As runners step up to the starting line, the course may look the same, but the journey to get to the finish line is different. Having an optimistic approach can positively alter even the toughest races. Every stride that Kendra Brouwer takes, gets her one step closer, to reaching her goals.
“The year that I turned thirty I made a list of things that I wanted to do, like 30 things that I wanted to do the year I turned 30, and one of them was wearing out a pair of running shoes. I did like a couch to 5k app where you like run a little walk a little run a little walk a little you know it kind of builds and so it helps kind of get you to some endurance and stuff it wasn't until 2017, that I decided that I was going to run the Sioux Falls half marathon, for the first time,” Brouwer explained.
In January 2020, Brouwer would lean on her endurance and add two goals that weren’t on the original list, as she took on the hardest race she would face.
“I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, and that kind of changes the plan of things.” Brouwer went on to say, “You definitely don't write things like survive cancer and not die, and all those things on your goal list. I did chemotherapy I had double mastectomy surgery. I did 30 rounds of radiation and then I had another surgery in December to remove my ovaries.”
After an extremely difficult year filled with treatments and perseverance, Brouwer slowed her pace to recover, but just when she began to see the light at the end of the challenging road, another obstacle would stop her in her tracks.
“I was making all the plans, you know like, the comeback from all of it, and February 3, I had I stopped breathing in my sleep. Then I was in ICU for four days in an induced coma, and on ice, so that my body wouldn't be traumatized by the lack of oxygen,” she said.
Brouwer suffered cardiac arrest. After regaining consciousness a few days later, she underwent surgery.
“They had to put an internal defibrillator in so that if something like this ever happened again, I wouldn't need the paramedics to shock my heart. So obviously, again not something that I was really planning on pretty much a surprise for everybody,” Kendra explained.
Feeling the impact mentally, Brouwer focused on the marathon that was the recovery process.
“I had tons of support and I had lots of people in my corner. I'm so grateful for that because it really offered me the time to rest. I don't like to be the one that has to ask for help, that's hard for me but I've gotten a lot better at doing that. If you don't force yourself to slow down a little bit when you need it something will happen that forces you to.”
Putting one foot in front of the other, Brouwer then worked on her comeback physically.
“When you stay physically active when you eat well when you emphasize rest and downtime and refueling and filling your cup and all these kind of self-care things that I think are super, super important. You come back from that stuff faster or better,” Brouwer learned. “As soon as I was able, again, I wanted to start. My husband's like, why is running so important to you and I was like you know I don't really know, other than it's something that I can just do.”
Enter the Sanford Run Project. The program takes applications and selects one runner every year to sponsor for the Sioux Falls half marathon. That runner receives top-of-the-line coaching, nutrition planning, and recovery management, and is chosen to represent the running community because of their positive impact. For many, Brouwer was the perfect candidate.
“I'm part of the Sioux Falls women run training team, and our one of our coaches sent out an email one day that hey Sanford is looking for somebody who wants to run a race, who wants to to be kind of the, like, spokesperson, so I filled out the application,” she went on to say.
Kendra’s journey and long-standing history with the Sioux Falls half marathon, put her ahead of the pack when it came to selection.
On her experience, Brouwer said, “Being able to train with the strength and conditioning coach with an athletic trainer who helps me with muscle recovery and injury prevention and all that stuff, nutrition, I feel so spoiled, it's like I have like a pit crew. It's been more than I could do on my own. I'm 37. I have two kids, I have been through a lot of stuff in the last 18 months, and all of that I was like, this is a different version of me."
The race remains the same, but Kendra’s list has changed. As she crosses this year’s finish line, she’ll cross off two more goals; conquering her comeback and inspiring others to once again, find their stride.
“I want to represent people who are cancer survivors and people who have heart disease. Let my story and my comeback and my run, and all that stuff just encourage you to take care of yourself.” Brouwer finished by saying, “I'm my best version of me right now, and I'm really proud of that and I hope that people can just be inspired.”