Well, it’s been a little quiet here on this site. We team members have a bit of blame to take there. For a little behind the scenes look: we’re asked to each be putting up a little something a couple times a month. I felt like that challenge had been inspiring me to write a little more and to share a little bit of my life with the VRC audience. But 2017 has been kind of an off year so far, and summer just plain sucked. So I haven’t felt like doing much and hadn’t figured out quite what to say about it.
In March I had a huge Half Marathon PR, almost 15 minutes off my previous best. In April I was one of four of my run club teammates to take home age group awards at a 10k. My first AG award in 3 years. Then in May I gave up my spot in my “A” race that I had registered for all the way back in December. It was a tough 25 mile trail race. I was under trained and I saw some of the pros in the trail running scene tweeting each other about how tough the course looked. Though they were running the 50 mile version, it really intimidated me. So I backed out. I put my focus on my run club and trying to build up our Saturday morning runs. I tried to offer more options for time and distance. Still, it’s usually me and one or two other people showing up, and the couple times I’ve about given up on it, someone will say something like, “If it weren’t for you I wouldn’t be running.” That’s all I want to hear. That’s what I’m trying to inspire.
With my Saturday mornings all booked up for that, that really limits the amount of races you can look at. There are a few on Sundays, but not as many. It’s just as well, as since May my legs have just felt heavy and I’ve just been tired. I really rested in May after cancelling that race, too. But I did the Runner’s World Run Streak Challenge to try to kick-start my summer, running daily between Memorial Day and the 4th Of July, and a few more days for good measure. I explored some different trails and spots way off the beaten path. And I streaked right through one of the hardest things I’ve had to face.
I was at my weekly Thursday night run club and had finished the regular 5k course and was about done with my couple extra miles and I heard my phone ring in my pocket. It’s rare for my phone to ring. Even with my boss, I text. If I get an actual call it’s probably a scam. Even after I was done and hanging out with my team, it took me a minute to remember to check what the call was. It was my sister, who would normally text if she needed to get a hold of me, so the call was really strange. I called her back immediately. My sister has been living with my parents for a year or so. She has a daughter who’s about 2 years old. They had gone out to dinner with a friend that night, and my mom went out on some errands. My sister came home and took my niece in to say goodnight to her grandpa (my dad.) He was slumped over his desk, unresponsive. At some point in the time that my mom went to the store and my sister went to a restaurant, my dad went from the kitchen table doing a crossword or Sudoku to his computer, and he died. I’m not clear on the details. The EMTs said that the evidence showed a sudden and acute cardiac event. It doesn’t sound like the coroner investigated much further. That’s all we know. It was sudden and quick and completely out of nowhere six days shy of his 64th birthday.
Friday morning, I woke up, I cried in bed, and then I ran. It was hard and I was tired and hurting and I pushed through before spending all day Friday at my parent’s house as people came over and flowers were delivered and coroner never called and my two year old niece just being a cute two year old making it hard to grieve.
Saturday morning, I went to run club. I ran with my friend Andrew, the guy who on Thursday happened to be the first person there when I got off the phone and I had to say what I had just heard out loud because it didn’t seem like it could be the truth, and I had to say it twice because he didn’t catch it the first time. I was able to vent and talk things out.
That Sunday, I already had a race scheduled in Colorado Springs. I already had a place to stay down there booked. It was the only race on the schedule all Summer. Saturday afternoon, I decided I was going. I wanted to get out of town, speed down the highway to one of my favorite cities and run in a new place and spend some time alone. And that’s really how I ended up: alone. I have this community at home. There was a community down there, but it wasn’t mine.
It was exemplified that week at Thursday run club, the night before my dad’s memorial service, where I was sitting with two of the regulars after the run: Henrique, guy around my age who’s just a good friend, and Sue, a woman in her 60s who’s lost a partner and is also a minister, on top of being a good friend. Two people who just let me talk and gave back what they could. When I left for home that night, I immediately felt so thankful to have those two people in my life. It’s all thanks to running and this club.
All in all, the grieving has been pretty tame. I feel like my outlook on life has made it easy to deal with the inevitability of losing loved ones and the inevitability of death for myself as well. Much of that outlook on life has been shaped by the experience of running, the microcosm of life that it is: to embrace the process; the here and now. To know it’s going to be tough, but it will also often be euphoric, and ultimately none of it is permanent.