Well well well. The last time I left you, I was debating whether or not to sign up for a half-marathon for this coming weekend. (I know I know… my life is so stressful, right?).
After thinking it through (and talkin’ to mi madre) I decided “you know what? Just go for it! Who cares if Ryan won’t be there cheering ya on… You did this race 3 years ago and LOVED it. What’s holding you back?”
Answer? — Nothing.
And let me tell you why.
-I have no injuries. Zero, zip, zilch. (Knock on wood). That’s definitely a step up from last year at this time. Y’all have heard of plantar faciitis, right? Yeah… Let’s just say last September was a tad bit on the painful side. I was sidelined from running for an entire month (granted, I know one month really is not that long of a time period in the grand scheme of things… but when you have no idea when you’re gonna be healed, well…it just plain ‘ole sucks). Thankfully, I figured out what caused the problem (ill-fitting shoes are NOT my friend) and got my hands on a pair of my beloved Asics. (Wanna know more about that story? Read my post about the importance of running shoes!)
-The race fee (ready for this?) was 40$. FORTY bucks! For a half-marathon just 4 days away. That’s the price of a 5k around these parts. I’ll gladly take on an extra shift at the Y to cover that race-fee.
-The weather forecast looked promising. I know I mentioned this in my last post, but I wasn’t gonna sign up just to run a race in a full-out rainstorm. I’ve already done that. I know what it’s like, and I can handle it. It’s not my favorite thing to do in the world, though. So when I looked up the weather on Monday for this upcoming weekend, I was pleased to see a peachy-keen forecast (read: no crazy hot temperatures and no rain). Major plus, in my eyes.
NOTE: The forecast has now changed (doesn’t it always?), and Mr. WeatherMan is now calling for showers. Whatevs. I can deal. Now I get to feel hard-core for being a rain-racer again. And my medal will have an awesome story to go along with it. And if it doesn’t rain? Even better! In yo face, Mother Nature.
-I love the half-marathon distance. Seriously. It is my all-time favorite. Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t really know what my favorite race distance is now that I’ve run a full marathon. BUT! I sure do know I love this distance. The mileage is enough to make me feel like a BAMF (I mean heck, any race where you get a medal just for finishing is pretty damn awesome), and yet…it’s not too hard where you’re worn out for the rest of the day. Win!
-I *love* meeting people who are running this distance for the first time. I am all about chattin’ up a storm with other people who…
a) Can care less about time and are therefore slowpokes like me (hollaaa Team Turtle!)
b) Have been training their asses off to run a half marathon, and want to tell their story to any and everyone
c) Can talk and run at the same time (because I know not everyone can do that. If that’s the case, they can just listen to me talk. Or sing. What? It happens… :P).
-Even though Ryan won’t be cheering me on at the race (which means… Happy won’t be their either, wahhh!) he has offered to bike alongside me after I get home so I can get in the 5ish extra miles I’ll need to conclude my 18mile long-run. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but Ryan has recently gotten his bike fixed and now enjoys biking around town. I absolutely LOVE this. Not only does he bebop around town on his own, but he has also biked alongside me while I run a few times now. It is just so fun to have his company while I’m out on a run.(If you’ve missed it… running + Ryan do not mix too well thanks to a soccer injury from a few years back).
-This race means a lot to me. Not only do the proceeds for Davidson’s Run For Green benefit the enviornment…but I ran this same exact race 3 years ago as my first race EVER. That’s right, I jumped right into racing at the half-marathon distance. (Actually, to this day, I still have yet to run a 5K. Is that weird? Probably…).
But there’s an even bigger story behind this race and why it means so much to me.
Hm. Where to start…
Okay. Hear me out.
-Back in March of 2008, my aunt –Aunt Libby– went to see her doctor for a sore throat. Turns out, after some initial testing and multiple scans, her sore-feelin’-throat was a bit more complex than everyone originally thought. My aunt, a woman who had never smoked in her life, ate her fruits and veggies (grown from her very own backyard, mind you), and exercised every day… was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer.
Talk about the shock of a lifetime.
This was my mom’s only sister, and it rocked our family. Hard.
At the time, my Aunt lived in a small town just North of Charlotte (a town very close to Davidson, N.C. called Moorseville). Seeing as I was at the end of my senior year of college and figuring out my next steps in life…I choose “Charlotte” as my top choice for city-placement on my AmeriCorps application (I can see lightbulbs going off in y’alls heads as to why I ended up in Charlotte…). Thankfully, I was accepted into the AmeriCorps program and they honored my top choice, so the day after graduation, I packed up my things and headed to Charlotte.
I spent a lot of that summer visiting with my aunt, cousins and other family members who came down to visit. I have a lot of positive memories from that summer, but it was still hard, nonetheless.
We knew my aunt’s cancer was terminal, and as the months passed by, we saw just how aggressive her was… and how little time she had left.
In May, she was confined to a wheel chair. In June, the use of her limbs became very limited and she could no longer move herself around or lift things. Things soon became progressively worse — by July, she could no longer talk, and by August, she was no longer responsive. Hospice started a few days before her 64th birthday, on August 28th, and a few days after that, she was put on life support.
Sidenote: During this same time, my stepdad’s only brother, my Uncle Paul, suffered complications from diabetes after a standard root-canal procedure. He ended up losing consciousness one evening after he got home from work, was not found for two days, and as a result, suffered irreversible brain damage. He was put on life-support and my stepdad flew out to be with him during his last remaining days. He ultimately passed away a few days later.
Needless to say, August/September of 2008 was a very difficult time for my family. Especially my parents – as they both endured losing their only siblings at the exact same time.
It was during this summer, the summer of 2008, that I realized I was capable of taking on a “distance” race (thanks to a hardcore runner of a roommate!). As I’ve mentioned before, running acted as a form of therapy—it was a way to sort my thoughts about the craziness going on in my life. So without second thought, I signed up for a half marathon in a town very close to where my aunt lived — the Davidson Run For Green half-marathon on September 20th, 2008.
I remember going on runs that summer, thinking of what it would be like to not only cross that finish line, but to also tell my Aunt that I had finished a half-marathon…and I did it for her. And let me tell you, when race-day arrived and that finish line finally came into my line of vision, emotion took over me and the tears started flowing. It was hard to breathe. people (and no, it was not related to my exercise induced asthma). I was overcome with both sad and happy tears at the same time. Partly because I had run 13.1 miles (because really, who does that?!? 13.1 miles is A LOT of miles!) but mostly because I had accomplished a feat that seemed so tiny in comparison to my aunt’s fight against cancer. I knew my aunt wasn’t going to win her fight, but in that moment, I felt joyful because I had won for the both of us by crossing the finish line that day… and I was going to be able to tell her about it. And oh.my.lawd. was I excited to tell her about it. Of course, there were tears. Happy tears. And that day… September 20th, 2008 will remain a day of celebration to me.
A celebration of life, if you will. And rightfully so.
Because on September 21st, 2008, my aunt passed away.
And that is why this race means so much to me. And why I have come full circle.
I am running this race by myself tomorrow. Sure, I was sad when I brought the race up to Ryan last weekend and asked him if he’d want to watch me run. His answer? He’d rather sleep in. Which I totally understand, because truly…the man works hard! That’s when I called my mom, asking her if I should run the race…if I should “spend the forty bucks to run 13.1 miles… when I’d just be running 18 miles anyway…”. And that’s when I realized I wasn’t going to be running this race alone. (And that forty bucks isn’t gonna break the bank). I have my mom’s support. And obviously, I have my aunt’s support, too.
To say I am excited for tomorrow morning would be an understatement. I am not running for time (I mean let’s be serious now, do I ever? Mmmhm. My point exactly). I am running simply for the pleasure of being around people for 13.1 miles. To experience that buzz of a “race” atmosphere that I’ve come to love so much. I am running to break up the monotony of marathon-training. To take in the country-side scenery, and to feel the peacefulness and sense of calm I felt three years ago on that very course.
But most importantly? I am running this race to remember my aunt. I am doing this for me. To come full circle.
I’m sure I’m about to go through one hell of an emotional rollercoaster along the way. And, thankfully Ryan will be waiting for me when I get home, bike at the ready, eager to listen to me ramble on and share about my experience.
Have you or a loved one ever been touched by the face of cancer? Have you ever dedicated a race to someone? Do you like to race alone? Or would you rather know you have people on the sidelines, cheering you on? Have you ever “come full circle” with anything?