Herricks teacher runs six miles a day at 60 for cancer awareness, fundraising

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Herricks teacher runs six miles a day at 60 for cancer awareness, fundraising
Herricks teacher Deirdre Bambrick runs marathons with the names of loved ones diagnosed with cancer pinned to her back. (Photo courtesy of Deirdre Bambrick)

At 60 years old, Deirdre Bambrick is far from slowing down.

In fact, the Herricks school teacher said she’s speeding up.

“People say as you get older your time decreases, but my time in my marathon is an hour faster than my first one,” said Bambrick, a second-grade teacher at Searingtown School.

Bambrick, a resident of Baldwin, has run 17 marathons since her first in 2007, right before she turned 50, she said.

In her latest effort, Bambrick ran six miles a day for 60 days, to honor her age.

For Bambrick, running is about more than just physical activity – she also raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Her “6 Miles a Day for 60 Days for a Cure Challenge” raised more than $3,000 for the society.

What started as an act to raise funds, awareness, and boost her own health, turned into a spiritual journey, Bambrick said.

Each day, as she trained, Bambrick would dedicate her run to a loved one in some stage of a battle with cancer.

About three quarters of the people she ran for she knew, the rest were relatives or friends of friends – or others who reached out to her after finding out about her project on social media, she said.

“I did not necessarily run for someone who donated, because that really wasn’t the goal,” Bambrick said. “The goal was to bring awareness to the struggle and the bravery of people with cancer.”

Bambrick’s decade long journey with running has always had a focus on cancer awareness and raising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Before she started training for her first half marathon in 2006, she hadn’t ran for nearly 22 years, she said. The former principal of her school put up a bulletin board asking “What is one thing you would do if you knew you couldn’t fail.”

Bambrick wrote run a marathon, she said.

Deirdre and her son, Tim, at the Vermont City marathon.
(Photo courtesy of Deirdre Bambrick)

Several years later, when Bambrick received a flier about running a Team in Training marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society she threw it out, she said.

That same day she received a card in the mail from her sister-in-law, she said.

Bambrick’s mother-in-law had just died, her father-in-law had died six months before that, and her own mother six months before that, Bambrick said.

“I called her and I thanked her, and she’s crying and crying and I’m trying to figure out why she’s so upset, and then she tells me her husband, Joe, was just diagnosed with three blood cancers and given four months to live,” Bambrick said. “So I literally took that flier out of the garbage and said ‘Okay, I guess somebody’s speaking to me.'”

Since then, Bambrick has been running in honor of those fighting their disease.

She documented each day of her 60-day journey on Facebook, highlighting the stories of the individuals she ran for.

On Day 61, Bambrick didn’t sit on the couch, she went out and ran seven more miles.

“What started as simply a challenge to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in celebration of turning 60 six months ago became so much more. It was a very spiritual inspirational journey filled with smiles, tears, and love,” Bambrick wrote in her Day 61 Facebook post.

Four days after finishing her journey, Bambrick ran the Long Island Marathon where she reached a new personal best by 12 minutes and earned second place in her age group.

Later that month, on May 26, she ran another marathon. This time in Vermont City with her son.

In both races, Bambrick brought with her the loved ones she ran for in her training – both figuratively and literally.

Bambrick had purple ribbons with the names of reach warrior she ran for pinned to her back. A dot noted those who had died.

During her Vermont race, while her legs cramped at one point, a spectator yelled out “Purple ribbon lady you are my hero,” Bambrick said.

“For those few moments when I was unsure I could finish he gave me strength, along with the heroes on my back,” Bambrick said in a Facebook post. “I chose to run. No one I honor chose cancer.”

Bambrick said it’s often hard to grapple with why people get sick. Her own mother, who died of lung cancer, smoked for 60 years she said.

“I understand why she got lung cancer,” Bambrick said. “My mother-in-law died of lung cancer and never smoked a day in her life, how does that happen? Or my friend’s son, he is a survivor now, but he got sick at nine-months-old. How do you get cancer at nine months? I don’t know.”

But there is also hope and inspiration in the stories of those Bambrick runs for.

Her sister-in-law’s husband, Joe, went on to live 12 years after his initial four-month diagnosis.

Bambrick also noted the strength in one of her former students, who is now nine, that was recently diagnosed with cancer.

“To know her courage and to say ‘I’m going to beat this,’ what’s running six miles every day?” Bambrick said.

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