The Post I Swore I Would Never Write - Why I Run

My Happy Spot
I swore that when I started this blog I would never post a “Why I Run” article on it.  I truly believe that everyone has their own stories, good and bad, and there are some amazing stories on the internet other people can search and find.  My story is just a common, parents passed away from cancer, kind of story and I hate bringing it up to people.  I often get the look of sadness in people’s faces, and the pitiful looks friends give me after they find out specifics.  I prefer to just bypass the entire conversation and not even bring it up.  I don’t want people and friends feeling bad for me, sad, or feeling sorry.  I prefer people to see me as I am; a fun loving human who enjoys the simple things in life and doesn’t sweat the small stuff.  However this week I am reminded of how much I ache inside and how much I miss my parents by this past weekend’s activities.  On Saturday my husband and I had the opportunity to participate in the Miles for Moffitt 5K and 10K which took place on the campus of the University of South Florida.  It was my first time at this race and honestly I confess that am currently on doctor’s orders to not run or exercise. The original plan was that my husband was going to run the 10K, and I would “walk” the 5K in remembrance of my mom who lost her battle with colon cancer 6 years ago in June. 

My Mom and Dad at My High School
Graduation 1999
When I woke up that morning to travel to the race I was in the crappiest mood ever.  I snapped at my husband, I slept in late, I wanted crap food for breakfast, and I just was not mentally into the race.  Any other morning I would have been up at the early hours packing the car, making sure we had snacks and preparing for an awesome day.  Saturday was not my day.  I think at that time my body knew what my brain was trying to hide and wanted to crawl back in bed and not go.  I was in denial of the feelings I was about to have going into this race.  You see, my mom lived in Florida for about a year and received cancer treatment at the very exact location we were racing at.  Sadly for her and our family the treatment didn’t take and she succumbed to the disease about a year later.  My dad had passed away from cancer roughly 5 years prior to her from bone cancer.  He literally went in the hospital one day complaining of pain, was diagnosed with bone cancer, and passed away about two weeks after the discovery.  The doctor’s presumption was that he had lung cancer which had metastasized through other organs settling down in his bones.  I was extremely close to both of them and when they both passed I went into a horrible state of depression.  Their passing and some other life changing events which occurred at the same time caused me to gain an excess amount of weight and for the most part just give up on being healthy.  My thought process was “what the hell, I may as well indulge because life is short.”
My Mom and I at My College Graduation
My Mom at My Age Now
     I can’t say exactly what changed or when.  I know I wanted to start becoming healthy, and my mindset changed to living longer instead of shorter.  I slowly started decreasing in weight and long story short found running and Obstacle Course Racing an outlet for my inner child.  This brings me back to the race my husband and I were participating in.  

The race was extremely well organized and they had stickers each person could put on their shirts.  These stickers gave people the opportunity to express who they were walking for.  Without it even sinking into my head the meaning, I wrote my mom and dad’s name and stuck it on the front of my t-shirt.  My husband ran the 10K first, and I was going to “walk” the 5K with people from my work.  As the 5K started I found myself alone in the crowd not seeing anyone I knew.  No big deal, I started walking.  Looking down at my Garmin I was at about a 14 per minute mile pace.  I was feeling pretty good, not in too much pain and picked it up a little bit.  I slowly started jogging at a super slow pace after about ½ mile in.  It felt pretty good to get my heart rate up, the weather was perfect, and I was enjoying the beautiful campus of USF.  As I turned the corner to mile 1.5 I started feeling a little pain and was about to stop running.  That’s when everything in the world came full circle for me and my emotions slapped me in the face.  To my left I noticed the chemotherapy building where my mom would go for treatments.  Outside the building there were about 3-4 patients with IV’s hooked into their arms, standing there, clapping, and cheering on the runners and walkers.  That’s when it hit me.  I was in the exact place where my mom was when she got her treatments.  The place she dreaded coming to because it was on the other side of town where she lived and hated the traffic.  The place where she sat for hours at a time getting her treatment and seeing her doctors.  The place that did everything they could to try and save her life.  Flashes of memories started to hit me.  Me, wheeling my mom around her apartment complex in Virginia getting her fresh air.  My mom cooking breakfast every Sunday morning for my dad and the smell of bacon radiating through the house.  Thanksgiving with my family and the smell of fried oysters (it was our family tradition) and sweet potatoes radiating in my nose.  My dad coming home from work and the sound he made in the kitchen when he took off his shoes, and emptied his pockets on the counter.  The smell of his wallet.  My mom looking up at me from the hospice bed telling me she was scared.  The night my mom went into a coma and I had to open the “death box” hospice nurses place in your refrigerator just for that occasion.   For those of you who don’t know what this it, it’s a box the hospice nurse puts in your refrigerator and the care taker is instructed to not open it until a nurse gives you the okay.  It’s a small white cardboard box, sealed with a sticker which contains small vials, and random pills to make the patient comfortable during their “transition.”
I was about 3, my mom in the pink
and my dad holding my hands.

These memories and many more flooded my brain.  I didn’t realize I was beginning to run faster and my pace started to become a 10 min mile.  As I looked around trying to find relief and to get my mind off of my memories I started reading everyone’s stickers.  Who they were running for.  There was not one person who had an empty sticker.  I passed survivors, people who had lost their moms, dads, children, and other relatives through this crappy disease.  It occurred to me that everyone here had been through similar journeys as I had.  Their results may have all been different, worse, or better but in some way we were there together.  We were all walking and running to raise awareness for the disease.  At about mile 2.5 I was crying so hard I didn’t know if it were tears, sweat, asthma, or the sobs coming from my throat.  I have to admit that if you decide to have a breakdown, have it in the middle of the race because people will just assume you’re not in shape and are just wheezing and having trouble breathing because you’re running.  My lungs felt like they were on fire and at about mile 2.75 I wanted to stop running.  I kept going because of all the pain I was experiencing I kept thinking about the pain my mom went through as well as those around me.  I finished much faster than I had expected.  It wasn’t my fastest race ever, and it wasn’t my slowest.  

As I crossed the finish line I was speechless and had tears falling down my cheeks.  My husband instantly began barking at me “I told you not to run,” and “why do you do this to yourself” not realizing why I was crying.  After I caught my breath, and yes I was in pain, but was crying because of my emotions not from the hurt, I explained it all to him.  He hugged me, and we both walked to the car without saying a word.  He never had the opportunity to meet my parents but I know he would have loved them as his own.

My Sticker

So why do I run?  I run because it makes me feel good.  It makes me forget sad memories.  It makes me stronger inside.  When I run outside and on trails, sometimes I feel closer to my dad who loved to hunt and fish.  Sometimes it hurts to run, but that hurt reminds me that I am alive.  When I run long distances, the mental agony I go through is nothing compared to what I have gone through before.  When I run I feel alive.  The soreness is only temporary but the feeling a good long run provides is a euphoria for me to forget all the small problems I think I may have.  So regardless of how much I did not want to publish this post, I hope it helps.  Sometimes the reasons people run are not all positive.  Sometimes it’s to help them forget, and allows them to become stronger from every step they take.


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