Monday, October 19, 2015

Running Through the Tears

Life is a strange and fragile thing. One moment we're living our normal, chaotic lives, and the next moment everything is different. I've experienced it with my own health to some extent, but it's easier when it's you. I don't worry about myself; I just focus on getting better. When someone you love is sick, it's a different animal. A few weeks ago my dad passed away pretty suddenly, and the normal chaos of life ground to a halt. It was replaced by a sadness and subsequently a numbness that I can't describe. I felt, and to a large degree still feel nearly two weeks later, disconnected from life and myself.

One of my fav pictures of me with my dad after the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in 2013

A few years ago I wrote a blog about how grateful I am for my dad and what a hard worker he is. I've never known someone more invincible than my dad. It's hard to believe he's gone. As a matter of fact a part of me still doesn't believe it. I watched him leave us; I saw him at the funeral home. Yet there's a part of my mind that doesn't believe it; can't believe it. I'm worried about my mom and how this loss affects her. My mind is filled with so much turmoil that it's hard to process it all.

In the midst of this unfamiliar disarray there is one thing that feels familiar: running. When everything feels different, the rhythm of my body running shocks me back to normal. My dad was a really active person most of his life, and it was a struggle for him the last few years to slow down. I'm just like him - we don't know how to slow down. You would think this is a lesson for me to slow down and take it easier, but I'm not wired that way. Even though he wasn't a runner, it's a place where I feel connected to him. 

In Grand Rapids at the Ford Presidential Museum in 2012
The day after my dad died I hit the Deckers Creek and Mon River Trails in Morgantown. I ran the fastest four miles I've ever run. I felt the cool, humid air burning my lungs and my legs screaming, but I didn't slow down. My dad wasn't able to run on Thursday, October 8. On Friday, October 9 he paced me through that really hard run. On Saturday, October 10 he joined me for 13 miles. Last week he led me through several short training runs. When I'm running the chaos in my head is still just for those miles, and I can feel my dad there. 

My first run with Dad

I generally handle stress well, but sometimes in extreme situations it can throw me into a Crohn's flare. Luckily (sarcasm intended) that's happening now. I've spent the last three days not feeling my best, but I think about what my dad went through and push through it. I think about all of the times I called home and asked Dad how he was feeling. His answer was always, "Oh I'm fine Sissy. You're the one who's sick. How are you?" He always put me (and his entire family) before himself. That irrepressible strength is part of what I'll miss. It's not that common these days. 

In less than two weeks I'm running the New York City Marathon. My longest training run is 15 miles.  I have no business running a marathon. I know, however, that I can take it nice and easy through 26.2. I also know that I'm going to be brutally sore the next day, but the human body is resilient. It's almost as resilient as the human spirit. It's going to be an emotional race for me. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.  Life without you is inconceivable, Dad. I will spend the rest of my life emulating the virtues you personified: strength, hard work, laughter and love. Oh and the most fun one: political incorrectness. I hate that you're gone, but I will enjoy our quiet runs together. I'm looking forward to your help in pushing through 26.2 in twelve days. 

Dad with my son in late September.

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