Vinnie Torres’s personal web site has a poem on it by Langston Hughes called “Mother to Son”:
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
So, boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps.
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’.
A child gaining strength from his mother is a familiar theme for Vinnie. In 2005, his own mom, Theresa Torres, was diagnosed with stage I colorectal cancer. “You get news like that and you realize overnight that your mom can be gone,” he stated.
Vinnie, 32, had been an endurance runner for less than two years. Now, he was able to turn to his running as an outlet for his worry and a way to contribute to his mother’s cancer fight. In 2006, the Pasadena, CA, resident logged over 465 race miles and summited Mount Kilimanjaro —all in the name of colorectal cancer awareness.
He used several of his races, one 50-miler and two 100-milers, as opportunities to raise money for Fight Colorectal Cancer. “It was easy to ask for money for my races,” said Vinnie. Friends and co-workers pledged money based on how many miles he completed.
In his first 100-mile race, he dropped out with 32 miles to go. “I put too much pressure on myself,” he said. He felt like he’d not only let himself down, but the colorectal cancer community as well.
Next up was the Javelina Jundred (the J’s are pronounced as H’s) two months later. His parents, grandmother and girlfriend came out to support him. “It was great,” he said. “The course was a 15-mile loop, so every couple of hours, I’d run by my cheering section.”
Marathoners will say that an endurance race is more mental than physical —so knowing that he’d get an emotional boost at regular intervals was a big help. Still, at mile 48, he was in serious trouble.
“It was 10 hours and 45 minutes into the race —the middle of the night —and my legs just didn’t want to move anymore,” he recalled. He was seriously contemplating quitting.
He’d told his family to go to sleep rather than cheer him on through the wee hours of the night. But when he arrived at mile 60, he found his girlfriend and mother waiting for him with encouraging words and hot soup.
“My mother said that as long as I was out there, she would not sleep,” Vinnie said, his voice choked with emotion. “Hearing that kept me going. That got me across the finish line.”
He completed the 100 miles in 29 hours and 28 minutes.
Theresa, who today is living cancer-free, couldn’t be prouder of her son. “He’s always been this way,” she said. “Everyone loves him —even his bosses!”
Vinnie plans to keep running. To date, he’s raised over $2,000 to fund the fight against colorectal cancer —and changed countless lives with his determination to beat the disease that threatened his beloved mom.