Earlier this week I made one of the hardest decisions (but really a decision that required no thought) in my adult life. I cancelled my flight to my Aunt’s funeral. The moment my father-in-law started hospice care, I knew I needed to be here. I needed to be here to take care of my boys so my husband could spend his time as needed. I’ve had every single emotion about this decision from anger to selfishness to selflessness. I’ve felt cheated for not being able to go even though there was no way anyone could convince me to leave. When discussing these feelings with a friend, she suggested I do my long run on Friday during my Aunt’s funeral. She suggested I dedicate every mile to a memory of my Aunt. That simple suggestion saved me. Thank you Sara.
I ran 18 miles yesterday. This is the furthest I’ve ever run. This is the run that sent me to the doctor with a stress fracture last training cycle. After my 17 mile broken run last week, I needed this run to be good. I needed this run to feel strong. I needed this run to heal. This run did not let me down. It was the best run of my life. I ran smart. I finished strong. Miles felt easy. My Aunt carried me. This run wrapped its arms around me and soothed every inch of my body and every exposed emotion. Every time my watch beeped, I thought of a memory of my Aunt.
Mile 1 – The day I meet her in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We sat around the kitchen table with her mom, step dad, and my dad. I was a teenager. Everyone talked and shared about their lives. This afternoon healed so many of my teenage insecurities. It gave me the courage to embrace my identity. It made me feel at home.
Mile 2 – My senior year of high school my Aunt was living in Charleston, South Carolina. On a weekend trip with my mom, we went to visit. I bought my prom dress on that visit while shopping in historic Charleston.
Mile 3 – On that same visit, I was exposed to her wonderfully artsy family. Her family was built on music. She showed me a love for this world that forever changed my life.
Mile 4 – During college, my Aunt flew in town to visit. I picked her up at the airport. We sat in my parents’ backyard by the pool soaking up the sun because of her allergies to cats. My parent’s big fat black and white cat was the enemy to her allergies. Because she couldn’t spend too much time inside, we enjoyed the entire afternoon in the sun.
Mile 5 – Being pregnant with Cole at the same time as both my Aunts. Beth’s daughter came first. Two months later was Cole. Six weeks later, Amy had Liam.
Mile 6 – Living in Nashville, my aunt was a now a few hour drive away in St. Louis. Her family all lived in Nashville too. Sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table that was so perfectly set by her mom.
Mile 7 – Cole was just a young baby when I lived in Nashville. My Aunt and her sister were the first people to make me feel comfortable breast-feeding in public. What a gift!
Mile 8 – Her middle son’s birthday party at her parent’s house. The pool was so cold, but all our kiddos insisted on swimming.
Mile 9 – Her laugh. I could hear her laughing on the quiet trails. I was half way into my run, and I swear her laughter was in the trees.
Mile 10 – Going out on Thanksgiving night after searching and searching for good live music. We settled on 3rd and Lindsley downtown. We sat at the bar enjoying a drink, and (GASP!!!) smoking cigarettes.
Mile 11 – PeePee Boy. Enough said!!!!!!
Mile 12 – Paolo Nutini Concert in Indianapolis. Swoon!
Mile 13 – The phone call from my Aunt Beth that Amy was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. Sitting and waiting for her to get out of the surgery that seemed to last a lifetime and hearing the good news that they got it all. Celebrating her being Cancer free!!
Mile 14 – More concerts in Indianapolis. Over indulging in things we shouldn’t be indulging in. And her so gracefully passing out into my boyfriend’s arms. Even then she was graceful. Always graceful.
Mile 15 – The email from her (now living outside London) to tell me she had breast cancer. I ran a half marathon I wasn’t prepared for five days later. I cried the whole race. A week later, I signed up to run my first marathon in her honor and in the honor of my father-in-law who had hit a bad patch in his treatment. I never ran that race due to a stress fracture. The marathon this time will be so much more than a race for me.
Mile 16 – Our phone call together the night after I meet my husband. Sharing all the “I love him” details with her while she gushed on the other side of the phone.
Mile 17 – Introducing her to my husband! Having Christian say to me “I totally understand why you love her so much. You make sense with her.”
Mile 18 – Our last visit together. She was in town for Thanksgiving while I was pregnant with Chet. Sitting on the couch while she felt my baby move.
18 miles wasn’t enough. I finished my run with a huge smile on my face. I felt like I could keep on going. I had so many more memories to remember. My aunt carried me on Friday. I had 18 happy miles with a huge smile on my face. I love her so much. I will always love her. I will miss her so much, but I know I will always find her on the trails. She knows that the trails are the home for my heart. She will find me there.
18.06 miles in 3:07: 43 (10:24 pace) on my favorite city streets, over the Chesapeake bay, and on my favorite trails.
Two more long runs, two more fall back weeks, and a taper is all that is left of this training cycle. Marathon Day is going to be so bitter sweet this year knowing I signed up for my first marathon to honor my Aunt and my father-in-law. I always thought they’d be cheering me on during my race. My father-in-law was admitted to the hospital last night. His body is in renal failure. Our time left with him is so limited. Marathon Day will be all about honoring both of them.