Friday, April 12, 2013

Running the Risks

"Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up." ~ Dean Karnazes 
So, on Wednesday, April 10th, I withdrew from the 117th Boston Marathon. I also put my 16 1/2 year old Aussie-Samoyed mix, Willa, and my most loyal and steady running partner ever, to sleep after 6+ months of doggie hospice.


It's been a bad week. It's been a very, very bad week, and I don't see much light at the end of the tunnel right now. I know there's light there, but I just can't see it yet.

Right now I should be getting ready to travel to Boston. Right now I should be feeling excited and nervous. Right now should not be what it is - but that's what it is. This reality is not what I had in mind.

Many people have commented that Boston isn't the big deal. Boston will still be there. It's just running, after all, and there is more to life than running. All true statements.

But losing my best friend??? Now that IS the big deal.  She was my steady running partner for 12 solid years, through all types of weather, day in and day out, 50 miles a week for 12 stinking years (and she still ran with me more sporadically until about a year ago)!  That loss is the real loss.

But here's the thing: I know Willa lived a good, long life. The last year has been rough, for her, for us, and we tried to do everything we could for her. The degenerative, incurable disease that hit her seemed just so unfair - but she maintained an amazing, positive attitude through it all - she rolled with it. She enjoyed what she could still enjoy, and accepted her lot in life in a way that I don't think I ever could. I admire that determined, strong, stubborn, willful beast for her ability to stay positive when she could no longer walk. No longer run. No longer do much of what she enjoyed. And yet, she seemed to still find something worth living for. I saw it in her eyes.

But then, something turned. I don't know what it was. There was a new level of frustration she seemed to show. And at 2 a.m., in the darkness of a restless night, as she and I tossed and turned, and thrashed, and gnashed our teeth at the unfairness of the universe, I realized that the time had come. I really don't know why it hit me at that moment - but my heart began to beat out of my chest, and I sobbed for the next 3 hours, having made the decision.

But here's the thing about all of that - We knew that was coming. We knew that was the inevitable end we were going to reach at some time. That is where that path necessarily led. I miss her terribly, but death is part of life.

But Boston - here the path I THOUGHT I was on was not to be. We all know that there are no guarantees with training and racing - We do what we can, but somethings are out of our control. Weather, sickness, injury...these things happen, for better or worse. By all accounts, I was on the path to a PR at Boston. All my training indicated that if the race came on a good day, I would be ready.

And then I turned onto a different path.

And here's the hard part for me to accept - I made that turn. It didn't happen "to me". I made a choice - a bad choice - and in one moment of thoughtless action, 4 months of training seemed to disappear without a trace. I know, intellectually, that that is not the truth - but that's how it feels right now.

And so today, I am not getting ready to leave for Boston. I am not feeling excited and nervous - I am not feeling alive in that electric way I do before a big race - all of that is not to be. I get that we all run these risks when playing this game, but I don't have to like it when things fall apart.

For now, I am in the pit of despair - but this too will pass - and I will again run the risks of training again, because that's just what we do...

10 comments:

  1. I am so sorry for that tough decision you had to make about Willa. It truly is a heart breaker.

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  2. I'm so sorry about Willa. I'm also sorry to hear that you're having a tough time in other areas, which must make it even harder. Wishing you strength and healing.

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  3. I'm so sorry about the loss of your faithful running partner.
    In training and life we all do silly/ quirky things. It's what makes life fun and interesting. If you weren't out there pushing yourself with your friend each and everyday you would have never qualified for Boston.
    I hope your body and heart heal soon.

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  4. Well, what a suck-y week! I am really sorry about your pup. And I had been looking forward to your Boston report (long time lurker) I don't really have anything encouraging to say - just wanted you to know that I feel your pain.

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  5. Oh no. This is terribly sad actually heart wrenching on so many accounts. I am so sorry to hear about Willa. I can relate to what you went through so closely it's frightening. Our 12 year old big boy Mats is also in his final stretch and it's horribly sad. We actually had several dates picked out to have him put to "sleep" but he keeps proving our hypothesis wrong, hence he is still with us. It's taxing emotionally and it's no easy job being a caretaker to a sick 90 lb. dog but you know, that's what we do.

    I hear the weather this year in Boston is horrible. Consider yourself lucky, next year you can run with Fay and me and I'll even do my best to bring some nice weather with me to Beantown (however be forewarned that I hale from Chicago).

    Sure it sucks that you are not going this year but it is so true that there is always next year. That you can count on... besides you and I both know how quickly time flies, it will be here in no time. Focus on getting better and stronger. Take it easy.. hah, well "easy" by your standards. You don't want to end up sidelined during prime season.

    Sending hugs and well wishes your way!!

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    1. As far as doggie hospice, and that seems to be what you are in the midst of, I so understand the difficulty. The whole situation is so sad because you know where it all leads, but at the same time you feel the need to respect this desire to fight - which Willa stoically maintained for months. She had no use of her rear legs for the past 10 months! So caring for her was a huge job - but we did it, and sometimes it was hard - and you start beating yourself up for hating the whole thing. We too waited for Willa to decide - and I think the two of us decided together - but it's always a judgement call - and there will always be doubts: Did we wait too long??? Did we fail to wait long enough??? Why am I keeping her here...Is it for me or for her??? I so understand what you are going through!

      And as far as Boston...I am sad. This is a hard time, but it really is just a race through Mass ;) It's the hype that's hard to take...when you are supposed to be there, but you are not there.

      Time to start thinking about Chicago in the fall and Boston...next April!
      xo C

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    2. Yes, we are in the midst of hospice and I guess it's like being in purgatory. Altho if all days were bad then we would know that it's "time" and that's not the case. However I think we are creeping closer as he is severely losing his ability to use his back legs and has no bowel control. I have to give him the heave ho to help him get up and many times he just gets "stuck". Awwwe :-(

      Anyhoo thanks for your reply and know that my thoughts are with you. I know this is an incredibly trying time. I don't pray much, I'm not religious but I do reflect and a lot and most of my reflecting occur while I'm running in the wooded trails around my home. That being said, I completely empathize with you for being unable to run comfortably at the moment.

      I saw this one today and thought of you and my partner Jen who is going out of her mind nursing a hip flexor injury:

      "If you aim for a lifetime of running, you will hit bumps on the road. The challenges we each encounter are uniquely ours, but they will come. We all have good years and bad. Shift happens. Life requires us to make adjustments, to change course. Some years, when the waters of your life are calm and you feel a sense of control at the helm, you'll race hard, and hope for personal bests. Other years, beset by a perfect storm of turbulence, you'll have to settle for less. That's okay. Less is still something; just don't surrender and abandon ship."
      ~Amby Burfoot

      I look forward to hearing about your progress. I'm out for Chicago, it's gotten too big and too cosmopolitan. I'm glad I did it the 3x that I did but now it's time to blaze some new trails. Hope to see you next year in Boston.

      Best, xo

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  6. My heart goes out to you and I would do exactly the same, not run the race if I lost my running partner. I run with my dog, I know how you feel. I've lost many of my best four legged friends. It's what we have to accept when we love them as much as we do. The pain is almost unbearable right now but with each new day, you will heal. We have to cherish the memories and how blessed we were that they were part of our lives.
    So sorry.

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    1. I have to say, if I wasn't injured it would be incredibly healing to run in her memory, because that's what we did together when she was well. The joy and freedom she expressed when running often pulled me out of my more funky days. I wish I had running to help me do that right now. I wish that I could run with her spirit! I have been here before. This is the way life goes with out beloved pets and we must accept that when we enter into the relationship. And I do accept it. But it would be nice if I could run Boston for her, with her running again, freely, like she used to do as if it was what she was always meant to do...

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  7. I am so sorry for both of your losses. Yes, Boston is just a race, but you worked very hard and then to get injured in the final stretch is so disappointing. I am sorry. Most of all, I am so sad for you and the loss of your Willa. We lost our girl a week before this past Christmas. I am still heartbroken and often stop in the middle of my runs to sit and cry and miss her. One of the most comforting comments someone made to me after her death was that she had a good life and that we made her so happy EVERY SINGLE DAY. I don't know you and I don't know Willa, but from the way your describe your relationship, I am sure that is true of her as well. Sending you lots of gentle thoughts for a peaceful weekend.

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