He wasn't the fastest of the several hundred athletes that
competed in Saturday's all-comer's meet at Santa Monica High.
But Howard was no doubt the most impressive.
Thanks to a $15,000 prosthetic, Howard was able to run
competitively for the first time since his freshman season was
abruptly halted at UC Irvine last year.
"I didn't know what to expect," said Howard, who finished
Saturday's 1,600-meter race in 6 minutes 13 seconds, despite training
for less than a month.
"But once I heard the gun and started passing people, it was
really exciting. It brought back those feelings again."
Howard was one of the area's top distance runners as a junior and
senior, winning the 2002 Pacific League track title in the 3,200.
But running stopped being priority No. 1 on Dec. 20, 2002, when
doctors told him the stress fracture in his left heel was much more
than just a running injury.
Since then, he has had five surgeries in his fight against cancer,
not to mention enduring several months of chemotherapy.
His latest hurdle came in late October, almost two months after he
A routine check-up revealed two potentially cancerous nodules in
his lungs. Both were benign, but still had to be removed because of
his medical history.
The surgery delayed his return to running, but Howard made sure it
was only a delay.
"I think it's just astounding that C.J. has returned to running so
quickly," said Howard's high school coach, Mark Evans, the head coach
of the Falcon boys' and girls' cross-country and track and field
"Considering where he was and what he was facing, it's amazing.
But that's just a tribute to his tenacity and dedication."
Howard -- who has returned to being a full-time student at UC
Irvine, where he is majoring in Sociology -- is now free of cancer,
and his ordeal has taught him a few things.
"Before, everything was about running," he said. "But I want to do
a lot of other things now. I'm intrigued about being an academic. I
want to get a Masters or a PHD in something.
"Eventually, I want to write a book about my experiences, but I
want to get more done first."