LANCE ARMSTRONG

Lance Armstrong is Austin’s hero. He’s also the hero to countless cancer survivors. He teamed his charity LIVE STRONG with the NIKE + HUMAN RACE for an unbelievable event that brought out even the most devoted couch potatoes. Lazy folks everywhere put down their remote controls on a sweltering Sunday afternoon to give the man that has made us all proud to be Austinites, something to be proud of.

On how it feels to have the Nike + Human Race in Austin…

LANCE ARMSTRONG: Well, some people may not know, but Austin is one of the fittest cities in America. It has a huge running population, cycling population, and fit population so I think it’s a logical place to have it. Austin is also a pretty tough critic so to have that kind of turn-out I think speaks for itself.

On what it means for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, affiliated with the race…


LA: It’s a huge honor. We obviously have a tremendous partnership with Nike—I have had one for 10 plus years. The birth of the association, the birth of the Yellow Band, the launch of the Livestrong brand really began with Nike. With the Livestrong Collection, for the first time ever in corporate philanthropy, you see a company where all the profits and proceeds go to the cause–that in and of itself was mind blowing for us. But then to be able to be one of the three charities for the Human Race with World Wildlife Fund and Nine Million, again is a huge honor. It’s great to be in the city and great to have the foundation be part of it. And again, we are always trying to make cancer a national priority in this country and ultimately alleviate the death and suffering and to do this in our lifetime.

How exercising factors into handling a disease…

LA: For me, exercise or cycling has always been therapy for me. It’s something I’ve done since I was 12 years old. I need that in my life. I think that anybody that is battling this disease ought to maintain what they did before. Obviously, life changes, and the quality of life is affected because of the disease and diagnosis of the treatment. But if somebody likes to play the piano it doesn’t mean they can’t sit down and play the piano, and if somebody likes to go swimming, it doesn’t mean they can’t swim. Instead of 100 laps they swim 10—it’s just important to maintain that emotional and mental connection to the thing that they love and that provided them with therapy. We have to consider the whole body and the whole person and the whole community when it comes to the disease. That was the one thing that I tried to do when I was sick and the story I try to tell: even though I did a five hour bike ride before, I went out and did a 30 minute bike ride afterwards. I’m still at home and happy. It would be the same for Ben to pick up the guitar and just have that little connection that you have known for the majority of your life. You can’t take that away.

On what it’s like to do an event like this together…

LA: I told Ben this once: somebody asked me if you were stuck on an island and you only had one artist that you could listen to the rest of the time on the island—might be 10 years; it might be 50—my artist would be Ben Harper. When the Human Race was put together we knew we were going to team up a 10K with musical acts all over the world. I said, “We have to have Ben Harper in Austin, Texas.” This is the “Live Music Capital of the World” and the most authentic and core musicians that our country has today. With Ben and I, it is a friendship–I think we relate to each other in a lot of ways. He can’t ride so good and I certainly can’t play the guitar so good, but somehow there has been this connection on the human level. I think there were a lot of people that wanted to come out and run, but there are also a lot of people that ran so that they could see Ben Harper.

On what people can do to sustain the effort and momentum of making a difference in the days and weeks and months ahead…

LA: It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we have a lot of issues in our society that we have to fix. Cancer is one, the environment, the economy—all of these things we can look at and say, “Oh my God what have we done; we need to start to fix this for us.” For us, it’s an honor to be a part of this; it’s a logical extension of what we believe in: a group of people coming together to represent a cause and fight for a cause. But at the same time they are out there running simply to be fit. That is a healthy lifestyle. We know that most cancers are preventable and if people simply thought in a healthier and more preventative based society way, we would be a lot better off. We are not there now but we have to somehow move the paradigm the other way and make sure that ultimately if we do get sick that the people we love the most—our friends, our family, our government–are there to support us and not leave us. It’s a work in progress. It’s a tricky disease that isn’t going to go away tomorrow but we at the foundation are committed here. We’ll be employed full-time as long as we need to be.

On helping loved ones cope with your illness…

LA: I didn’t feel like I did very much. I was focused on surviving, and then thriving post cancer. I think they sense, just as with any group that functions as a unit, when the captain of the team or the person in the center of the unit has that confidence to either win, when they see that the person at the core of it all wants that, then they all rally around that. The core group feeds off the center person and the center person always thinks about survival. Then their job is to never breakdown. I’m sure there were moments when my mom would cry herself to sleep or my friends cried themselves to sleep—I never saw it. Any time they were around me they were nothing but optimistic, nothing but positive, nothing but great. I think that really helped. I think the best thing to do is remain optimistic and simply move forward. It doesn’t always work out. There are 560,000 cancer deaths in this country—one American every minute. There are plenty of people that don’t get a victory. They get a loss. And loss equals death. That’s the thing that we have to change.

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