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Runner inspired by memory of best friend

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There’s a classic scene in the movies where we see a person running toward the finish line, usually in slow motion. “Chariots of Fire” plays in the background and all the runner sees is his goal. All the sacrifices he had to make to get to this moment — to flash before his eyes, as we see a playback of all his memories.

It’s a moment that lets us know how important this accomplishment is — it’s this moment that Nic Sanchez found himself re-enacting.

Running away from your problems seems like an easy route to take. Sometimes life hands us moments that leave us unable to cope; the natural reaction is to run. For Sanchez, running was his way of escaping, he wasn’t running away from his problems. He was running to heal.

Growing up in Roswell was like being disconnected from the world, but that’s not such a bad thing.

“It was like living on an island,” Sanchez said. “You don’t really know anything else.”

Living in Roswell meant to him this wonderful fusion of small town living where you could ride your bike around town and be safe — and going to the mall was actually a fun thing to do.

Things change, but the memories you have stick with you.

For Sanchez, his memories are permanently fixed in his heart because of Austhan Jager. Austhan and Sanchez met when they were attending Gateway Christian School.

“It became somewhat of a running joke with us,” Sanchez said. “In fact, Jager and I didn’t really like each other at first,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez recalls not being all that enthusiastic about hanging out.

“He was more open with his personality,” Sanchez stated.  “He would be the kid that liked to talk about video games and geeky stuff. I was more concerned with acting cool.”

Secretly, Sanchez was the same way. By the end of the school year, they decided to hang out and that’s when the journey began.

The friendship quickly grew, and as they became more acquainted, they realized just how much they had in common.

“From the first time we hung out,” Sanchez said, “we had so much in common. I remember thinking, why hadn’t we been hanging out for a long time already?” Sanchez said.

Their bond grew strong as they shared a love for movies. Austhan’s mom would drop them off at the local cinema and Austhan “would buy one ticket and we would spend the whole day at the movies. It was what we loved most, to sit, watch and appreciate films,” Sanchez said.

When they were teenagers, Austhan developed cancer. As he started treatment, it left him tired and lethargic — which gave them more of a reason to sit and watch movies all day. It was at that time they decided to contact the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Austhan’s wish was to be able to watch movies. Make-a-Wish supplied him with a surround-sound big screen TV so he and Sanchez could enjoy doing the thing they liked most.

After Austhan’s passing, Nic tried to run away. It wasn’t what he wanted to do, but he spent much of his early 20s trying to get over the death of his friend. Moving out of the country seemed like his only logical choice. Sanchez moved to London, where he got his B.A. and M.A. in film and film production. It was here Sanchez got the idea of running in the London Marathon.

Preparing for a marathon seems pretty straightforward, at least on paper, but the actual process is anything but. Nic trained for 10 months to prepare for the 26.6-mile run.

“Running is the most therapeutic activity to do,” Sanchez said. Running was his way of dealing with the loss of his friend (Austhan’s). For years, Sanchez ran away from the memories he loved so much, but once he accepted the loss, he began to heal. Running became a way to vent his emotions.

“It’s like a narrative,” he says. “You know, running it has its ups and downs, its highs and lows but like a story, it always leads you somewhere.”

For 10 months, Nic sacrificed his time and social life in order to prepare for the marathon.

“I was training every day,” Sanchez said. “Two days a week, I would do cross fit, and then three days of cardio. Finally, my weekends were reserved for long-distance running.”

Running became Sanchez’s way of giving back to Austhan. As soon as he registered, Sanchez contacted Make-A-Wish and asked if he could run in their name. Make-a-Wish gave Sanchez their full support with the honor of running under their banner.

The one thing about running a marathon is that no matter how much you train, there’s no real way to prepare for every unforeseen circumstance. Like life, nothing can really prepare you for what’s to come. Running toward something is what makes the trip worthwhile. Although we may be presented with the most difficult challenges life has to offer, running away from them denies you the ability to grow.

As Nic found out, running with a purpose can be the thing that helps us heal the most.