Sunday, April 20, 2014

I imagined this night for many months, rehearsing in my head all the little things I would have to remember and wondering what it would feel like to be lying in bed, on the brink of running my first marathon. For the longest time it seemed rather incomprehensible, as I was still physically incapable, nowhere near my fundraising goal, and the brutal weather made spring seem like such a distant concept. Ironically, it was not until several weeks ago when it began to dawn on me how that distant fantasy had ever so slowly crept close enough to the point where I could began to envision it, almost just before it was all snapped away. I have often struggled to walk away from unfinished tasks, no matter how small or even unimportant to me. Way too often I'll be at work staining some mouse brains or whatever and realize that I am actually on the brink of peeing my pants, but I'll be damned if I let myself go to the bathroom before I am finished putting on these antibodies. And I don't even care about immunostaining (nor is it remotely time sensitive). So with this loss, I have never in my life felt such a sense of incompletion. It is highly unsettling, and unbearably distracting. I feel stuck, like I cannot move forward and tackle my next challenges--leaving my job, getting a new one, and finding a new apartment all within the next few months--until I have finished this. It is a new phenomenon for me to feel such stagnation, and finding the ability to let go and focus on new tasks has been annoyingly difficult, and thus far unsuccessful. What the heck am I going to do?

When we parked downtown to go to the expo today, it just so happened to that we found a spot on Commonwealth shortly after Mass Ave. As I headed to the convention center with a throng of relatives in tow, I found myself taking a right on Hereford and a left on Boylston. I wont pretend that many tears haven't already been shed over the past 2 weeks, and the bitterness of traversing these final turns of the course in my clunky boot on my way to collect a bib that I wont even use set the tone for a very difficult time at the expo. I felt so out of place in my stupid boot and dour mood, the sheer opposite of everyone around me. And I couldn't help but feel some resentment...I put in just as much work as everyone else, but nobody cares about someone who *almost* ran the Boston Marathon. The recognition is in the race, not the training, even though the race is the best part. At least I had a lovely conversation with the KT tape vendor, who read my cloudy expression and gave me two free rolls of Boston Strong tape.

Tomorrow, I wish all my friends and teammates the best of runs. Naturally, the weather looks perfect. I have decided to watch on Heartbreak Hill, and you should catch us on the left hand side (most likely), probably with an obnoxious amount of noise makers and some very glittery signs. I'll have my yellow Samaritans shirt on. I absolutely applaud everyone who has made the effort to partake in this amazing event, and I have loved training alongside you. Good luck!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dear Friends,

First and foremost, I want to thank all of you for your unwavering support during my training and fundraising process. You'll see that I just topped $12,000, which I honestly would have never thought possible. But you all made it happen! Another $500 to go, and I will have hit my new goal. At our team potluck last night, the staff from Samaritans expressed how absolutely impressed they are with the marathon team's record fundraising this year, and how incredibly important it is for the year's budget. Thank you so much.

I have a sad story to share.

Last Saturday evening, as I was puttering around my new apartment in my compression socks before bed, I took a bad step coming down our metal spiral staircase. My left foot took the brunt of the fall as it hit the railing, with the bar coming right in between my big toe and the one next to it. After an incredibly sleepless night, x-rays at Mt. Auburn Hospital confirmed what I had been dreading: that my big toe has been fractured. Two separate podiatrists, including a friend of Dr. Hagan who treats the Boston Celtics, have informed me that given the diagonal nature of the fracture, it is at risk for displacement. Additionally, it extends into the joint. With the race coming up on the 21st, there is not enough time for it to heal. I cannot run.

For the past 5 months, I have lived and breathed nothing but this marathon. I have prioritized training over my work, over my search for new jobs, over my social life, over sleep. Because I loved every minute of it, and because I knew that at some point it would pay off when the big day came, hard as it was to imagine when I was slogging along in the dark through the snow and ice and 5 degree wind. There has been nothing that I have worked for so hard and so long, nor something that I was more honored to take part in. To me, it would be my greatest accomplishment thus far in my life. There are no words for this kind of devastation, for how bitter a disappointment it is to have this taken away.

I am trying to my best to stay positive, but it is not easy. The warm weather has come swooping in to Boston right on cue for April, and spring has suddenly sprung. With it has come once again the memory of April three years ago when Nathaniel took his life. I have realized that I had been using the marathon as a replacement for my grieving, and it has helped me battle through a lot of emotional upset, both recent and old. To let that go merely days before the anniversary of his death feels like losing a piece of Nathaniel all over again. Nathaniel was always my main emotional support, as I shared with him all of my hardships and relied on his advice. Ironically, when he died, I needed his shoulder to cry on more than ever before. But I couldn't. Since his death, running has become my new way of coping with pain, and there is nothing I need more right now than to hit the road, breathe hard, and run out the pain of this loss. But I cannot, nor will I be able to for 6 to 8 weeks.

With the doctor's instructions to not work for 2 weeks, I have already had a significant amount of time to sit with my leg up and try to adjust to idea of cheering on my teammates from the sideline instead of running myself, as I had visualized it for many months. It is heartbreaking, but I am so thankful that I was at least able to do the 21-miler from Framingham, and how incredibly well it went for me. I am thankful that this injury will ultimately heal, and I will run again in time. I am thankful that I had such inspirational teammates to run with all winter, to keep me company and motivate me. I am thankful that I got to do almost all of the training, which is 99% of the experience anyway. I am thankful that I had this wonderful goal to get me through the winter much more gracefully than last year. But I really, really wanted to cross that finish line. I felt so ready. I WAS ready. Possibly more ready than I have ever been for anything in my life. Who knows, perhaps I will have it in me to train through another winter and try again next year, if I am given the opportunity.

I will leave you with a poem that my Aunt Pat sent to me last Christmas, which I have hung on my wall above my dresser to look at when I feel low. Thanks for your support, everyone. You all have been amazing.

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

    - Ellen Bass