GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When thousands of runners take the streets this Saturday for the Amway River Bank Run, each one will have a reason for making every single step.
Everything that’s happened during the past year will push one runner to the finish line.
For years, running has been Ryan Conners’ thing. It was a way to keep in shape and clear his head.
But last summer, running and his health was suddenly taken. This year, his wife, Bri, will lace up her shoes in honor of the fight of their lives.
“He was always the runner in our family. He’s done marathons. He’s done River Bank Run the last four years,” Bri said.
Last Memorial Day weekend, Ryan completed the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City. Just a month later, his family of three, wife and daughter, Harlow, would change forever.
“It was the night after our 5-year anniversary. We had just spent the night dreaming of our future and what that was going to look like,” Bri said. “I woke up in the middle of the night to what I thought was him violently itching his foot and realized my husband was having a seizure.”
At the hospital, doctors found cancer and a tumor the size of a golf ball in Ryan’s brain.
“Chemo, radiation and cancer were the three worst words in the world I’d never want to hear,” Ryan said.
Over the course of several months, Ryan endured all of that and surgery. Their marriage, faith and strength have been put to the test.
“The nights when we were just crying in bed together because we were so scared and not sure what’s happening. I feel like that really bonded us,” Bri said.
During his treatment, Ryan had to take a break from exercise and running. That’s when Bri decided it was her turn.
She applied without Ryan’s knowledge and was chosen to train and be part of the River Bank Run Road Warriors.
“I did not classify myself as a runner. I was one of those people who was like ‘if I do it long enough I’ll probably start to like it’ and then that never happened,“ Bri said. “But it did this time training with the Road Warriors. Now, I think I might be a runner for life. Wow! That’s really weird to say.”
A year of pain, uncertainty, training and recovery for the Conners family will culminate Saturday at the River Bank Run finish line.
“I’m so proud of him for overcoming this and getting through and pushing back and getting back to his normal self. So just to show him my strength too and have him be so proud of me will be really cool.” Bri said
Ryan and Bri are both supporting the 5K for Gray on May 18 at Millennium Park, which raises awareness for brain and spine tumors.
Bri is representing Amway River Bank Run charity partner Jason Kinzler Family First Foundation.