I’m running the NYC Marathon on November 5, for the 4th time.
When I got in through the lottery in March, this Sunday seemed not months, but years away.
My mom was several months out from a major emergency surgery she had in December, and she was still struggling, but she’d been so resilient the first time around that I was sure she’d come out on the other side again.
I hoped that calling her and telling her about the marathon would excite her, would give her something to look forward to, to rally for, to channel her energy into getting better for.
As I sat in that sunny booth at work, I waited to hear some glimmer of the mom I knew coming out, to say that of course she’d be at the marathon. It scared me to think that she might not, but I never, ever thought it would be because she didn’t live long enough to see it. That happens to old ladies, right? Nope, cancer knows no age. My mom was 72. Two years ago, she ran all over the city with my friends, even as the cancer was growing within her.
As she got more and more sick and the end came into sight, I pushed down the thoughts of her not being there when/if I get married one day (those are entirely too painful to think about). But it became apparent that I would run the marathon this year and she wouldn’t be there, and that made me cry harder than most other scenarios I discussed with friends or my therapist.
I started running for me, but in some ways, I think I ran the marathon to make her proud, for that moment of watching her beaming from the sidelines, a very real and tangible display of her love and pride. In a world where so much is unsure, I thought my mom waiting for me on the sidelines was a sure thing and not such a big thing to ask for.
She passed away on July 8, and after a summer of grief and attempts at self-preservation, I didn’t start “training” until Labor Day-ish. When the race was about 8 weeks out, I decided I had to make a decision. I’d miraculously gotten in through the lottery and had committed to raise money for the Junior League. It’s difficult for me to sit out the race in most years, and I knew I’d feel awful on quite a few levels if I didn’t run.
So I “trained” very casually, just trying to make sure I got into double digit runs, and I made my best attempts at increasing mileage. I never made it more than 17 miles, though I did that twice.
Part of me knows I should be OK getting through (that is my only goal); part of me thinks I’m an idiot for attempting to do this on such limited training. I’m trying to remember “whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” Part of me, honestly, isn’t that excited and doesn’t even really want to run it right now.
I’m hoping that the energy of the expo and the weekend will carry me.
I’m terrified of going to the brunch I last attended with my mama, though I’m surrounding myself with friends to hold my hand during the inevitable tears.
I’m searching for the strength I found two weekends ago. That resilience of facing down the toughest year of my life and still fighting through a race.
I mean, if Jordan Hasay could come in third at Chicago after losing her mom, I can finish, right?
And yes, I know she’ll “still be watching in a different way,” but I just want her here with me for a hug.