Back on Track


There was one person that we missed in highlighting this past weekend for their performance at the Boston University Valentine Invitational.

Sara O’Brien (Col ’04) ran as a part of the Greater Boston Track Club (GBTC) Distance Medley Relay on Saturday.  She ran a 62.5 second 400m leg en route to her relay squad (GBTC photo: L-to-R: Hope Rathnam, Sara O’Brien, Jessica Klett, and Olivia Safer) finishing in 13:28.62, 29th overall in the event.

O’Brien was an Outdoor Heps scorer in the open 400m and an All-East honoree in the 4×400 relay.  She still has one of the fastest outdoor 400m times in Columbia history (56.00).  She began practicing with the Greater Boston Track Club while attending Boston University for her master’s in Nutritional Science.

Why is this weekend’s race such a noteworthy performance?

Because this was O’Brien’s first track race since she was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

She was diagnosed back in the summer of 2012 (near her 30th birthday) with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, the most common form of breast cancer.  Not long after the diagnosis, she began her own blog to share with the world her breast cancer treatment journey.  She had the cancer removed in September 2012 and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment from October to February 2013.

During this entire ordeal, O’Brien used running as a sort of mental therapy, for both coping with the diagnosis and rewarding herself whenever a major medical milestone had been reached.  Even when her body did not have the energy to run, she would still manage a good walking workout to get the mental clarity she needed.   She shared some of her treatment story, particularly how running was a part of her treatment, with the GBTC newsletter back in Spring 2013, including sharing one such rewarding milestone during her treatment – running while bald:

“Although I spent the majority of my time walking around bald (at work, at home while riding the bus), running bald was a different experience. Running bald I have never felt like a bigger badass. Even with harsh chemicals doing their thing inside my body, it was a great moment of near invincibility. If you ever need to stop traffic on both sides of the road, run in a bright pink jacket with a bald head. People with green lights were waving me on!”

O’Brien returned to practicing with the GBTC within two weeks of her final radiation treatment in February 2013.  This past weekend was her first chance to race on the track.  O’Brien’s recap of the race included this:

“Now, the goal of the relay was achieved. I got back out on the track. I didn’t get passed. I passed someone. All around win. I did not care what my split was, I knew it would be slow. I was happy with how I felt.

Welcome back, Sara!


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