Skylar Marcoux, 25, is a Howard County native who, after stints in South Carolina and Massachusetts for school, came back to her home state to work for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults as coordinator for the Cancer to 5K program. The organization supports young people whose lives have been affected by cancer, and the Cancer to 5K program helps survivors train to cross the finish line of a 5K. They’re on track this year to almost double number of survivors (276) who have completed the program.
Marcoux is active herself and already passionate about the benefits of physical activity. In 2013, she ran the inaugural 4K for Cancer, a cross-country run to raise awareness put on by Ulman. While getting her master’s in exercise science in Massachusetts, she also coached lacrosse and field hockey. Now, she puts that background to work for a cause she cares about.
How did you get involved with UCF?
In high school, my best friend lost her father to pancreatic cancer. Fast forward six years, we’re graduating college, and she called me up and told me they’re doing this run across the country. And I was like, “That sounds crazy, but I’ll do it with you.” So, we started in San Francisco, and it was a relay run. It took us 30 days to get back to Baltimore.
Since then, I really just found a powerful experience with Ulman and tried to volunteer whenever I could, but up in Massachusetts, there really wasn’t much I could do. I stayed in touch, and one of my other teammates from the 4K worked here, and so my first position was actually with that program.
Describe the Cancer to 5K program and your role.
I’m the coordinator for Cancer to 5K, and my background is in exercise science and strength training, so although I was kind of using that with the 4K, it wasn’t really much about that. Cancer to 5K allows me to use more of my background to develop a safe program to help cancer survivors cross the finish line of a 5K. It’s run or walk — it doesn’t matter what pace. We really just encourage movement. It’s really an incredible program, and I’ve met some great people through it.
Do you have a most memorable race or story?
Two weekends ago I was in Denver for the big young adult cancer convention called CancerCon. Every year, we go and host a fun run-walk. Last year, it was canceled because it was snowing. And this year, they were calling for [it to be canceled] again, but when we woke up, the sun was out and it was a beautiful day, and we were able to have the fun run. We had so many people come up to our table afterward like, “I know you guys! Thanks for putting on that fun run. It was great, I never would have gotten out of the hotel.”
That really put into perspective why we do what we do. And then the snow came after that! So, good timing.
Why do you think it’s important that young people who have survived cancer be physically active?
I think a lot of cancer survivors can be scared or not sure of what their bodies are capable of after that. But [physical activity] can reduce the risk of recurrence. It can also help cancer survivors handle the signs and symptoms of their treatments either during or after.
Even if it’s just walking down a hall or standing up and sitting down 10 times a day, just doing something can help. And improve the quality of life and the ability to stay strong.
Where are your favorite places in Baltimore to run or be active?
We have a Cancer to 5K team in Baltimore, and the Canton waterfront is one of the team’s favorites — it’s a pretty beautiful area.
But personally, I live right by Riverside Park and I have a puppy. His name is Willy, he’s a mutt. He was rescued from Kuwait, and we actually met him at that park. So, we keep taking him there, and it’s just always a nice place to walk around.
How can someone get involved with UCF?
Anyone can volunteer — it doesn’t matter how old you are, how fast you run, how fast you walk. What you would do is come to practice twice a week and you get paired up with a survivor and you help them through the program at their pace. Then you register yourself for the 5K. We’re always looking for more volunteers!