Below is an article I wrote for the Marathon Maniacs newsletter. It’s a tribute to my friend Bridget Waldron Steele, taken from us on 3 October by breast cancer. Some quick notes on Marathon Maniac lingo used here :
- the asylum is the list of all people who have qualified for and joined the Marathon Maniacs club.
- the main maniacs are the three founding members of the club – Steven “Prez” Yee, Chris “Hollywood” Warren, and tony “tp” phillippi.
When the Main Maniacs announced Bridget’s “Maniacism” to the group, she told us that “the MMs have inspired me to use running as part of therapy in my war on stage IV cancer. In a strange way I feel like I’m running from it”. Her story really drew me in.
In her article Healing is More than Science, Trish Kinney tells us “Even Hippocrates hinted at this powerful connection when he said that he would rather know what sort of person has a disease than what sort of disease a person has. He also said that natural forces within us are the true healers of disease”. Bridget said that “fighting (cancer) on my own emotional terms (was) instrumental in helping me heal … and to resolve a conflict that runs very very deep”.
In 2011, Bridget put this to work in a big way, running four marathons to qualify for the Maniac Asylum – running in the Richmond, White Rock (Dallas), Louisiana (Baton Rouge), and Myrtle Beach Marathons.
I had the good fortune to meet Bridget and her husband Chuck in August over dinner in Colorado Springs. She had invited me to get together so I could learn a bit about the Pike’s Peak Marathon course, which is what brought me to town. Their friend Amy shared some stories about the course, including just how tough those last miles of the ascent can be. You’re above the trees, and you can see runners ahead of you on the switchback heading up an unrelenting climb. I brought along a copy of the Marathon Maniacs book, signed by the Main Maniacs, and included a note about how our stories are the things that get us to keep running, and how much I admired her story.
But by then, running had become difficult for Bridget. She was in lots of pain, but talked about how determined she was to get back to it. Running was vital to her sense of well-being. Chuck reflects that “It is amazing she ran Richmond, Dallas, Myrtle Beach, Baton Rouge, and half of Pittsburgh in the last months of her life”, and that this was “her best defense” against the cancer that would take her life at age 42.
When I learned of her passing on 3 October, it made me very sad – this amazing woman had left us all too soon. I learned some important things from Bridget about running, and about life. She did things with fierce determination, a wickedly irreverent sense of humor, and to push her limits.
Earning her maniac stars was something that fed her soul. When we run, for the most part we do so on our own terms. We choose the events and the level of challenge. Running marathons helps us to do things beyond a single race.
Run in peace Bridget … we miss you.
Paul David – MM #989
Dr. Chuck Steele is working with folks at West Virginia University to establish a scholarship in Bridget Waldron Steele’s name.
I qualified for the Marathon Maniacs myself when running the 2008 Green River Marathon, which turned out to be my last one before I had a near-fatal run-in with a pickup truck while commuting to work on my bike.
While recovering, I ran to heal. This was my own way of putting physical and emotional distance between myself and what had happened to me on that day in July of 2008. When I read Bridget’s story about running marathons to put distance between herself and cancer, it spoke to me, and to some friends of mine also living with cancer.
In 2013 I am will run an event as a fundraiser to fight cancer, or (better yet) to stop it before it starts. – pcd