• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Versailles woman runs home for cancer charity

VANESSA SEITZ shows off the medal she was given for running in the April 24 London Marathon. She was inspired by the stories of four Central Kentucky children battling cancer, whose pictures she wore on the shoulders of a cape she wore during the race. (Photo by John McGary)

For Vanessa Seitz, returning home to run the London Marathon was both a "bucket list" item and a way to help fight a disease threatening the lives of those she loves. She remembers seeing Drew Shryock show up at St. Leo's, where the boy battling leukemia attended school with Seitz's son, Will. "I remember the first day he came back into kindergarten. His mother had made his hair into a Mohawk, and it brought tears to my eyes, because he didn't have hair for awhile ." Seitz said. "No kid should have to go through that." Drew Shryock's mother, Rebecca, is a friend of Seitz's. Seitz also knew of Baily Ford, the eight-year-old Versailles girl fighting neuroblastoma, and learned of the cancer-stricken children of two women she'd met in a Lexington mothers' group. Last October, Seitz found out her application to take part in the April 24 London Marathon had been accepted. She'd run Midway's Iron Horse Half Marathon since it began in 2010, but knew the difference between a mini-marathon and a full marathon was more than 13.1 miles. She began training in November: three to five miles at first. After a few weeks, her weekly schedule consisted of a long Monday run with training partner Megan McFarland ("I wouldn't have gone there without her," Seitz said), four shorter jaunts, one day of cross-training and Saturdays for rest. A former journalist who spent years working with horses after coming to Woodford County in 1997, Seitz is presently a hairstylist at Moxie Style Studio on North Main Street. Customers there helped fill a tip jar with much of the $2,200 she eventually raised to benefit the Children with Cancer UK charity. A few days before the race, she boarded a jet for her home country for the first time in three years - accompanied by pictures of Drew, Bailey, Blake and Alex. Alex's mother told Seitz that her son was excited, too: "He was a celebrity, because he was going to London and he was going to go run in this marathon." On April 24, Seitz taped the laminated photos (Seitz calls them "flatties") to a red cape she wore during the 26.2 mile race. Following the advice of a more experienced friend and hemmed in by 40,000 runners, she took her time early in the race - hard advice to follow for someone who'd played field hockey and run 400-meter races in school. When she began to hurt, she thought of the four children on her shoulders, and of another friend's advice: "Just look up, just look around you." Around her were other people suffering for causes small and large and heavy. One runner she saw coming around the corner in Canary Wharf was barefoot and carrying a seven-foot-cross, while another had a more modern instrument of cleansing. "When you run next to somebody who's carrying a washing machine on their back because they're trying to break a world record, and then you find out later they ran the marathon in six hours, that blows you away," Seitz said. Seitz's last five miles were the fastest of her four-plus hours on the streets of her home country's capital. "And I remember running over Tower Bridge and just looking up and thinking, 'I'm here, I'm really here. This is the London Marathon and I'm here," Seitz said. So were children who may never run one mile, much less more than 26: Drew, Bailey, Blake and Alex.

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