Caroline Steer and Steph Bond only met in person yesterday, but have both been running every single day for almost three years for the same reason - to outrun cancer.
Yesterday marked their ‘comma’ milestone - 1000 days of streak running for their mutual friend Vanessa Oshima, who is a breast cancer survivor. The effort started the day she found out her diagnosis.
A group of runners and walkers joined Caroline and Steph to celebrate the number, and to show support for Vanessa, as they ran around the Hamilton Lake for their 1000th day.
The outrun cancer movement didn't actually start in support of Vanessa. In fact, it was created by her, for Caroline. Both women have had breast cancer.
In September of 2012, Caroline herself was diagnosed, and Vanessa, who lives in Japan, promised to run 5km every day until she was "ned" - no evidence of disease.
Caroline, now in remission, says as soon as she found out Vanessa’s diagnosis, there was no question of what she was going to do.
“When Vanessa got her diagnosis, she phoned me. It was within an hour of midnight. We chatted, I tried to comfort her, but at 11.30pm I said, ‘Sorry, I have to run’. I made a promise,” Caroline explained.
Both Vanessa and Caroline realised the running wasn’t just about stress release, or health, or even each other. It was much bigger than that.
The two friends started Outrun Cancer, a charity to raise funds for a variety of different ways to encourage people to keep moving forward together, including ‘Get Moving Boxes’ a first step to building running routines into their recovery plans, and training programmes for rehabilitation.
“At the heart of our charity is the knowledge that activity is great medicine. Thirty minutes exercise a day has a better correlation to cancer prevention and treatment than other known treatments,” Caroline said.
"Running is my fear. Vanessa has pushed me well outside of my comfort zone and taught me so much. Find a way, or find an excuse! See the rainbow not the rain."
In 2016, Vanessa became the first New Zealand woman to compete in all six of the world’s major marathons - Tokyo, New York, Boston, Chicago, London and Berlin. She even went for a run the morning of her mastectomy surgery.
Steph met Vanessa in Japan when the NZ Cancer society put them in touch with each other. They both lived in Japan at the time and were running the London marathon for the organisation.
At this point Vanessa was already a streak runner, she had been running over 1000 days for Caroline.
Steph started running five kilometres every day as soon as she heard her diagnosis. She says Vanessa is a constant inspiration.
"If running 5km every day was going to help Vanessa in her fight with cancer, then giving half an hour of my time each day to support her was a no brainer," says Steph.
"Since Vanessa got diagnosed, and prior to Vanessa there have been many significant people in my life who have fought, are fighting or lost the fight to cancer and along with Vanessa’s strength, that keeps me going, and will continue to keep me going each day."
As Vanessa lives in Japan, she couldn't be there for their run. Instead, she ran alongside them in Japan, as did their community of people in New Zealand, and around the world.