NEW YORK – Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” blared through the loudspeakers in Central Park as Kikkan Randall crossed the finish line of the New York City Marathon.
The Olympic cross-country skiing champion clocked 2:55:12, easily beating her three-hour goal, just one year after her final round of chemotherapy for stage 2 breast cancer.
“I bet I ran as fast today as I would have last year if I hadn’t had cancer,” Randall said.
Randall immediately received a hug from 1984 Olympic marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson, who had texted her advice during training.
“[Cancer] is part of my story, but it’s not the defining thing,” Randall said. “I love being an athlete and facing challenging goals.”
The last 20 months have been a roller coaster for Randall, who will turn 37 on New Year’s Eve.
She won the U.S.’ first cross-country skiing gold medal with Jessie Diggins in the team sprint at her fifth and final Olympics in PyeongChang. She planned on celebrating her retirement from ski racing by running the November 2018 New York City Marathon.
But after a Mother’s Day hike with her husband Jeff Ellis and their 2-year-old son Breck, less than three months after February 2018 Winter Games, she discovered a lump in her right breast. It was later diagnosed as stage 2 breast cancer.
She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy in the summer and fall of 2018. She is “pretty confident” that she has been cancer-free since Nov. 2018.
She remained physically active and even considered keeping her 2018 marathon entry, but instead traveled to New York to support Olympic teammate Liz Stephen.
Last Halloween, bald from chemotherapy, Randall dressed as Mr. Clean.
This Halloween, with trademark pink streaks back in her hair, she went as a unicorn.
Randall ran with Stephen during most of the 2019 race. But with half a mile to go, Randall had enough energy to push the pace and Stephen, who finished 25 seconds later, encouraged her to sprint ahead.
“My engine is still so strong from skiing,” Randall said. “It’s my legs that are like, ‘whoo!’”
Randall will decide in the spring whether she wants to run the 2020 race. In the meantime, she would like to complete an off-road triathlon.
“I love having a goal,” she said.
Crossing the finish line was a feeling Randall did not experience during her PyeongChang triumph, since Diggins completed the final leg of the six-lap race (inspiring the memorable “Here comes Diggins! Here comes Diggins!” call).
“Crossing the finish line in any race, especially when you hit the goal that you want, is such a great feeling,” Randall said. “It makes it worth it.”
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