"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." A.A. Milne

Sunday, December 2, 2012

St Jude's Marathon

Wow, this experience has been nothing short of astounding. I was surprisingly calm before the race. John and the kids walked down with me to the starting area. It was wonderful to have them with me. People milled around and chatted. It was all relatively peaceful.

I don't know exactly what came over me but right before I went into my corral I knelt in front of Hannah, took her by the shoulders and said" "Hannah, momma is running this for you. I am running this to be strong for you. I am running this so you will know you can be strong too." 

With a slightly dazed expression, she said okay mommy. She was probably wondering when exactly mommy had gone completely crazy. But she kissed me, hugged me, and told me she loved me.

I started well. A huge mistake of beginning marathon runners is come out of the gate too hard, too fast. I wanted to keep my first 3 miles at a 10 minute pace and I did. I felt strong.

Then we ran through St Jude Children's Hospital.

I am so glad this happened early in the race. The people were amazing. The stories of heartbreak and hope told in simple pictures were overwhelming. Pictures of beautiful babies with big eyes and no hair. Some signs simply said "Thank You", some had dates of lives that were  cut far too short under any circumstance. Families were yelling thank you while some just quietly cried. They told us we were heroes because we were running for their children. I must disagree. Those parents and children were the true heroes, the real warriors in this fight.

I had to take my first walk break early. Tears were streaming down my face and I was right at the point of sobbing. I had to catch my breathe. After you have hold your own baby in your arms, this hits far too close to home.

The signs are always great. Funny, encouraging, and with this particular race, poignant. The one that stayed with me was of another gorgeous child, no hair, and eyes that had seen far too much pain. It said:

Diagnosed: Age 2.5
Prognosis: 2 years
11 surgeries
26.2 ?? Yes, you can. 

At the 12 mile mark we split for the half marathon. It is a sudden change at that point. It quickly becomes much quieter. People no longer chat. This is serious. This is where the hard work stars. Everyone has their game face on. I was feeling pretty amazing. I was running a full marathon and I was going to do it!! Yep, I felt pretty darn pleased with myself.

And then out of the blue and for no apparent reason, I totally wiped out. I am talking sprawled out, flat on my face on the ground. Two amazing women stopped to help me up. They washed me off a bit and guided me to first aid. I was completely dazed. I looked down to see both knees and hands tore up with blood streaming down my left knee.

The guy asked me if I was good to go on. Here I was at my moment, I told my daughter I was strong. I have told both my children that I am a warrior who would never "go gently into that good night" I would always "rage, rage against the dying light." (No, they are not Dylan Thomas fans yet, but its all about exposure, you know?) So I told him, I am running on. Help me do that. Water was dumped over my wounds and Vaseline put on them to try to stop the bleeding and protect them. The I ran off in absolutely soaking wet shoes and socks, yippee!! My socks are wicking, but c'mon.

I have to admit, riding the endorphin and adrenaline high was strangely fun. Giggling, probably with a touch of hysteria, I thought just finishing would be even more impressive now that I was sporting my cool battle wounds.

The rest was hard. I am not going to lie. It was warm, I hurt, and it IS a rather insane amount of miles. Also, much to my delight, I had earned the sobriquet "Oh! You're the One that fell!! You poor thing, are you okay?" from a significant number of my fellow runners. Oh well, at least I was memorable. In the end, I ran into a cheering stadium, saw my family, and found the energy to spring across the finish line.

4:51 was the time it took me to experience one of the most amazing events of my life.

Thank you St Jude's. Your work is miraculous and I am honored to have been a small part of it.

"No child should die in the dawn of life." Danny Thomas