In this Time
“Running away from your problems is a race you’ll never win.”- Ben Francia
When Luke Kibet won the inaugural Nashville marathon in April 2000, immediately upon crossing the finish line, he asked for tea. He wanted hot, hot tea. When asked by a reporter why hot tea was his requested drink of choice, Kibet replied by saying, “My body is hot, so why would I want to drink something cold?” I remember this because this request so struck me. Not only do I have a strong aversion to hot tea, but when I finished this same marathon, I immediately asked for a cold, cold beer.
November is upon us, and that always brings with it one of my fondest and most painful, literally painful, memories- the New York Marathon. I ran this race back in 2002 when I was living and working in NYC. During that time, my life was filled with running- Hard. Core. Running. I ran, and I ran, and I ran. I did one marathon, then I did another. And then another. And another. And as I look back on these years now, I can only wonder: what the hell was I running from?
A few weeks ago, I watched my daughter, Ellie, and her team compete at the middle school district cross country meet. As we watched our young athletes run, the other team moms and I reminisced about past running experiences. We’d all had very different relationships with running. Some had loved it. Some had trained for and competed in races. Some had hated it. Some had almost thrown up. Some had thrown up. Some had felt pride. Others said never again. And, for me, back in my running days, I’d said always, always, always again.
Running used to be a compulsion that began after my first marathon in 2000. I, along with Luke Kibet, ran the inaugural Nashville marathon. However, very unlike Mr. Kibet, I was unable to run the entire distance. I had to walk a few miles which made me feel very let down- by my own self. I finished that race in 4 hours and 29 minutes. I knew I could do better. One year later, I ran Nashville again and finished in 3:36, almost an entire hour faster. Still, I could still do better. 3:40 (Dallas) 3:36 (Austin), 3:35 (Boston), 3:36 (NYC) and 3:33 (San Diego). And I’m sure I would’ve kept going. But that’s when my cancer came in and slowed everything down. And, for that, I am grateful.
During my marathon days, I was so deep down my running rabbit hole that I never once stopped to ask myself- why? Why am I doing this? Why am I pushing my body so damn hard? Why am I needing more, faster, better, longer? Why can’t I stop running for my training- or, more importantly, why can’t I stop running away from my own life?
I’m a believer that disease is brought on by a perfect storm of conditions. I may never know some of the physical and/or biological factors that played into my cancer, but I do not doubt that emotional or past trauma played a considerable role. There was something or maybe even multiple somethings in my life that I was unwilling to face, so my body did the only thing it knew to do- it dropped the atomic bomb of cancer because that’s what it took to get me to stop and face what I’d never wanted to see. Here I am now, all these years later, still stopped. And still facing. And now always doing my best to keep seeing.
I still run- but my runs now are my time. My runs are for me. They are my sacred space to think and pray and feel. I may go two miles, some days three. Many days, I say no to the run altogether, choosing instead to rest. See, now, I listen to my body. I check in with it and ask if it’s tired or run down or feeling strong or weak. I’ve tried to honor myself, my body, by asking and requesting instead of telling and forcing. Today, I am more comfortable sitting still in the silence, and I am mostly willing to listen to whatever comes up.
Now, I’m in no way trying to imply this transformation has been easy. In fact, facing these fears and learning how to sit in my truth and connect my body/mind/soul has quite possibly been scarier and more difficult than all the cancer treatments combined. Facing the reality of our lives can be terrifying. Still, I believe it’s one of the most courageous things we will ever do and that it is absolutely essential to complete healing.
And even though I do still hold firm in my dislike for hot tea, I now recognize that my decision to go for the cold beer was one I knew my body wanted so I therefore trusted that choice to grab the Miller Lite. And finally, all these years later, I am realizing that the memory of the hot tea stuck with me because that moment reflected not who I was but rather who I was not. Because, over the years, learning who I am not has served to show me even more clearly who I actually am.
And, the shocking thing in all of these learnings, is that I actually kinda love the other previously unrecognized half of me. So, in an effort to honor this newfound body I’m living in, these days, instead of letting my mind always lead the way, I am now constantly reminding myself that what my mind wants and what my body needs may not always be the same thing. Because, as I now know, the body is worth trusting. The body has truth in it before the mind really knows. And when I look back, this makes sense because, for years, my body had been running away from life before my mind even knew there’d a reason to run.
I doubt I’ll ever run a race again but, if I did, I’d like to think that upon crossing the finish line, if I were to be given the choice between hot tea and an ice-cold beer, I’d make the choice based on what my body needed that day. If I wanted the cold beer, I would trust that. I’d have that. I’d embrace that. And I’d enjoy that. And, if I shocked myself and craved a steaming hot earl grey tea, well, I’d just have to get past that shock embrace that as well. Because now, I am asking and listening and acknowledging and honoring.
Today, my race is my own. I’m now living life in my own time. My personal records no longer have hours and minutes attached because I now know my body doesn’t want to break time. My body only wants to be well and good right here, right now, in this moment, in this time. And when my mind wants to race ahead and gets disconnected from my body, well, no one ever said life was easy. But I would argue that it’s always one hell of a run.
Or a jog.
Or a rest.
Or a cold, cold beer.
In love and hope,