The practice was as much mutual admiration society as it was productive. The college freshman from the University at Buffalo rowing program were in awe of the women, aged 30 to 60, all cancer survivors, who came to campus twice a week to learn how to row.
The women were in awe of the student-athletes, appreciative of their enthusiasm and encouragement along with their patience in teaching them the sport.
And it’s one of those stories that gives you perspective. Often just when you need it.
The women who participate in this program are all cancer survivors. Typically, they have battled breast cancer although the Buffalo group opened it up to other female survivors, too. They are at different stages of their recovery — some in remission for some time, some just starting to return to physical activity.
They were drawn to the rowing program for different reasons. Some wanted to try something new. Some wanted to celebrate their health. Some were formerly distance runners who wanted to try a new sport, a team sport that would let them find and lend support.
For it’s part, the University at Buffalo and the women’s rowing program have been incredibly supportive, taking the program under its wing. They’ve made the women feel part of the Bulls family in a way — a nice symbiosis between young student-athletes who have been athletically active their entire lives and women who are entering the athletic realm for the first time, or in some cases re-entering it while finding a new relationship to their body and their strength.
The energy at a practice is contagious. Heck, it almost made me want to row.
But while I’ll stay with my current three-sport rotation, the We Can Row women provide a context for me when I’m in the depths of a hard workout.
Take my latest tempo run, which included five miles at a tempo pace. That was long. That was hard. And I suffered during those final two miles.
As I focused in on being strong and owning the workout, the We Can Row women came to mind. Much like the rest of us who participate in sport because we want to, because we make time for it, these women come to campus twice, sometimes three, times a week for a complete workout — warmup on the track, stretching, time on the erg machine and then a cool down. But they have so many more reasons to go easy on themselves. So many things they could say to make it easy, to stay in their comfort zone, even as they try something new.
Yet they don’t.
And that’s part of what makes them survivors.
In that context, suffering through a tempo run isn’t really all that difficult. Because these women have strength to share, whether they realize it or not. I tapped into that a bit on my latest run, grateful for the opportunity to have experienced their energy.