one and thought, yeah that was alright, let’s try the 10km Clinic. Now, we are both people who ‘used to run in high school’ but really who were we kidding high school wasn’t exactly last year!! Anyway, we went into it with open hearts and figured it would be “do-able”. We walked in on Tuesday night, recognized a few people from around the store, and from the previous clinic, but then “she” came into the middle of the little circle of benches…Irene. Talk about energy! This lady was old enough to be my Mom and she had more going for her than anybody I knew. She was so excited to meet everyone and it made all of us excited to meet her. We went thru the whole introduction and then headed out for our run. I think Sara and I giggled about her the whole way. She wasn’t anything special, so we thought, but there was something about her. She was encouraging as ever, all the way thru the 10k Clinic, and then without hesitation we followed her to the _ Marathon Clinic. Or, actually, she told us to sign up.
She made funny noises when she ran and when she came to a hill she didn’t like or simply got a little tired she chanted Santa Sucks, Santa Sucks, just because. One day, during our _ Marathon training, she even told me I ran like a fairy! I’m sure everyone is wondering why this is a success story. Well we made a friend, a very special friend, that’s the success. Irene wasn’t by any means a clinic instructor. At times, she was a second Mom, she made the sun shine for you on days you didn’t see it and plain and simple she never stopped believing in you no matter how much you didn’t believe in yourself, she would give up a day running for her own training to run with you in a heartbeat or in the case of Sara, run a _ Marathon to encourage her as she was 5 months pregnant. She even made hill running great…. which we all know isn’t the easiest task.
Last summer Irene was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Sometimes you wonder how it could happen to someone like her. She had survived heart troubles years earlier and was now running _ Marathons?! But she looked at it in the face and said boy did you choose the wrong body to hit. She had her tough days, like anyone would, sometimes she asked “why me”, but NEVER dwelled on it. She ran when she could, walked while she couldn’t. She was still support for everyone one when she should have been the one we supported. Last June we figured to get her out and try to make her feel as great as she makes us feel we had the First Annual “It’s All About Irene” Run. This being her famous catch phrase…every night, she would remind us that we were all there because of her and that “it’s was all about Irene, people”. We raised some money to donate to the hospital where she was getting her treatments and all her friends and family were in attendance. The sun was shining, it couldn’t have been a nicer day.
Irene toughed it out as long as she could but, we lost her to Breast Cancer earlier this year. Everyone at the Running Room lost a very special friend. It’s hard to sum her up in a couple of paragraphs; I’ve only even lightly touched on what kind of person she will always be to us. Since the first day I heard her do it, I now chant Santa Sucks as well (mind you not as loud as she would), I might own as many pairs of shoes as she did (but unlikely), I know when it’s pouring rain or blowing snow and I’m out there it’s because she told me that means I’m a real runner and, I know I do run like a fairy sometimes. We are had the Memorial It’s All About Irene Run this July but I think the most important thing that I want to let everyone know is even though the run is named It’s All About Irene, it was never about Irene and it was always about us.
She will forever be a legend and she will forever be missed!