Friday, May 19, 2006

I ran to remember

Running three miles isn’t terribly hard for me. I’ve been running for about 16 years and with my extra half-marathon training lately, three miles has become an “easy” day for me. So why was I wide awake at 4 AM last Saturday wondering if I would be able to run an entire 5K? Probably because it has become a habit – this waking up in the middle of the night thing - but I was worried because I have performance anxiety when it comes to running. If it is organized in any way (group run, race, etc) I get really nervous.

I got up about 5:00 and waited for the sun to rise enough so that I could go outside. I ran three miles, so that I would get more mileage in, and came home to get the kids up and ready. They were so confused. We don’t have school? Then how come we have to get up? They headed to the neighbors so that we could get down to the Race for the Cure site in time. Last year I was late starting the race, waiting in line at the Porta Potty!!, and I vowed not to be late this year.

The weather was perfect. The cool air was not too cold for shorts, but just enough for a light weight long sleeved top. Chris and I parked at his office and walked the four blocks to the start. Each corner brought more and more people. Some people wore their race T-shirts. Some had their numbers already pinned on. Many had some form of light pink on. The anxiety rose into my throat as I chit chatted with one of Chris’ co-workers whom we ran into in his parking lot. As the crowds thickened, I became more and more withdrawn. Chris and I stood by the sign appropriate for our anticipated finish time. We didn’t have a lot to say. The scene that formed around us was enough to keep us entertained. Every once in awhile Chris would point out a sign on someone’s back, “Hey, look at that – she has survived twice!” “Yeah,” I would glumly respond, “that’s amazing.” We waited about twenty minutes and as each minute passed, I became more and more upset. I had a hard time pin-pointing what it was that was upsetting me. It wasn’t even a conscious feeling. It was actually pretty subtle. I accepted that I was probably feeling sad, but down deep I knew it was more than that.

I heard someone behind me say that he saw the smoke from the starting gun. Even though we were pretty far from the starting line, the crowd moved quickly. As we got near the line, there were people on the side cheering and there was a song blaring so loudly that it became distorted as we ran by the speakers. It was Melissa Etheridge singing “This Is Not Goodbye”. My eyes immediately teared up and I began to try and get around the people in front of me. I wanted to run faster. To get away, but I couldn’t. The crowd was too thick. It was at this point that Chris said, “I find this so inspirational!” and I responded, “This makes me so angry!” Right or wrong, that was how I was feeling. I couldn’t find inspiration in the bright pink back signs entitled “In Celebration Of…” I only could see the many “In Memory Of…” back signs dabbled amongst the masses. The song’s lyrics were ripping through me: “I run for hope, I run to feel, I run for the truth and all that is real, I run for your mother, your sister, your wife, I run for you and me, my friend... I run for life.”

Chris ran ahead for awhile and I became pretty discouraged. My legs felt like rubber. I had run out of gas. At about mile 2, Chris rejoined me and I told him that I thought I might need to walk. I felt so stupid and weak. I didn’t know what was wrong. It was at this point that I started to cry. Sob. I instinctively covered my face, but found it pretty difficult to run with my hand over my face. Chris started to talk about my mom. He told me that he was thinking of my mom and all she went through these past eight years struggling with her cancer. He equated whatever “pain” I was in as “nothing” in comparison to all the chemo and fatigue she felt through the years. A woman on the side of the road yelled to me, “You can do it!” That embarrassed me pretty badly and got me through it. I even laughed. “She thinks I can’t run 3 miles!”

As I ran through the narrow street to the finish, I was so glad to be done. I did feel that I had accomplished something, but it was not a physical feat – it was something else. Chris put his arm around me and asked me if I felt better. I did. I finally accepted that maybe, just maybe, he had a much clearer understanding of the heartache I have been going through. He saw that I was a member of this freakish club of people deeply affected by breast cancer. I am not discounting the emotions that he’s been going through. He loved my mother very much. More than that, he loved the way she loved me. However, I have taken his non-communication about my mom’s death as a sign of not realizing that I have been grieving deeply each day since December 13th.

As we drove to pick up the kids, I knew that this time alone with my husband, and my mom, was almost over. I will run this race again and it will always be agonizing, but I raised more money than I expected and that is something I need to do every year.

A couple of people asked me later in the day how my “fun run” was. How could I explain the emotions those three long miles had taken me through? I couldn’t. All I said is that it wasn’t “fun”.

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