My longest run in the past year has been around 3 miles. A half marathon is 13.1 miles. A gross difference.
With my track record of race mishaps, this one was no exception. In fact, if I made New Year resolutions, it would be to pay closer attention at races. So, of course Jules and I needed to use the bathroom before we took off for the race, so as others were stretching, jogging in place, and getting ready for the start, we trailed the end of the bathroom line. As the line was halfway through, the race started. By the time we made it out of the stalls, everyone had taken off. So when we started running, we didn't know which direction to head. My instincts in these races are solid 100% off, knowing that, you can guess that we ran in exactly the opposite direction of the path. By the time we figured out where to go and redirected, we were 15-20 minutes late from the starting gun.
It was 21 degrees, and icy in Bellingham, and I hadn't been running outside at all, but the second my legs started moving, I was bouncing and excited. There's this thrilling feeling I get when I run, especially when I'm in a competition. And what I learned is that the best place to start a race is from behind because you never get passed.
While I ran for that 2.5 hours (or 2.3 if you deduct our bathroom and detour incident) I had plenty of time to look out at the beauty that is the PNW. I also had plenty of time to think about my life, my health, my love for Dan, my love for my family, and friends, and the gratitude I have to be here on Earth, spending time learning, and laughing, and exploring. I know that sounds cheesy, I mean it IS cheesy, but it's also truth. Reflection is a powerful, helpful guide that reminds me of all the interesting things I've been able to accomplish, the trials I've gone through, and how fortunate I am to be in the state that I am in now. Sometimes I forget how healthy I am because I get scared by the ins and outs of treatments, of the routine MRIs - the reality of the state that I live in. I'm always trying to be present, but in each moment I feel the weight of a lead shoe waiting to drop. I know it can change in an instant, and that there is a big old blob in my brain that doctors expect will kill me.
As I ran, I kept thinking about what if this was my last day on Earth, what if this was the last time I could run, what if this was the last year of my life, what if this was the last time [fill in the blank]. Would I do anything different? Just the title of the race "Last Chance", was tantalizingly provoking. The combination of endorphins and the tease of theory, of philosophy, of desire, and potential loss, washed over me in a deep cleansing.
Since the 31st I have been crippled with soreness, with pain, but it feels glorious to be alive and although I will most certainly be training for the next 12 half marathons of 2016, I will ride that pain to every finish line in honor of my brain tumor comrades who will never have the luxury.