“This isn’t ME. I thought that I would be over it by now.” I said to my counselor and was caught off guard by his surprise.
“It’s only been 4 months.” He replied, “Your parents DIED…that’s not exactly something you simply get over, like the flu or a common cold. What happened that day has left an imprint on your life that will never go away. Things will never be the same again.”
The conversation continued with him trying to help me wrap my mind around and accept this grief as a process, not a roadblock or a speed bump. He wisely incorporated my running experiences into an analogy that I can understand. He said: “Think of the marathon; when you get to those late race miles and everything hurts. It’s physically, mentally, and emotionally painful. It’s hard to keep going. This is not the point in the race where you stop and think: I need to get over this. No. You don’t get OVER those miles; you find a way to get THROUGH them. Quitting is not an option, and no matter how badly you feel, how much you cry, or disappear into your own mind and personal space, the miles aren’t going away. You don’t get over them. You find a way to get through them. You accept the degree of difficulty and keep moving forward. That is the only way to successfully progress and cross that finish line. So when you start getting down on yourself for how you feel, where you are, or where you think you should be with this great loss, remind yourself that, just like the marathon, this is not something that you get over; you FIND YOUR WAY THROUGH.”
So, here we are, on “Mile 22” of my blog, and well into 2018 already …and still my struggle continues. There is currently no “end” in sight in regards to my parents case. My sister and I continue to face those challenges one court date, email, and phone call at a time. I have become professionally restless, quit my position in the clinic environment, and opted to make the move back onto the front lines of EMS again. It’s a “calling” to those of us who have been in it awhile. (16 years for me.)
The internal, emotional NEED to be there for those in physical need; at all hours of the day/night, in all manner of circumstances, regardless of how ugly, brutal, violent, or shameful it might be. To hold a hand, to save a life, or simply bear witness to what was, and preserve the dignity that such circumstances deserve. To be human and find strength in the act of serving a community of people who are facing their own struggles. In this way, I am better able to see beyond my own problems and continually move forward. It helps me just as much as I help them. As for my running, I do well when Shep and I train together regularly. But I have struggled continually with motivation, belief in myself, and in my goals. Sometimes, when I’m feeling really down, I wonder “what’s the point?”, and I really have no answer for myself; but then I think about Boston. I follow my friends on social media who are training for the 2018 Boston Marathon next month and my heart aches to be among them. I re-read Meb Keflezighi’s book “Run To Overcome” and re-play the marathon clips from 2014, when he won the Boston Marathon the year after the bombings, and again, my heart aches to be there. I have watched YouTube clips, read books, magazines, and even google mapped the Boston Marathon course, turn by turn. I know all the iconic places which I want to see and photograph when it’s my turn to be there. I do my training runs and finish fast, envisioning myself racing across the line of the race that will qualify me. To those who don’t run, it may not make sense; but to those who have ever run for a reason, I know that you know. So my training, as of late, has been inconsistent due to a multitude of factors; out of my control, as well as, self-imposed. My performance and results from last weekend’s Spring Thaw 10-Miler do not lie. I had hoped to hold an 8:55/mi pace and finish under 90 minutes. Instead, the struggle was all too real. My legs could keep pace, but my lungs could not. It was hard for me to breathe. We crossed the halfway point just a little behind pace and Shep hoped that I could pick it up and close the gap on the second half, but I simply could not. By Mile 8, we both knew the plan for a sub-90 finish was no longer possible. Shep had been running slightly ahead of me, as this is usually what will keep me pushing for a faster pace, but now he slowed, turned around, fell in step beside me, and said “If this is all you’ve got, I’m just gonna run with you.”. I replied by raising my middle fingers and huffing under my breath, “Yeah, Shep, this is all I’ve got.”; a moment we laugh about now, because he was not being mean and I was not slacking. He was simply not going to push me for more than what I had when I was obviously running on the edge of my current ability. I ran that race to the best of my ability on that particular day and, for that, I have no regrets. We finished in 1:31:50 which, as it turns out, is a 2:21 course PR for me, so still something to be proud of.
I can honestly say, though, that my training these past several months has not been the best. Some days I could not run, some days I did not want to, and still other days when I showed up but simply finishing the mileage (not keeping a certain pace) was all that I could manage. It has not been easy. Yet, nothing worth having or doing ever does come “easy”; especially Boston. I know this. So this morning when Shep and I were talking, each struggling with our own issues for today (his wife having died just 2 weeks after my parents), we made up our minds that the only way to progress past this point is to “find our way through”. We met up over coffee and laid out our plans. We constructed a training plan, day by day, for the next several months; factoring in work schedules and appointments, and decided upon our races for the year, as well as, our hopes for the year to follow. By doing so, we are building a strong foundation on which to progress and, eventually, Boston qualify. I know that it will not come easy. I know that it will take everything I’ve got, perhaps even more, but I know that it will be worth it in the end. There’s a reason why my mind will not let me forget this dream; a reason why my heart keeps pulling me back to it. And when I finally make it there, and find my “why”; the reason behind “Boston” and all that it will take to get me there, you can trust that I will write about that too. If nothing else, perhaps it will help one of you who read it? And perhaps, in some way or another, my words, my feelings, my struggle, will somehow help you find your own way through?