If distance running was a product, it would come with the following prominently written on the label: WARNING – You WILL get injured. Every runner I know who has been at it awhile has a war story - hamstring injuries, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee pain. True devotees to the sport seem to spend equal parts time training and trying to keep their bodies healthy. Because of this, when I started my training for Chicago I was alert to the possibility that at some point my body might call an injury timeout. What I did not expect was that the injury would come not from running, but from a game of hopscotch.
Yep. Can’t make this stuff up.
In a weird twist of fate involving my failure to properly teach my children schoolyard games when they were young, my son’s birthday, a trip to Disneyland, and the promise of a Mickey Mouse sticker, I wound up teaching my 15-year old son how to play a game of hopscotch by demonstrating the game, and in the process jacked up my Achilles tendon.
In the words of my coach after I told him the story: “Hopscotch – the marathon runner’s number 1 enemy!” (You’ve now been warned).
The next day I was scheduled to run 13 miles. By mile two, I called it. The pain was too much. The uncertainty about what other damage I might be doing was too much. The fear that something so ridiculous might derail my marathon was too much.
And so, in what can only be described as a “runner’s walk of shame”, I turned around to begin the long walk home with tears in my eyes, a full water bottle in my hand, head hanging low, sporting a “Run Big” motivational shirt, having barely broken a sweat.
Through the magic of social media, I pretty much invited everyone I know to my pity party, and on the side began the process of trying to heal. And then, in the midst of it all, I was on the receiving end of the following post by a teammate running with me for the American Cancer Society: “Ran 18 miles today and I was thinking about how humid it was, how I wanted to be done then I realized I would be done in 3 hours. No matter how bad I felt it doesn’t compare to fighting cancer, to seeing how weak and sick my mom was every day from chemo … So everyone train hard and appreciate that you can!”
And there is was - my kick in the ass to shake it off already.
I am running the Chicago Marathon for my Dad who lost his life to cancer. I run because he can’t. I run because I cannot stand the thought of one more daughter or son, or wife or husband, or friend losing their loved one to this disease. And when I run, I can’t help but reflect on my dad’s absence: how badly I want to talk with him again. How much I wish that he could see me cross the damn finish line and give me a hug.
But my teammate’s post, that made me start to think of something else – not his end, but my Dad’s courage and his fight. A man who feared and avoided needles and doctors visits at all costs, put up with chemo until his body simply couldn’t take it any more. When he was totally depleted from the disease, he somehow managed to find the strength to walk around the block with his grandchildren.
When he was incredibly frail, with no remaining reserves that day, and his family urged him to go back to the hotel before he simply could not because of the effort required, he dug his heels in to stay at the SF Giant's ballpark to witness an epic Giant's win in the bottom of the 10th … and he did it because THAT day surrounded with his family at the ballpark was his idea of living and brought him joy.
My Dad, and every other person I know who has faced cancer, summoned every ounce of courage and strength at their disposal, for the sake of doing every thing that they were capable of doing every day. To live.
And if they can do that, and do it with the grace, humor, perseverance, positivity, strength, and determination that I have witnessed, then I surely can get over my damn self and a hopscotch injury.
This injury - it woke me up again.
There is life to celebrate.
There are bigger things to conquer.
To learn more about the American Cancer Society's work and how to donate to support the ACS, please visit the Team DetermiNation website.