I’ve been bad at blogging. Life has been busy and hard; some days just getting out of bed and taking a shower is as much as I can handle. Marathon #23 in Inverness, Scotland, was a run dedicated to my mom, who was losing her battle with glioblastoma. I’m sorry to say, she died on Monday, 1 October 2018, just one week and one day after that run. Running hasn’t been as important to me since then, and making the effort to get out for even just a short run has been more than I am able to do on most days. Of course, as I was in the Baltimore area dealing with arrangements for my mom’s burial and celebration of life, I realized the Baltimore Marathon was going to take place during my time in town. I originally thought I’d do the half, but I thought some more and realized I could be sad at home or sad while running. So I registered and completed marathon #24 as a bit of a surprise effort. It wasn’t great and I have sworn off that course ever again (look, I’ve done it twice now), but I ran with my mom in my heart and a friend who is battling lymphoma on my mind. They didn’t get a choice in having an easy go of it, so my effort was to honour both of their journeys with cancer.
Which brings me to marathon #25. I am again running the Philly Marathon, a race I decided to do when we made plans in the spring to visit family for Thanksgiving. This trip and race had been on the schedule for months, but given where my running has been, my heart has not really been in my training or in this race. This is not how I wanted #25 to be. But sometimes in life, you don’t always get what you want. So here I am, feeling extremely under-prepared for this milestone run.
Without having the Baltimore Marathon inserted into my calendar, this would have been marathon #24. Knowing that, I was planning to bump my Cayman Islands half-marathon registration up to the full so my husband could be with me for #25. Now plans have moved this monumental marathon forward, and thankfully, my husband will be at this race, too! While I’m not looking forward to the actual running 26.2 miles part, I am looking forward to sharing the experience of the weekend with the person who has stood with and by me for the last 15 years – and especially helped prop me up in the last 12 months.
For the last four years, my husband has been my biggest cheerleader in running. Every week, without fail, he brings me water on my long run and checks on me as I brave the Cayman traffic to log my miles. He graciously met me to run the final 2-3 miles of my long run with me each week, even when he doesn’t like running. Then when I decided to continue my marathon training after my first marathon in October 2015, Chris never blinked or protested. He continued willingly to provide this weekly support – still to this day – encouraging me to do what makes me happy while also providing the physical support that allows me to make it happen. He has always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.
And in this last year, when my world collapsed as my mom was diagnosed with and died from brain cancer, it was my husband who gave me everything I needed to be the daughter I wanted to (and had to) be. From telling me to go visit my mom as many times as I needed to, to taking care of things at home, to calling me every night when I was away, to never complaining that he was doing it all in my absences, to holding me so many nights when the tears just wouldn’t stop and sobs racked my body, when the anger over my mom’s sickness took over or when I felt like giving up, to taking me to/picking me up from the airport in the middle of the work day, and the whole gamut of small and big efforts that helped me get through the trials of 2018. I made 14 trips during my mom’s 10 months facing cancer, where I was gone for more than 120 days from home. Never once did I hear him complain about not seeing his wife – just simple ‘I miss you’ statements that let me know he was indeed feeling my absence while not making me feel back about being away. He came with me on five of those trips, helping with my mom, providing company for all of us and doing things like minor repairs and painting around her house. He provided ‘back office’ support, helping to keep my mom’s paperwork and information in order so my brother and I could focus on her care and spending time with her. He never said he didn’t want to do it; instead, I just remember him asking what else he could do to help.
I know I haven’t been good company for over a year now. The vows ‘for better or worse’ have taken on a deeper meaning this year, and I’m so grateful Chris has embraced the ‘for worse’ aspect to ensure that I have had support during the most awful, sad, difficult time of my life. I genuinely don’t know how I could have done this without him. He has been my rock and has held me up thorough this category five hurricane of glioblastoma. If I didn’t have him, I would have surely been blown away and left washed up, battered and broken beyond recognition. With him, however, I’ve been lashed about, bruised, sore and trying to come to understand the changing landscape, but I’m still standing.
For the 12 1/2 years of our marriage, I’ve written so many cards to my husband, telling him how I feel about him and how much I love him. Yet I always feel like I am not saying what I really want to convey – the deep sense of appreciation for him and all he brings into my life, the feeling of security his presence provides, the feeling of knowing my best friend is with me, sees the rough sides of me and loves me anyway. Writing does not come easy, and I often get stuck on finding the correct words to write to share the depth of my emotions, gratitude and love with my husband in a card or letter. I often feel like I fall far short of the goal when I re-read what I have written on an anniversary or birthday, disappointed that once again, it seems superficial and trite.
Today, I am writing him a different sort of love letter – one that is made up of almost 50,000 steps over the course of 26.2 miles. One that will take me around 4 1/2 hours to complete, and not without a lot of sweat, possibly some tears, maybe even soreness or injury as part of the process. While writing this letter to him, I’ll be running through the city he called home, seeing places he loves and thinks of fondly. I will see him along the way at a couple of spots, as he stands waiting to catch brief glimpses of me, all while he is shivering in the cold and fighting the crowds. However, he will be there smiling and cheering me on, excited that he found me in the throngs of runners. I live for those moments on the course. I treasure those moments. They make the experience.
Make no mistake, the lack of running prior to this race will make this a challenge of a different sort. Chris knows this. Physically, mentally and emotionally, I’m going to struggle far more than I normally would on race day. But I will do what I can to push forward and give it my best for the day. It won’t be my fastest, strongest or most enjoyable run. But as I’ve been reminded, doing your best isn’t necessarily having the amazing race that is a PR or where things just click and feel ‘easy’. I will push myself to be the best in that moment as a testament to the love I have for my husband and all he has given me.
So when I get tired and want to ease up, I’ll push to the next intersection or light pole before easing up. When I get frustrated with the race, I’ll slap a smile on my face and try to turn my moment into a positive one. When I can’t imagine how I’ll drag my body through another 13/10/5 miles at some point on the race course, I will shout encouragement to someone else who looks like they might need it to give them a brief boost rather than focus on my misery. When I think ‘maybe today isn’t my day’ and consider pulling up and ending my race early, I’ll so what I can to keep moving forward to the finish. Because Chris deserves that effort and level of ‘love’ from me. Running isn’t meant to be easy, and I think that when we choose to run for someone else, the greatest honour we can do them is find the edge of our physical and mental capabilities – and then go just a bit further.
And at the end of this love letter, after I cross the finish line and catch my breath, I want to sign it by presenting him with my marathon medal, a symbol of strength, perseverance and support. He has earned this – and every single one of the race medals that hangs on my medal racks at home. He knows how hard it is to run a marathon; he’s seen me train for and run that distance 24 other times. And that is why I hope he understand this gesture. Never do I think I’ll be able to put into words what I really want to tell him, so I hope he will accept this medal as is seems to me to be the best, most accurate, meaningful way for me to say ‘I love you, Chris.’