JACKRABBIT INTERVIEWS: CHAR COOPER: RUNNER. WARRIOR. TRIBE.
Char Cooper has a passion for running and a passion for life. She’s been running for 23 years; on journey that started to support her son, and has led her to the start line of the Boston Marathon several times over.
When diagnosed with breast cancer, Char drew upon the tenacity, grit and the power of her running tribe to face up to the challenge she had ahead. All the while, keeping lacing up her favorite Brooks running shoes to tackle what each day had to bring.
Meet Char: Runner, warrior, tribe.
TELL OUR JACKRABBIT READERS A BIT MORE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR LOVE OF RUNNING
It’s often been said that you run first 20 miles of a marathon with your legs and the last 6.2 with your heart!
As I think of my life story, it kind of breaks down into those same ratios! My first twenty miles have been full of the joys of raising 3 children with my husband of 45 years, being called “Gram” by 4 little, grandsons, founding my company – my 4th child – Cable Tie Express, and then selling that “child” while my life continued to unfold in all kinds of ways.
It is running that has jump-started nearly every day of those past 23 years, celebrating each mile with a heart full of gratitude and knowing the each day is always better after a run! Looking ahead, as I see it I still have those last 6.2 miles of pacing over the next several decades to pen my next chapter in life.
Those years will definitely include moving forward with many more miles, running with legs and heart and fueled with my passion for family, running and hopes to reach out to and inspire people of all ages!
YOU DIDN'T START RUNNING UNTIL YOU WERE 45 – WHAT WAS THE MOTIVATION TO LACE UP YOUR RUNNING SHOES FOR THE FIRST TIME?
I can clearly say that 1995 was a hallmark year in my life as I ran my first half marathon, started my business, and my oldest son started as a cadet at West Point!
I have often said that my children have truly been my inspiration in so many ways and no doubt that is what led me to lace up my running shoes for the first time. As I wanted to support my oldest son as he had set some very high goals for himself for West Point and beyond, I traveled with him to his second marathon. I decided to sign up for what I thought was a 10K walk but, to my surprise and lack of running knowledge, it turned out to be a 10K run! So, with a few jitters within, I stepped up to the start line and challenged myself to actually run! Well, I came in dead last but guess what? I found out I could run – if only in the loosest sense of the word!!!!!! And I was fired up to run again and faster with each race ahead!
Running the Indianapolis Mini Marathon in 1995 was the goal I set for myself as I had admired the determination my son had to be accepted to West Point, to run as a member of the USMA Marathon team, and to set incredibly high goals for achievement! If he could do those things, I could certainly put my legs in motion with my own goals in mind!
The daily runs of 3, 6, 8, 20 miles were sparked by the desire to achieve but through the years this sport has brought so much more to my life including a sense of strength, clarity, wisdom, peace and balance – not to mention the incredible people I’ve met and come to love in this running community.
YOU WERE DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER ONLY DAYS AFTER YOU RETIRED FROM THE COMPANY YOU FOUNDED – AND ARE STILL GOING THROUGH TREATMENT TODAY. YOU HAVE SPOKEN OF DETERMINATION, GRIT, AND STRENGTH IN FACING THIS ENORMOUS CHALLENGE. THANKS FOR SHARING WITH US. HOW HAVE YOU NAVIGATED THE LAST SIX MONTHS OF TREATMENT AND RECOVERY?
Yes, in early December 2017, 4 days post retirement, I ascended the Manitou Springs Incline in Colorado with my daughter. Feeling on top of the world and making amazing plans for 2018 and beyond, my day turned from one of true highs to what could have been a very big low with the news I received from my doctor upon my descent – ‘you have breast cancer!’
What a huge curveball that was.I had no cancer in my family, no health issues, and lived a healthy lifestyle full of good nutrition and exercise. Cancer just does not discriminate! Shocked beyond belief, I touched the tiny silver bar on a chain around my neck engraved with the Roman numerals XXVI.II, a gift from my daughter after my first Boston Marathon.
I knew I was a runner and that meant that even though this cancer gig may be my toughest race ever, I could fight this thing with the same strength, determination, and grit that powers us runners to run faster and harder to reach and cross the finish lines. Someone snapped a photo of me running past a very big strong guy that I use to teach my grandsons that “they can do hard things”. I knew that now it was time for “Gram to do hard things”.
That photo reminded me that no matter how big or strong cancer thinks it is, beating it depends on a magic combination of a great medical team, amazing support from family and friends, a strong faith, a positive attitude and RUNNING!
And having races to run no matter how soon after chemo treatments kept me focused and feeling strong. I crossed the finish lines with some of my amazing support team through this journey – the Coronado 10K with my son, the Carmel Half Marathon with sweat sisters Amy and Cheryl, the Flying Pig with sweat sister relay teams, and the Koman Breast Cancer Walk with my business women’s group.My running coach, Matt, put it so well when he said, “the hard things we choose to do [like running], make most things seem easy and the impossible things, like beating cancer, possible.
I’ve also found that one has to keep a sense of humor through this cancer journey right down to the crazy side effects like losing your hair or your taste buds. While I may be that little bald headed runner who has chosen hats over wigs, my daughter Abby put it all into proper perspective with her comments: “Mom, all those emojis you love – they’re all bald headed and it doesn’t seem to bother them one bit!” I’ve adopted that attitude, for sure! Will you ever look at those emojis the same again?
HOW HAS RUNNING AND YOUR RUNNING COMMUNITY SUPPORTED YOUR JOURNEY NOT ONLY THROUGH CANCER, BUT ALSO THROUGH OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE?
Wow! Running and the running community is unlike any other! Throughout this journey not a single day has gone by that I wasn’t touched in some magical and sparkling way with a “gift” from my fellow runners!
Whether sporting my #CHARSTRONG pink bracelet gift of strength; listening to the most amazing video created by my sweat sister Brandy, feeding my spirit with strength and power; opening a card, text or email from runners throughout the country, many of whom I didn’t know but who reached out; accepting a poster from my coach on Marathon Monday which brought tears to my eyes as it was filled with get well wishes and words challenging and supporting me to keep pushing hard.
As for other aspects of my life, running and the amazing community have been so key to my physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing, enabling me to embrace all that life has to offer with a most positive outlook and a heart full of gratitude.
It is this force that hopefully can be seen as an example to my own children and grandchildren of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and treasuring all of the goodness that each day brings.
TELL US A LITTLE MORE ABOUT YOUR WOMEN'S RUNNING GROUP – THE SWEAT SISTERS
The Sweat Sisters – what an incredible group of 8 ladies, two of whom I met in airports enroute to the Boston Marathon in different years which led to my meeting the others. You would think we have been the best of friends for decades!
We actually range in age from 36-67 but you have never seen such a tight knit group of ladies all powered with a passion for running, unwavering faith and trust in God, and out of this world support for each other!
Before each chemo treatment, they all reached out to share words and bits of inspiration and joy, including some really funny photos, prayers for strength and healing, and were with me every step of the way! One of the biggest highlights of this journey with my Sweat Sisters was running the Flying Pig Marathon as two relay teams. We finished the race with smiles from ear to ear and high fives like none other!!! In a few short months I hope to be hanging the amazing SUR-VI-VOR plaque they made me when my yearlong cancer treatment is done.
YOU'VE QUALIFIED FOR BOSTON ALONG YOUR RUNNING CAREER – WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE AS A RUNNER TO ANYONE WITH A BQ GOAL?
Running Boston – what an amazing chapter that was and continues to be for me! I can honestly say that the thrill, the excitement, the elation, the gratitude of all that my first Marathon Monday running Boston brought to my life made that day one of the most amazing days in my life.
My advice to anyone with a BQ goal is to “go for it” with sights set on crossing that finish line on Boylston Street! Get and FOLLOW a good solid training plan. Embrace the discipline it requires. Stay committed to that with all of the other elements so key to success – a healthy diet, enough rest, determining a race day strategy of fueling, water, and pacesetting, and focusing on meeting one’s own personal goals.
And on race day in Boston, embrace all that Boston brings – the feelings that you are running the Boston Marathon, crossing that start line just as so many amazing and incredible runners have for the past 122 years, motivated from within and energized by the thousands and thousands of spectators cheering for every single runner, hearing the roar of the Wellesley girls a mile from campus – deafening, maybe; inspiring, absolutely; getting up and over Heartbreak Hill, and running that .2 miles down Boylston street knowing you made it!!
For those seeking and earning a BQ, I hope you can cross that finish line and experience what I have – the sense of accomplishment and knowing that every finish line in life is also a start line, fueled by the journey behind and energized to keep going and growing and learning and loving and soaring to new ventures and adventures with a sense of joy and thankfulness and gratitude to all of those who helped you get there.
YOU ARE CHAIRING THE GREEN BERET 5K IN SEPTEMBER. TELL US HOW YOU FIRST GOT INVOLVED WITH THE FOUNDATION AND WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU TO BE INVOLVED IN THIS COMMUNITY RACE AND THEIR GOAL TO “CELEBRATE EVERY MILE”
The Inaugural Steps ‘n Salutes Green Beret 5K is scheduled for Sunday, September 9, 2018 in Loveland, Ohio and promises to be a morning of celebration, patriotism, family fun and charity. I met Fran Wesseling, a mother of a Green Beret from the Cincinnati area who had sustained a traumatic brain injury in Iraq and over the years lost his ability to talk, walk and be fully cognizant of his surroundings.
Realizing there was no magic cure for her son, Fran turned her son’s life altering combat injury into a personal mission to help other Green Berets, their families and families of the fallen by raising awareness of Green Berets service to our Nation and raising funds for the Green Beret Foundation.
Being a mother of a Green Beret myself and an avid runner, I thought “this weekend needs to have a 5k as part of the events”! So this dream of expanding the Cincinnati events to include a running event is becoming a reality!
With a small Army of volunteers and the generosity of individuals and businesses, the Classic Events Weekend has helped thousands of people become aware of the service U.S. Army Special Forces Green Berets provide to our nation and the sacrifices that come with such service.
In three short years over $500,000 has been raised to benefit the Green Beret Foundation, a national nonprofit Veteran charity whose mission is to provide the resources not available through military insurance or the VA for Green Berets and their families.
HOW CAN PEOPLE TAKE PART IN AND/OR DONATE TO THE GREEN BERET FOUNDATION?
Certainly by participating in the race as an individual, family, or part of a company or corporate team would be fantastic! It doesn’t matter if you are an elite runner, first timer, walker, or using a baby jogger or stroller, we want you to be part of this exciting and patriotic morning – with a Green Beret inspired focused!
Donations of any kind are also appreciated .
WE'RE A COMPANY OF RUNNING ENTHUSIASTS AT JACKRABBIT AND WE'RE ALWAYS EAGER TO KNOW – WHAT ARE YOUR GO-TO SHOES FOR TRAINING AND RACING?
I am definitely a fanatic of Brooks Ghost shoes and they have been my go-to shoes for nearly 10 years! Recovering from a running injury in 2017, I visited my local “now JackRabbit” store, had a fantastic gait analysis done by the Jack Rabbit professionals and have been running strong – and injury free – all these years!
I love the color options they come up with and truly believe running in your favorite shoes helps you run faster and stronger! Funny thing – each time I lace up a new pair of the Ghost’s, they feel great and I laugh to myself because I always think that this is how a car must feel when it gets a new of tires!
WHAT IS YOUR LOCAL JACKRABBIT STORE AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT?
As an Indianapolis resident, JackRabbit Blue Mile shines as my local running store. With its three locations in Carmel, Broad Ripple, and Fishers, I have actually been known to visit each of them in one day! My entire family benefits from those JR gifts they count on receiving every birthday and Christmas!
I also have to mention that it is the JackRabbit Running Spot store in Loveland, Ohio that is supporting our efforts for the Green Beret 5K in September! Hosting the Packet Pickup/Registration the day before race day and their supporting our efforts is AWESOME!!!
AND A QUESTION WE ASK ALL OUR ATHLETES…WHAT THREE SONGS MOTIVATE AND INSPIRE YOU AND YOUR RUNNING ADVENTURES?
Ha! I chuckle at this question because I’m quite sure that any runners out there who are under the age of 45 will laugh their heads off when they hear my answer!
Honestly, because of my son, The Ballad of the Green Beret has always been my Power Song and, believe it or not, that came through my earbuds as I made the turn onto Boylston Street in 2015 – REALLY! How crazy was that?
While my playlist has everything from show tunes to Jimmy Buffet, my other favorites are Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and Zac Brown’s Let It Go!