‘Race Against Cancer’ takes on new meaning for Draper woman

Jun 21, 2018, 6:55 PM | Updated: 9:24 pm

DRAPER, Utah – After running the American Fork half marathon as a healthy athlete, Joani Richardson never thought she would one day finish the race as a cancer survivor.

Richardson is an incredible athlete. At 65-years-old, she walks or runs about 100 miles each week.

“I enjoy being outside. It’s a way to do something for myself each day,” she says.

Richardson has raced in 30 marathons, 30 half-marathons, lots of 10ks and 5ks, including the Boston Marathon a couple times.

Richardson also enjoys running in the American Fork Canyon Run Against Cancer. She’s participated in the race several times.

“I originally ran the race because I heard it was a beautiful course,” she says.

“The first year (Richardson) ran the race, she didn’t even know the cause of the race behind the race — that it supported cancer patients,” sayd race director Holly Hardy.

Richardson had no idea how meaningful this race would soon become to her. Last year everything changed.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Big surprise. Not the journey I would have chosen to take. I had a mastectomy a week later and started my chemo,” Richardson says.

Yet, even cancer couldn’t stop her.

Joani Richardson is an avid runner. She’s run 30 marathons and 30 half marathons, including the American Fork Run Against Cancer. (Source – Joani Richardson)

“I always got up every morning and went for a walk or run no matter how bad I felt,” Richardson says.

Richardson never thought she would run the race as a survivor, but after conquering the unexpected, she put her mind to the challenge.

She told her husband, “Gall, you know what, let’s go run the American Fork race. This will be my year!’”

Just a couple weeks after finishing chemo, Richardson did it.

“She’s a tough cookie, that Joani!” Hardy says. “These people who are battling cancer are amazing in and of itself, and then we have these people who want to do things like run a race the next day. It’s incredible!”

As the race director, Hardy decided to display motivational signs on the course. She pulled quotes for participants’ registration forms about why they wanted to run the race.

During the race, Richardson came across her sign, which read, “This is my celebration run!”

“I just love her to pieces for doing that because I thought that’s my sign,” Richardson says.

“I love that she could be on both ends of the coin — being there to run and have fun… and also run it as a survivor. It’s amazing!” Hardy says.

Even one of Richardson’s first-grade students ran the race for her.

After finishing the race, her student came up to Richardson exclaiming, “Mrs. Richardson, Hi! Did you know that I ran for you?”

This year, Richardson is returning the favor. She is running the 5k for two of her friends who also have cancer.

“I’ve been through it and I need to go back and support them,” she says.

Richardson says she doesn’t regret any part of the experience.

“I’m not sorry a bit that I had to travel that journey because so much good happened,” she says.

Hardy expects to have about 5,000 people running the various courses this year. She says they hope to raise about $400,000, which will go directly to Intermountain Healthcare’s cancer centers to help patients with medical bills or even to help buy a wig.

Intermountain Healthcare’s CEO, Dr. Mark Harrison, who is also a cancer survivor, is running the race this year. He pledged to donate $20 of his personal funds to Intermountain’s cancer centers for every runner who finishes the race before him.

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