I didn’t read the course map…

This Sunday was a big deal for me, personally.  I completed my first half-marathon.  13.1 miles.

This is a big deal because I only took control of my health about a year ago.  Growing up I was always athletic, I was on the swimming team in high school and I worked out often.  When Tanner was diagnosed, I was so (obviously) completely engrossed in his care, that I had absolutely no time for myself, nor did I care what I looked like, how I felt, what I was wearing, what I ate… For a year I ate quite my fair share of chicken nuggets and smiley face fries off the food cart at the hospital.  Taking care of your child, when he has cancer, doesn’t leave for a lot of gym time.  There are lengthy hospital stays, tests, weekly blood work, and then the forced isolation, living in fear of outside germs and what could be a potentially fatal infection.  So, like I said, I let myself go.  I lived in sweats with my hair pulled back and rarely worried about anything other than what Tanner needed.

Fast forward, it’s been two years since he passed, and I was really feeling like crap.  I knew I had to get active again, so I changed my lifestyle, became gluten-free at my doctor’s advice and started running.  Mind you I couldn’t run to the end of my driveway when I started, but I kept at it.  It took me a year to get up to 6 mile runs, and now I can say I have a half-marathon under my belt.  13.1 miles.  Running has been a really great outlet for me – it helps me get into shape but it’s also my therapy.  I mean, when you’re out there for 13 miles, you have no choice but to be inside your own head, working through all kinds of things that bother you.  There is something about exhausting yourself physically that makes you feel better mentally too – something about pounding the pavement that helps get your aggressions out.  I have really fallen in love with running for this reason… it is my time with me.

I have run a few races over this past year, and I’m not sure why, but I have never read the course map before the race.  Maybe I don’t want to psych myself out, but I just don’t look at it.  So, for this half marathon, I didn’t look at it.  I knew the race started and ended in Eisenhower Park, but that’s all I knew.  My plan was to keep up with my friend Donna, who was pacing me, and just keep going until I finish.  (good plan, huh?).  So, we started.

Around mile 9.5, I realized we were about to turn onto Old Country Road, where the cemetery is – where Tanner is.  When I realized this, I got a little nervous.  I said to my friend Donna, “I didn’t read the course map!”.  Not realizing why I was saying this she cheerfully said back “neither did I, we’re doing great!”.  I said “no, we’re going to run past Tanner”.  As we turned the corner, Donna said to me “he is here, momma, he is running the sidelines next to you this whole time!  Think of how proud he is of you!”.  We both had goosebumps all over our bodies while we ran that long stretch down Old Country Road, past the cemetery.  I could practically see him, running next to me, cheering me on.  That’s what he would be doing if he was here, if he was healthy… As I pictured him there, my throat closed right up and I had a hard time breathing… I had to really focus and calm myself and for a minute I thought that might be the end of the race for me.  I couldn’t go another step.  Then, like I often do while I’m running, I thought of everything he endured.  All the chemo treatments, the needle sticks, the radiation, the steroids, the swelling, the nausea, the anesthesia, the finger pricks, the blood pressures (he hated that blood pressure cuff!)… and I kept putting one foot in front of the other because I was just running.  There is no pain comparable to what a child dealing with cancer has to go through.  So, with my angel running next to me, I kept going, and I finished that race with a smile – and my husband and my little Chase were there waiting for me at the finish line, proud.

I kept thinking I wish I had read the course map, so I would’ve known about running past the cemetery.  Like if I knew about it, I would’ve been prepared for it, and not been so emotional.  But as I was thinking about it more I realized – it wouldn’t have made a difference.  You aren’t any more prepared for a race reading the course map then you are for life.  You don’t get a course map for life, you don’t know what the next minute will throw your way.  You have to take the course as it is thrown at you, all the hills and obstacles, and do your best with it.  You can be living in a perfect bubble and the next day your kid has cancer.  It’s like running past the cemetery.  You can’t breathe, you can’t move, you can’t even imagine how you will go on.  You can’t see the finish line and you think you’re just going to die.  But somehow, you put one foot in front of the other and do what you need to do, because you have no other choice.

I didn’t choose this life, and I certainly wish it could’ve been different.  I wish it was the way I had envisioned it, with my happy healthy family all intact and smooth sailing down a straight road with no obstacles.  But, that wasn’t my course map.  I overcame the obstacles of my first half-marathon, and I will continue on the crazy course of my life, because I have no other choice and I have a beautiful family, including my angel Tanner, who needs me to do just that.

Why do I run? Not just because I want to be in shape. I run because it helps me overcome obstacles.  Much bigger obstacles than just a few hills and some distance.  It helps me see the bigger picture.

We’re all in a race in this life, and we all have obstacles.  Just make sure you take the time to see why you’re running.

Love,
Tanner’s Momma

First half-marathon, completed.  10-6-13

First half-marathon, completed. 10-6-13

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Responses:

  1. This entry hits me so close to home – thank you so much for writing it! I was at the race yesterday, cheering on a friend of mine who was running in honor of my daughter Quinn who passed away in August from a very rare, always fatal genetic illness Niemann-Pick Disease Type A. I am currently battling breast cancer myself – 3 weeks out from my double mastectomy, waiting to hear when I start chemo – and when my friend crossed the finish line I promised my daughter, myself and my friend that I would run the Diva 5k next year. We go on because we have to – that was the truest line in this essay. I wish we both could have had a different course map – but you are a tremendous inspiration to me to just keep going. Congratulations, and thank you.

    Comment by Eileen Linzer on October 7, 2013 at 10:09 pm

  2. Thankyou for your kind words Eileen. I have heard Quinn’s story, actually, through a friend in the nypd. My very best wishes to you and my love and prayers to you and your family as well. Hope to see you out on the course next year. Xo

    Comment by Tanner's Momma on October 8, 2013 at 2:21 am

  3. This is such a beautiful blog post –it’s really so much more than that! For me, it’s a reminder to be thankful for all that I have. I am truly blessed! Thank you for sharing this — I got goosebumps when you said you got goosebumps. Powerful words from a powerful woman! Keep running!!

    Comment by Christina on October 7, 2013 at 10:56 pm

  4. Thankyou, Christina! I will keep running 🙂

    Comment by Tanner's Momma on October 8, 2013 at 2:19 am

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