Sharing a Smile One Stroke, Pedal, and Stride at a Time
By Meaghan Taylor
Standing at the starting line. Toes in the water. Waiting for the siren to go off. A lot has been done to get to this moment. Countless laps in the pool, endless kilometres on the bike, and stride after stride on the run. I take a deep breath and smile as the day is about to begin.
The siren goes off, it’s go time.
I have been a part of the Carley’s Angels Foundation for the past five years. My first introduction to Carley’s Angels was at the first annual Puck Cancer hockey game at Queen’s University to raise funds for the Princess Margaret Foundation. Not many stories have impacted me like Carley’s. From that moment I knew I wanted to get involved in any way to share Carley’s tenacity, contagious spirit, and motto of Always Smile.
The two-kilometer Temple Canal swim is over. I finish with a big smile on my face as I exit the water alongside the infectious energy of complete strangers cheering us on as we prepare for the next leg of the race. Helmet, check. Bike shoes, check. Bike, check. I’m about to embark on a 90-kilometer bike ride throughout Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona when I glance over and see my mom. I watch her cheer as loud as she can, and I can’t help but smile.
Since joining the Carley’s Angels Team, I have watched the organization grow from a grassroots foundation to a globally recognized initiative that is uniting holistic and traditional cancer care in hospitals while sharing the inspirational story of Carley. Her story has touched thousands if not millions of lives around the world through her ability to not give up at the sight of an obstacle. Rather than backing away and running around, Carley ran straight into the fire to overcome every hurdle in front of her.
During the 90-kilometer bike ride, athletes from around the world are using the strength and power of each pedal stroke to propel themselves up each hill and around every corner. Everyone has their own story about what brought them to this moment. Each is unique and special. For me, triathlons have empowered me to be physically and mentally strong to push through life’s obstacles. Each training day makes me stronger, and every race is a personal celebration.
Coming off the bike, my legs are a mix of soft Jell-O and heavy bricks. I put on my running shoes and a Carley’s Angels Undercover Angel hat and I head out onto the final and most gruelling part of the race, a 21.1-kilometer run under the intense desert sun. The pain is strong and the fatigue is mounting, but I smile knowing I’m in the final stretch.
Being a Carley’s Angels Ambassador has been a rewarding and humbling experience. It has introduced me to amazing individuals who share an identical passion for Carley’s Angels. This opportunity has given me a platform to share her legacy one smile at a time. By sporting Carley’s Angels gear at triathlon races across North America, many bystanders are genuinely interested to learn about the organization, who Carley is, and how they can get involved. With a simple smile, the Carley’s Angels family grows one by one.
20-Kilometers done, 1.1-kilometers to go. Every emotion floods my body as the finish line is in sight. 10-months of training, flash before my eyes. The early morning swims,late-night runs, injuries, and flat tires; I wouldn’t take it back as I cross the Ironman 70.3 Arizona finish line for the first time. I did it – and all I can do is smile.
Remembering Carley’s motto always smile is the best reminder that out of everything bad something good comes. Smiling is a universal language and it can truly turn someone’s day around. My family, friends, and the team behind Carley’s Angels are the reasons I smiled through the pain during my Ironman 70.3 Arizona and they are the reason I continue to every day. What are yours?
And don’t forget, always smile.