“I never thought I would ever see my mother alive again.”
Runner completing first 5K surprised by Mom’s presence at finish line
FROSTBURG, Md., July 22, 2013 — There were 74 finishers on Saturday at the 5th annual Salem Challenge 5K and 1-mile run/walk at Maryland Salem Children’s Trust.
As expected, the race-day report recapped the highlights of the men’s and women’s races that took place on the private, 380-acre campus on the eastern outpost of Garrett County and focused on the top three individuals of each gender.
On Saturday, however, the story went beyond the top performances. Meet Rebekah Cadwallader. By the time she finished the 3.1-mile event — her first — the 31-year-old Keyser resident was a completely different person than the one who toed the start line 48 minutes earlier.
In fact, it’s safe to say some folks wouldn’t recognize her.
“My friend Delicia and I “trained” together for this 5K. The first time I tried to run I could only run for 15 seconds and thought I was going to die,” Rebekah shared with the Potomac Highlands Distance Club after the race. “She is such a great friend and inspiration to me. I could not do that race with out her. She is amazing!”
That might be a pretty cool story. But it doesn’t end there.
“Back in April of 2012 I decided I wanted to work on my health,” she said. “I weighed 369 pounds. I have always had a dream in the back of my head to be able to run one day.”
So a local woman fell out of shape and began working to address that. That’s a neat story, huh? That doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. Read on.
“My mother and I had a not so good relationship and had not spoken for many years,” Rebekah continued.
Rebekah graduated from Frankfort High School in Short Gap, W.Va., in 2000, and earned a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation management in 2005 from Frostburg State University. She resides with her husband in Keyser.
In October 2012, Rebekah’s mother, Barbara Moten, lived in Florida. Through Facebook, she located and reconnected with Rebekah. The two worked on reconciliation by putting the past behind them. Fate, however, wasn’t to be so kind. A giant obstacle immediately jumped in front of the mother-daughter duo to jeopardize their future together.
“She found out she had cancer December 24, 2012 but did not tell us kids until January when she had more answers. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. It has since spread to the bones in her back, her liver and she also has cancer on her optic nerve now. She has terminal cancer.”
Exercise turned into, at least in part, a stress release.
“I started trying to run a few months ago,” Rebekah said. “The first time I tried to run, I asked my best friend (Delicia Harden) to go with me. She is an EMT and I figured she would be a good person to take with me so maybe she could save my life if I had a heart attack or something.”
Rebekah set her sights on entering a 5K race later this fall, but the pastor of her church, Tim McGregor, invited her to the Salem Challenge 5K.
“I decided that this run was supporting such a great place and I said yes I would do it with my friend Delicia even though I felt it was way to soon for me to run a 5K let alone that crazy hilly 5K,” Rebekah shared.
She began the process at 369 pounds. She toed the start line on Saturday at 279 pounds — a full 90 pounds lighter.
Still, “I was worried my weight would prevent me from running a 5K but I was determined to run it and finish. I didn’t care if I was dead last. I just wanted to finish.”
And if the story ended there, it’d still likely be one to share around the dinner table or on Facebook to motivate and inspire others. Read on, though. It gets better.
Unbeknownst to Rebekah, her mother saw on Facebook that her daughter had entered the Salem Challenge 5K. Barbara contacted one of her daughter’s friends, Dana Norris. Dana is a teacher at Maryland Salem Children’s Trust. Dana gave Rebekah’s mother the details on when and where the race was to be staged.
“My mother flew up from Florida and arranged it with my brothers so she would be able to surprise me,” Rebekah said. “I did not know she was here until the exact moment I crossed the finish line. It was a very emotional moment for us. She gave me a bracelet with the word ‘inspire’ on it and a running charm. I will treasure this bracelet. I can not put my emotions into words as to how I felt. I never thought I would ever see my mother alive again so it was very emotional. I was extremely happy. Happy tears of pure joy.”
The experience has left Rebekah a stronger, wiser person — not bad for someone who “never thought I would make it to the age of 30” due to battles with personal demons. From her journey, though, she’s seeing the lighter side of things these days and wants to share her story with others.
“When it comes to running, I want people to realize your dreams can come true. You just have to be willing to put in the time, sweat and tears. Even if you weigh a lot don’t give up on your dreams. Keep pushing yourself.”
Her faith has played a critical component in her renewal and dedication to improving her life.
“I don’t want to shove Jesus down your throat, but once I gave Jesus control, He has truly helped me with my health,” she said. “He (Jesus) is my personal trainer. He is walking beside me with my life long journey with my health.”