About a week after my mom lost her battle to Pancreatic Cancer, I began to get feeling back in my limbs. My heart was aching, my mind racing and my body desperately trying to figure out what normal was going to look like. Like how I was going to go to work, the gym, take care of my family and pretend I didn’t see the giant white elephant?
In a few hours of regaining feeling of the floor underneath me, I knew that pretending anything wasn’t going to be the answer. What I needed was a distraction with a purpose. Something I could do everyday for a while that would connect me to mom, while also honoring her. That was when I remembered what a friend of mine had done, and I decided to embrace it and make it my own.
Miles for Mama.
My mom began running later in life when my dad suggested they train for a marathon together. That’s right, a marathon. Skip the 5K, don’t bother with the half thing…and go for the gold. 26.2 miles. She wasn’t a runner; she was a long-since retired HS cheerleader, about to be on the other side of all that cheering. While the training was often brutal, the exhilaration of running 26.2 miles with strangers yelling you go girl as they read her shirt, completely hooked her. She ran the NYC Marathon 8 times with dad by her side and one year, just 3 weeks after the NYC finish line, they ran the Philadelphia Marathon just to see if they were still trained-up!
My idea was to run 30 consecutive days, to honor her 30 months of surviving cancer. I didn’t know if it was going to be easy or hard, but I was going to do it as gracefully as mom did, with no complaints other than her sweet words: “I’m a little tired.”
How hard could it be? It was running. It wasn’t cancer, chemo, hair loss, burning of my skin, nausea or a question of my life plan. It was just running. Or wasn’t it?
Friends I barely knew began joining me feeling touched by my mom’s survival story. I was overwhelmed. One friend began running every day even though she said the last time she ran was in high school was when they made her run around the track. Another friend, hundreds of miles away and a survivor as well, ran through all kinds of weather just to honor a woman she only knew through stories. I was speechless and began to lace up.
The thing is that while I am a runner, I never run more than 2 or 3 days in a week. I don’t know why exactly, but I have a lot of reasons. Not excuses exactly, but reasons: My tendinitis acts up if I run more than that, I train for triathlons and need to bike and swim, I can’t always get to the gym and sometimes it is too hot or cold and well, I need days off during the week. I can’t just train every single day without a break. So there. I said it.
But this was not going to be about my reasons or excuses. This was going to be about honoring a commitment, like my mom’s commitment to live. Not to survive with cancer, but to live in vibrant colors.
I declared that 3 times a week I would actually run and the other days I would lace up and go for a short jog. It seemed like I was making it too easy, but I had a distraction and purpose and was committed.
However, on Day 14, the snow fell heavily, with the winds whipping everywhere, and no plow trucks to be seen. I could hear my little voice yelling from down below, as I laced up, put mom’s ear buds into my ears and pressed play. The Bee Gees lulled through my head, and I could see her beautiful smile as she whispered, ‘Just go slow, watch where you step and if you need to walk…that’s okay too.’
And I headed out.
And this was how it went. I am now at Day 29 and I am awestruck by the loud racket filling my head. How could something so simple be so hard? Some days I only commit to a 6 minute run around the block in the rain, snow or whatever the universe has in store, but it isn’t that that amazes me. It is how often I don’t wanna occurs like a real thing. And it is then that I realize how hard she worked to keep living, in spite of all that she felt.
Thankfully my complaints aren’t louder than my desire to be connected to my mom, to bandage up my bleeding heart, and to give myself something to do other than curling into a ball and giving up. Thankfully she lives deep inside of me.
And thankfully, on those days I feel the closest connection to her as I hit the streets. I swear I can hear her clear her throat as my feet hit the pavement. I can hear her little feet barely lifting up off the ground and I can hear her sweet voice say, ‘It’s okay. I’m a little tired too, but let’s run anyway.’