I questioned my decision to watch the Carmel Marathon from the sidelines this morning, partly in fear that I was missing precious time to process the coming life change so close to my surgery date, but also fearing that being at a race that I can’t run might do more to bring down my spirits rather than lift them up. Then I thought about my teammates and friends toeing the line, facing their own battles, and knew that I needed to absorb myself in the race environment and enjoy their moments while I had the opportunity. I knew once I got to the race the distraction would be worth it. And it absolutely was.
I mechanically followed my previous race routines, getting up stupidly early (despite NOT needing to prepare), consuming only enough coffee to fire up the engine, parked strategically away from the crowds and walked to the race start as the sun pulled up the night curtain. Instead of beginning my warmup, however, I walked back and forth nervously, looking for teammates or friends to offer encouragement before they took off down the course.
I can only remember one other time I’ve attended a race as a spectator instead of a participant, so it was definitely interesting to watch from this vantage point. I, fortunately, had injured teammates accompanying me on the side to talk to and cheer with. The conversations about my cancer and impending surgery date 2 days away were, fortunately, quite brief and basic, allowing me to stay absorbed in the race environment that feels so natural, so comforting. We talked mainly about injuries, team member fitness, potential competition, and other typical race talk. The excitement and atmosphere was so consuming that, besides the brief surgery discussions and a handful of painful surges in my abdomen, I didn’t feel all that broken. Of course, knowing that I couldn’t run even 800 meters of the 26+ miles some of them were about to begin wasn’t lost on me, but at least I could push it away for a few hours.
The race ended, well, at least for my teammates, and we went about recapping the performances, congratulating races run well, course records broken, and just being out there in the attempt. I fed off their excitement and with little fanfare or sadness said some goodbye’s as if we would meet again on the Tuesday night workout. But of course…our next Tuesday run is going to be awhile.
I walked back to my car, uploaded some race photos from my phone, and let the race environment melt away. Predictably, I found myself facing another empty, slowly passing span of time and the near physical wall that divides my life between Sunday night and Monday morning, one side marked by partial ability and movement and the other consumed with mostly unknowns, but undoubtedly a forced passivity. I just sat there, debating my next destination and what would most effectively consume my thoughts and pass the time, wear out the clock like I was in the midst of a marathon.
And as these hours wear on, allowing anything to absorb my thoughts and seemingly speed the process to get to the hospital feels crucial right now. The waiting is painful. I’m just done now. I’m done processing. I’m done with the inconveniences and growing pains of eating. I’m done with the not knowing of what is to come. I just want to get to the hospital, let them do their work and wake me up in my new life, so I can start my own process of getting back to the life I envision, however that might play out in the context of so many unknowns.
There isn’t much more I can offer right now really. I feel like a wild animal, resigned to its fate and sitting passively, letting the process of dying consume them…except I’m not waiting for the dying to consume me, but rather the final moment when I can walk into the hospital in one form and walk out another. I just want to get there. I’m slowly shutting down, as the clock ticks on….just waiting. That’s all. Not starting any projects. Not thinking into the future. Not planning many moves. Just waiting…that’s all.
Or maybe I’m not like a dying animal. Maybe I’m like a marathon runner…standing on the start line with little movement, not taking any run outs, not jogging one more lap around the staging area, but instead conserving every last precious bit of energy that will be needed before the fight begins, ensuring I have enough to get me to the end. It’s the calm before the storm, as the nervousness, tension and intensity builds at the very last minute, when it’s needed most. Maybe right now I’m in the calm….and maybe tomorrow I’ll look at the storm and instead of cowering under its menacing, ominous clouds, I’ll wait for the shout to begin….and start my run, head on and all out, to get through the violent winds as quickly as I can and find the sun on the other side.
But right now I wait, at the start line, conserving energy, looking for the sun through the darkened clouds. I’m anxious, but I’m not scared. This is just one more physical fight, one more race, one more finish line to reach. I’ll see you there.