Sunday, August 30, 2015

And Now For Something Completely Different

Fellow Queens,
Some of you might remember that a million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I completed my first marathon. It was 2 days after my mother's death, a total blur, but I finished. The 10th anniversary is upon us and I have signed up to run again, only a half marathon this time. The forms ask why you are signing up. I'm sending this link, its the best answer I have. 
Thanks for indulging me.
Go chase those boys!
Queen Linda

My body is a temple.  And not the temple of doom.
I was a late bloomer to physical fitness.  I had an idyllic childhood spent exploring creeks and riding my bike through the neighborhood without a helmet.  We played on Clifton Avenue until the street light came on signaling our return to the house for bedtime.  We weren’t involved in the organized sports that now over-schedule our children and provide an avenue for parents who through their kids wish to re-create their glory days on the pitching mound.  When my children ask me what the name of my T-ball team was, the All Stars or maybe the Wildcats they guess, I tell them we didn’t have a name and that our roster was made up of whoever was around.
My junior year of high school I started walking through the neighborhood after dinner and homework.  I had one mile route where I regularly saw a lady walking her yippy dog and the wheezing jogger guy.  I used the time to think, decompress and try to push aside racing thoughts about grades, boys and the looming SAT test.  I got faster as I later continued my walks at the athletic center of the university I attended.  I remember one guy incredulous at the fact that I could walk faster thank he could run.
After college my exercise consisted of navigating the streets of Manhattan and later chasing my kids. Four years ago a YMCA opened in our neighborhood.  I realized that after three pregnancies and a combined two years of nursing that my body was mine, mine, mine!  And it was time to whip it into shape. 
I started slowly, 20 minutes on the treadmill, a half an hour on the stationary bike and then worked up the guts to take a step class and body sculpting class.  I got toned, lost some the last niggling baby weight pounds and could choose to take a nap when the baby went down instead of involuntarily crashing along with him.  I was feeling good.  Then came the dare.
After congratulating my fellow gym rats on their latest marathon finish one spandex clad goddess said, “I bet you could run a marathon.”
“Can not!”
“Can to!”
I sounded like a six year old. 
“You could and you know you could,” was her parting shot.
Me?  A marathoner?  They had to be joking.  I had never run in my life, except when being chased.  I don’t want to do something I like for five hours never mind something I loathe.  I am in my forties, for goodness sake, and I happen to be very fond of my knees the way they are thank you very much.
But the seed had been planted.  It was nurtured by a group of fabulous marathon mommas, my husband and my three boys.  If they all said I could do it, that they would support me, and me being the kind of person that hates to lose a bet, I decided to do it.
We started training in May, six months before the race.  Following the bizarrely named fartleks method the plan was to run four minutes then walk one as we built up the mileage over the weeks.  Our runs took place early on Sunday mornings first through the neighborhood then around Dallas’ White Rock Lake.  I think what kept me going we the deepening friendship with my four fellow weekend warriors.  I had known Meg for years; she and I had walked a previous half marathon together.  Mary and Brenda had boys who attended the same school as my oldest son; Lisa what a good friend of theirs.  Our runs became a forum to re-hash the week, ask advice and laugh a lot.  Our runs morphed from simply catching up to school concerns to frank advice about aging parents and religious platforms.  It wasn’t simply a long workout anymore; it was an hour’s long therapy session.  We all felt rejuvenated, healthier and confident in following my gut.
    Three weeks before the race I got a call from my sister saying that my Dad had brought Mom to the hospital.  No need to go up to Tulsa he reassured me.  Everything would be fine. They were just running tests.  I wanted so much to believe that that I stayed put, reassured late that night by another good test result.  The next morning was a big run, 18 miles, two times around the lake.  I checked in with Dad after the first loop.  Mom had a good night he reported and they were on their way to the hospital to see her. When I told him I was half way through my workout he told me I was crazy and should go back to bed.  After the second loop I checked my voice mail, my sister had called, Mom was on life support.  My friends watched me alternately keen and walk in circles in the parking lot as I got the details, assuring my hysterical sister that it would be all right.
“I’ve got to go, I gotta go,” I kept repeating.  I insisted on driving the three minute trip to my house with Mary riding shotgun.  The only thing I remember was her saying, “Taking that turn a little fast.”  I was in such a hurry to leave that after I insisted that I didn’t even have time for a shower Mary said, “For everyone involved, please take one.” As I washed away the morning’s workout, they finished packing my bag.  After Brenda led a quick prayer in my driveway I was off.
The next three weeks were spent in the ICU vortex.  You don’t know what day it is, what time it is.  You just sit, keep vigil and wait for the inevitable end.  Mom died two days before the race. 
I decided to run.  The staid statement - Mom would have wanted me to - doesn’t work here.  Mom briefly did Jazzercise and after that thought that serious workouts do your body more harm than good.  Then again she was the kind of woman that, if she wished, could talk you into believing that cigarettes were good for you.  I truly imagined her, with heavenly bourbon in hand, laughing her head off at me. 
While my sisters shopped for an urn I started the race.  My friends figuratively carried me across the miles.  My husband and kids cheered along the way, my 4 year old running along side me until he was out of my husband’s view and then turned back.  With one mile to go I spotted the finish line.  “I’m going!” I threw over my shoulder to my friends as I pulled ahead.  I thought about Mom’s departure from this world, the soaring peace she must have felt at the end, finally free from tubes and monitors.  I imagine that she raced to it.  My paced picked up and I began to sprint trying to match the speed she must have flown at.  I thought that if I went fast enough I could insure her serenity, if I went fast enough I could mistakenly dodge the looming grief.  I crossed the finish line at full speed and into my husband’s arms.  I looked over and saw my Dad, kids, sisters, nieces and nephews beaming at me.  The race was over, my goal achieved. 
Completing that marathon turned out to be so much more than just achieving a goal toward a healthy lifestyle.  I got to deepen friendships, feel the never ending support of my family and face loss. 
Yes, my body is a temple and in it reside love, support and Mom.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Tears-very beautiful and profound-thanks for sharing.