Story and photos by Eplunus Brooks Colvin
ENDURE – To remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding or to undergo especially without giving in.
Endure defines the cancer patients who were honored at the first annual Endure The Dirt 5k Adventure Race held on Saturday, March 17 at Mack’s Prairie Wings, presented by Rotary International of Stuttgart.
In July 2016, Misti and Jay Coker’s son-in-law, Marc Stringer, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at 33. Soon after his diagnosis, the Coker’s established Personal Pep Rally, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to motivate, encourage, and educate cancer patients and their caregivers, families, and friends. For everyone who has or had cancer and endured the difficulties the disease can bring, they wanted to honor those patients. They wanted to bring awareness and understanding of how many people were fighting cancer, and the daily obstacles they faced just like Stringer.
“He has continued to work, teaching and coaching students at White Hall High School and has continued working out every day,” said Coker. “From day one Stringer has been our “Superman” enduring the course with perseverance.”
Though his cancer journey has been difficult, Coker feels they are fortunate to have an aggressive, smart team, but realized many other cancer patients and their families might not have the same support. It was then that the book, “Game On”, was composed to offer support and guidance. “This book was written not only by us but by many who have lessons and tips to share about cancer,” said Coker. “Our main concern was we didn’t want the patient or family member to pay for the book. We wanted to give the book, and other items away to cancer patients so they have something to guide them from day one.”
That’s when Endure The Dirt was born.
“When we approached Stringer about having an adventure run to raise money, Stringer and Lauren thought it was a fabulous idea,” said Coker. “We began brainstorming what we should name the event. The word, endure, continued to come up in conversation. After reading the definition, we knew Endure The Dirt was the name.”
Just like the obstacles cancer patients strive to overcome, the Endure The Dirt 5k Adventure Race comprised muddy flats with 15 obstacles engineered to test strength and tackle fears. “Some obstacles you had to go over and some you had to go through. Most of the mud you had to trudge through,” said Coker. “The course was designed for a healthy individual to understand what a cancer patient endures daily.”
Along the course were 104 lavender signs in honor of cancer survivors or in memory of someone who had lost the fight to cancer. The symbolic meaning of the course resonated with the trials and tribulations of cancer patients and how sometimes to get through obstacles requires a great support system. “There were some obstacles that were difficult, but participants worked as a team helping each other through every hurdle that was in front of them,” said Coker. “When they saw someone struggle, others would lift them up and encourage them.”
Cancer survivors doled out medals to 277 participants who completed the course.
“When the participants finished the race, they were dirty and tired, but it was worth it,” said Coker. “It was worth it because before they crossed the finish line they had not endured; but when their feet stepped over, they were changed. They had endured some of the dirtiest of dirt, and for that, they were survivors.”
Endure The Dirt was made possible by many sponsors, volunteers, and the community of Stuttgart. Plans are already underway for the 2nd annual Endure The Dirt, March 16, 2019. The adventure race along with the book, “Game On”, projected to be released this fall, is just the beginning.
“Our goal is to give to others just as others have given to us,” said Coker. “There are many other ideas in the works.”
If you would like to donate or volunteer, email Misti Coker at email@example.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Endure The Dirt and Personal Pep Rally and to view more photos from the event follow their Facebook page www.facebook.com/endurethedirt/ or go to www.personalpeprally.org