I love empowered, passionate people. And when such people have a mission that especially resonates with me, I will likely be a long-time admirer (albeit possibly a quiet admirer).
Emily Schaller is one of the people who has won me over. Emily came to our first year medical school class last year as one of our “patient presentations.” One of the more impactful parts of the first year of medical school, patient presentations involve volunteers dealing with chronic diseases come talk to us about the textbooks don’t tell us, namely what life is really like. I was highly impressed with all the people who volunteer to be honest and vulnerable with 170 future-physicians, often year after year.
Emily has cystic fibrosis, a condition that causes mucus to be thick and sticky, causing chronic lung problems as well as difficulty absorbing nutrients. It can be devastating and even with current treatments, the median life span is 41. Emily is an exceptionally charismatic person and captivated all of us as she told her story of essentially taking back her lung function and life through running and improved nutrition. Her story is also captured in a series of short videos by BreadTruck films.
She started the Rock CF Foundation in 2007, an organization devoted to CF awareness, fundraising and advocacy in the greater Detroit area. This involves raising money to donate running shoes and race entries to people with CF through “Kicks Back” and advocating CF research, including integrating exercise as as a treatment tool. One of the big Rock CF events is the Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon held around Grosse Ile in March.
She gave a quick plug for the race during her talk last year and it has stuck on my radar since then. I have been fortunate enough to remain injury free while running this winter and when my clinical schedule was free this weekend, I decided to go for it. I hadn’t been specifically preparing for it but felt that my running was consistent enough that it wasn’t a stupid idea either.
This was the eighth year of the race and it has grown to thousands-strong, a testament to Emily’s efforts and the strong sense of community and purpose surrounding the foundation and the race. The event was extremely well run and it was awesome to see so many people out and excited to race on a windy, chilly day in March.
Although I’ve identified as a cyclist for years, it is always fun and a bit nostalgic for me to jump back into an open running race. With minimal fitness tests and irregular training over the winter, I had no idea what to expect. I managed to pace it pretty well and ended up 3rd in 1:25 in a strong women’s field.
Kudos to the Rock CF Foundation and Emily for an impressive mission and great day!