Part 2 of Jessica's interview with Robyn Benincasa- creator and founder of Project Athena
Jessica: How do you feel that this project, and the women you‘ve worked with during this project have changed you?
Robyn: Oh my gosh, It’s been- everything we dreamed it would be, and nothing like we thought it would be.
We thought we’d be kind of out inspiring these women- and you know- helping them get through things and I’m telling you , it’s so amazing. I mean after every one of these events that we do with these women – Melvie, and Florence and I are going ‘Oh my God, that is the most awesome person I’ve ever met!’ You know, we’re so inspired by them, and we’re so honored that they’ve let us into their lives. It’s such a neat feeling. We had a 2 time breast cancer survivor that came with us on one of our races to Costa Rica. It was her dream. She’d been a fan of adventure racing for a while- and she had wanted to do sort of a mini adventure race- and we were already going to Costa Rica to do this 160 K ultra run – our racing team- so we brought her along as her Athenaship Grant to run some of the legs with us.
And I’m telling you – oh my goodness- this woman- is just so amazing. She was a firefighter from back east. And she had a double mastectomy the first time she was hit with the breast cancer. Had full reconstruction. Then was hit again three years later. And they had to deconstruct everything – take out so much cartilage from inside her chest- because it had spread into her chest wall-and that they couldn’t even reconstruct her anymore.
And she was just the most amazing spirit. She had one breast, and we were all kind of wearing these tight little tank tops, and we thought maybe she might want to wear a sweatshirt or something ? Oh Hell No! She has her tight little tank top on and she is just- that grin you know -from ear to ear, and she’s like ‘So what? So what?’ You know? ‘Who cares? It doesn’t matter.’ And we’re looking at her and she didn’t want any of our…’Oh my gosh, this must be crazy for you ‘ I mean it was amazing how the tables had turned and she showed us how to be- you know- around people like her. Just the positive spirit that she had. And she ran with us 2 and a half of the 5 days, and these were ugly, ugly days- and she was having a hard time because of her chemotherapy . It kind of keeps you from sweating as much as you need to- and man, I’m telling you that kid was just so inspiring to us. And she just kept going ,and she was like, ‘I don’t care if we run. Let’s walk.’ And time and time again, these women just amaze and impress us.
We just took a woman who had survived a brain tumor. And they actually had to crack her skull to get it out of her head. They had to crack the orbit of her eye. And she never dreamed she’d run again, and she just did a half marathon with Melissa last weekend.
We took a woman with a spinal degeneration to do the Great Wall of China marathon. And it’s just amazing to watch these women kind of ( sighs) …In the beginning when we talk to them they’re like ‘I don’t know, I’m not sure if I can do this. Do you think I can ? And you guys are so awesome.’ And then when they get done, something amazing has happened to them. Almost everybody has come back and said. ‘ OK what are we doing next? What are we doing now? …’So it’s so neat to just watch them believe in themselves again. To have their groove back. I mean that’s really what its all about.
In the early days, it was kind of all about being on the podium and winning, and doing great things for our sponsors and our team, and our reputation. And you know, in way it’s pretty cool that I have these 2 metal hips now, because it really has changed my focus, to what is and- you know- dealing with that with a big huge smile on your face. That’s what it’s all about now. I’m loving it!
For more information please visit ProjectAthena.org