For the first time in almost 2 years, I laced up my running shoes to run an actual race – not just run on my own for fitness and general health. I haven’t felt the desire to train for anything since my last marathon over 2 years ago. They say when tragedy affects your life, your priorities change. Before Shelby got sick, running was a way of life for me; it was my zen, it was fun, I was always motivated to run faster, further, stronger. I dedicated three marathons, trying to break 4 hours and qualify for Boston. I did it in winter of 2011 and ran the Boston Marathon in 2013. Everyone knows what happened at Boston that year and I was determined to re-qualify to get back there and run that race without the same ending.
But in the fall of 2013, Shelby was diagnosed with cancer and all the training I had done for a fall marathon just kind of fell by the wayside. I didn’t care anymore. I ran that marathon in Salt Lake City but my heart wasn’t in it. I only wanted to get home to Shelby. So I didn’t qualify – I don’t even think I broke 4 hours. I simply didn’t care.
For the next 8 months, I ran to stay fit and to compensate for the wine I was drinking to manage the stress and sadness surrounding Shelby’s illness. While I knew we were beating the odds, I knew deep down our time on earth together was limited.
After Shelby passed, it was almost 2 weeks before I went for a run. It was too much time in my head – alone with my thoughts. Shelby passed on the beach by our home and I couldn’t bear to run past that spot which limited places I could run since I’ve always run by the beach. I could barely make it through a short run without massive crocodile tears and feeling like I would pass out from the crying and emotional pain. Eventually, I got through it and I was able to resume my normal running routine – a couple days a week, no more than 5 – 12 miles at a time and for fitness. No need for speed. No desire to train.
I put together training schedules and lost interest in them all. I am by no means out of shape but I am far from my peak levels of fitness. When did a 14 mile run become so hard? When did it become acceptable for me to bargain my way (in my head) out of running the entire distance I planned to run? When did I become lazy?
Yesterday, to support a friend for charity, I laced up my shoes for a 5K. It’s only three miles (well 3.1) and I run 4 – 5 miles before work a couple days a week so hard could that be? It wasn’t the distance or difficulty level – it was the pride thing. I used to be fast. I used to blaze through a 5K in no time. It’s almost not even worth getting sweaty for less than 25 min. So I went all out. I fired up my legs and said no matter what – I was going to run the whole thing and run it fast. I was going to get it done. And I did. And it felt great. To be surrounded by other runners, competing, racing, running … and for the first time in over two years, I pushed myself and I did it.
I completed the 5K in a little over 22 min and placed 2nd in my age division. (it was a small race). And I felt inspired. I felt like this was something I could do again. I could get this part of my life back.
I know I have a long way to go before I can even thinking of running another 3:35 marathon but that I even want to think abut it is a huge plus.
So I thought about little miss Shelby a lot yesterday. I felt her spirit riding alongside me on the run. I felt connected. And then I had an unsettling dream. I dreamt that Shelby was alive and well but not living with me. She was living with a former acquaintance of mine and she was older and doing well, recovered from her broken leg. I asked if she missed me and thought about me and he said she did. But she saw that I had moved on with Jasper.
My heart broke and I woke up sobbing. It doesn’t make sense. The grief shouldn’t be this intense still. Does my desire to run again mean something? Does having Jasper in my life mean that Shelby thinks I’ve moved on? The mind is the most powerful thing and it can work for and against you. I woke up unsettled and 6 hours later, I still feel “off”. I need my spirit girl to know that she is still the love of my life and her strength DOES guide me daily.
The thing about this journey – while we say the pain lessons – the life we are left with is every changing. I am a work in progress for sure … one step forward, two steps back. Inspired. Hopeful. Optimistic. And still grief stricken…