Fifty-two races in 52 weeks. Could you do it? That’s the audacious goal that Buffalo, New York-based personal trainer, massage therapist, and holistic health coach Stephanie Latawiec set for herself last year. But far from being just a bold fitness goal, Stephanie’s quest comes with a deeper purpose: to raise money for brain cancer research.
To date, the 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder vet has completed 47 races and raised more than $13,700. We caught up with her via email to get more details on her mission.
Tough Mudder: What started you on the Tough Mudder road and on this goal of doing 52 events in 52 weeks?
Grit, stamina, and toughness are things that come to mind when I think about completing a Tough Mudder. They also come to mind when I hear stories of people facing one of the hardest battles of their lives when they receive a cancer diagnosis. In the fall of 2016, cancer hit close to home for me as my grandmother, Theresa (or T.T. as we called her), was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare and terminal form of brain cancer. She received wonderful care throughout her course of treatment as a patient at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in my hometown, and as a former employee of Roswell Park (I worked in the chemo clinic) I’ve witnessed firsthand the care and compassion of the entire staff there. I would always meet patients who were very sick and unsure of the outcome of their treatment, but continued on with a smile on their face and a feeling of gratitude for all that life has to offer. After watching T.T. steadily decline at the end of 2017, my family had to painstakingly see her slip through our fingers. On November 5, 2017, we celebrated her 80th birthday with her and she knew her work on this this world was finished just days later.
I felt called to start off the new year by doing something to give back to my community and stop this disease from taking the lives of others. I wanted to continue her story, since she no longer could, by racing in 52 events in 52 weeks throughout the course of 2018 with a goal of raising a minimum of $10,000 for brain cancer research. As cliché as it may sound, I thought to myself, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” and I have a tattoo on my arm with that very saying. I knew that some people would think I’m unreasonable for starting on such a venture, but I knew that I had enough motivation and encouragement to start this journey.
Tell us about the races you’ve been doing, and what the journey has been like so far.
The events have included cycling events and running events, obstacle course racing, marathons, 5Ks. To start off the year, I completed four half marathon distances in 24 hours on the treadmill at my gym with more than 50 participants to begin my fundraising efforts.
What I love most about Tough Mudder that I have yet to see elsewhere in the running community is the sense of camaraderie and teamwork that comes along with completing the obstacles. Running is not something that I consider myself naturally gifted in and by no means am I a speed demon on the course. But mentally, I find that I have the capacity to endure things for the long haul. The obstacles become a great distraction to split up the miles. Tough Mudder also has become a marriage of two of my favorite things: functional training and endurance running.
Throughout 2018, I am continuing T.T’s story since she no longer can. Cancer has a way of connecting people in ways that show courage in the face of fear and strength in the midst of one’s hardest struggles. I’m blessed and grateful that my grandmother’s journey has had such a huge impact on my life so that I can share her story with others. It has brought me so many opportunities to join in with my community—like she did all of her life—to smile and connect with new friends, to volunteer my time and talents to help patients who are currently fighting cancer, and to find a cure! I know that the Tough Mudder community is by my side through it all.