We Made It
Submitted by Pat
When Nancy suggested we take a break from hiking and train for a marathon, to have a different, short-term goal to get us through the winter and into our next Canyon adventure, I agreed. Some challenges I am drawn to - moth to flame, hand to glove, infectious laughter - and some I fear. This one drew me. I didn't know if I could do it, if my body would withstand the intense training, if I had the mental toughness to persevere, if I could find something in training for a marathon that would feed me, keep me going. I said yes and we began, short runs to start, running in cold, snow, rain, wet, running Summit Road, Hastings Avenue, Maple Avenue, Court Street, Washington Street, Rule Street, Eastern Avenue, Marlborough Street, North Lincoln, through the cemetery, around Swanzey Lake, from Gilsum Center to River Road to Route 12A to Keene, the bike path and other routes and connections and variations.
When we started doing long runs on Saturdays - 10 miles and over - I started to believe that I might be able to do this, that my body might be able to meet the challenge as long as I took care, was mindful, and ran slowly. Every Saturday we put down a long run - 10 miles, 12 miles, 14 miles, 15 miles, 17 miles, 18 miles. Some of those runs were easy and some forced me to dig as deep as I ever have. I never let the bad runs scare me - I always believed that bad runs had their place and didn't mean that I couldn't do it in the long run.
As the weeks passed I actually started to believe that maybe, just maybe, I could do this, that trying to run a marathon wasn't a joke, that indeed my body could train that hard and my mind could work through the pain, boredom, exhaustion, monotony, and finish the run from beginning to end. When I allowed myself to believe that I could do this the marathon training and the end goal of the race itself took on a different shade of importance - I felt good about me, proud of me, happy with me, at peace with me, like I was doing a good thing for me - it became about me when I had originally started the project doing it for us, for Nancy and I, for the fun and craziness of doing something outrageous together. I haven't lost that, I still feel the strong surge of us when we run - I just didn't expect to feel so connected to me.
And then I got sick. Very sick. I was knocked out of the game. One day I was running 18 miles and the next day my body was being attacked by a virus that smashed me down. Lying in the hospital, drugged and sick, my greatest sadness, the deepest pain came when I admitted to myself that I was not going to be able to run the marathon. I kept trying to find some deeper meaning, some great lesson, some reason behind why this was happening. I never did find it. I did give it up though, running the marathon, and I grieved for it openly. I severed the tie between me and that goal and watched as Nancy kept going, running on her own, finding her own support, maintaining her drive and discipline and dedication. I wasn't jealous - I was heartbroken, bereft, beyond consolation.
When I started to recover I decided not to surrender myself and just be a victim of this experience. I was going to go with Nancy to Burlington and support her in any way I could. I wouldn't stay behind and mope. I would engage and celebrate and honor her as she continued on. I would celebrate the 400+ miles I had run in training. Two days after I was released from the hospital on a perfect, windy, sunny, cool day I decided to put on my running clothes and drive over to Gilmore Pond and walk/jog the three mile loop around the lake. Mary and Pinta joined me and the feeling in my heart when I started to walk, then to jog, was like being let out of prison, a free woman. I could feel the cord that I had severed between myself and running the marathon start to regrow. I ran the next day and then I told Nancy that I thought I could ride my bike with her as she ran her longest distance - 20 miles - and if I felt ok I would run the last 5 miles with her.
And I did and I came out the other side feeling OK. That was when I took the risk of voicing my desire to try to get back enough fitness to actually run the marathon. I had no idea if I could get back, but I knew I could try. All in a rush meaning came flooding back into my life and I started our training regime where I had left off. I didn't run the 20 miles. I'm taking 18 miles as my longest run to the race itself, with those last 8 miles uncharted territory, and that is OK. Resuming my running routine and assuming my position at Nancy's side was the most incredible gift I have ever given myself.
Am I ready? Yes. Can I finish? I don't know. Will I give it my all? Yes. Will I push beyond what is safe and sane? No. That no is a crux - I have always struggled to manage the fine line between doing enough and doing too much. So here's my chance - a huge, emotional chance to make a different choice - if I can run the marathon and finish safely I will be happy and proud. If I can't, I will find a way to stop, honor what I have done, and walk to the finish. Head high, fist in the air, smile on my face.
I am looking forward to putting on my running outfit, my new running shoes, eating breakfast, walking to the starting line, seeing the 8,000 other runners, being part of them, feeling the sun, feeling the breeze off Lake Champlain, running through new territory, hearing the cheers and encouragement of people lining the course, drinking and walking at the water stops, thinking about the person that I have chosen to honor for that mile, being wholly and completely in the experience as me, not me wanting things to be different, not me with an agenda, not me with a picture of how I think it should be, but me, in it, running, smiling, sweating, receiving and appreciating every moment, every mile, and running and running and running.
I can't imagine how my body will feel at the end. Probably pretty wasted. But I will take the time to smile and let in that I was able to meet this goal, despite having given it up close to the end. I will hug my running partner and cry and feel how big I am, how huge we are. It's very exciting to write this as I sit here on the Thursday night before Sunday's race. I will take in the wonders of every moment that I live and feel and in the end it will just be me, running a marathon, the perfect metaphor for how I have lived my life.
I am running for
Nancy - in the space our friendship has created, I am becoming me
Liz - for your amazing courage in the face of a lifetime of medical hell
Sue - I admire how you packed up your life, moved to the other side of the country and created your own work
Patrick - in celebration of one of the happiest times of my life - going fishing with you back in the 1980's - it was the most peaceful time I have ever known
Mom - for giving me life and being a kind and loving mother
The women in my exercise class - we work hard, roll our eyes, and get stronger in spite of it all
Tracey - it is exquisite, the connection I feel with you - watching you grow, watching me grow for these many years, and I am still here
Marcus - for showing me that I can choose
Halley (my first dog) - from you I learned about unconditional love
Rob - I feel a connection to you that I have never felt with a man before, ever
Eileen - for walking into my life, standing before me with your whole self and turning your dream into reality - wow!
Support Services (Elise, Kim, Aaron, Allen, Paul, Greg and Steve) - As much as you drive me crazy, I am learning huge and important lessons from working with you - through you I have the chance to become a leader
Jan - As different as we were, I loved the connection we had - you were true family.
Cheryl - your kindness and the comfort I feel when I am with you is priceless, beyond measure, and I am running for you so that I don't forget
Dan - the first man who has called me best friend
Patricia - your courage in the face of racism and immigration bureaucracy, your determination to master English and earn your doctorate - I am in awe
Margo - you started this...Gave me a taste of what it feels like to be free, to be big, to be great, to have dreams
Debbie - brown study, from you I learned love's sweet agony, felt the knife sweeping across the veins in my wrist, gave myself away, and still I survived
Cindy - thank you for helping hold my body together, for making it hurt so good, and supporting me despite your better judgment
Mary - on the outside looking in, you have been wonderful and petty and have let me be
The partner I don't know yet - you may be out there - if you are, when I find you, I will be ready
Me - I have another chance - I'm going to take it
Tom and Mary - your story, coming back to cheer us to the rim, inspires me - I will never tire of hearing it
Luna - I'm sorry we couldn't work it out - you couldn't change and only I had the power to end the terror
Don - friend, fellow adventurer, the love and trust you have for Nancy gave us the gift of time and space to pursue these crazy goals - I can't thank you enough
Nancy and me - a team, the two of us, together, elbow to elbow, heart to heart, in tears, in laughter, searching, risking, sharing, trusting, and running mile after mile after mile - we made it, we did it, we are it