Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Little Perspective

Saturday, September 25, I participated in the Texas PurpleStride 5K benefiting the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  I signed up in April, sent out e-mails requesting donations, recruited others to run, and trained with the goal of actually running every step of the 5K.  It wasn't my first ever 5K, but it was my first one since gaining back and re-losing 100+ pounds.  I was running in memory of my dear friend and co-worker Mark H-H who was ripped from his friends and family and lost his battle to Pancreatic Cancer in January 2008, just 3 months after diagnosis.

For months I focused on dieting, exercising, training, running, losing weight, etc.  For months I focused on ME.  I got frustrated when the scale didn't move in the right direction or didn't move fast enough.  I complained about running and how hard it was for me.  I whined and complained and bitched and moaned.  I even cried a time or two as I struggled to lose weight and get in the physical shape such that I could "run" and entire 5K.

Saturday came, and I wasn't really sure if I was going to be able to run every step or not.  I drove to the race site in my newly acquired purple shirt, easily found a place to park, and located some of my friends that were doing the race with me.

There were tons of people in purple shirts, vendors, a silent auction, food, coffee (from none other than John Dixson, Retro's very own "Coffee Guy"), etc.  There was a wall with paper and markers for people to write messages in honor and memory of friends and loved ones.  There were signs participants could fill out indicating for whom they were running.  There were survivors and family and friends of victims of pancreatic cancer.  Mark's lovely wife Melanie and his adorable children Emma & Rachel were there as well.

It was pretty much your standard 5K.

I've done 5K's, bike rides, triathlons, etc.  I've raised money for said events.  I've just paid my entry fee and participated in said events, skipping the fundraising part.  I've sponsored friends and family members in many such events.  I've never been so directly touched or so deeply moved by such an event.

The day was, of course, filled with thoughts of Mark.  I was not really prepared for how emotional running this particular 5K would be.

It wasn't as hot as it had been, but it was still pretty warm, and there was no shade on the course.  There were lots of participants who were walking, lots of participants with dogs and/or strollers.  It was pretty crowded - especially getting started.  I crossed the starting line a few seconds after the starting gun, clicked the start button on my HRM and started running.

I'm slow.  That isn't new.  That isn't different.  I kept repeating my running affirmations to myself:  "I am light on my feet.  I love to run."  That still doesn't really work.  I kept moving one foot in front of the other.  As usual, about 2 minutes into the endeavor, I was already tired, already panting, and already wondering if it would be OK to go ahead and walk now.  I kept going.

At about the 1 mile mark, I felt better than usual.  Maybe I am getting better at this.  I kept going.

The course was a loop around the Hill Country Galleria.  We had to run around the loop 2.5 times.  So, there was a point where I could have totally cheated and gone way less than 5K.  I didn't do that.  I kept going.

Sometime before the 2 mile mark I started fading.  That's when it hit me.  Mark is dead.  I'm here running.  I have a great life, a great husband, two great kids.  I'm tired and sweating and struggling to get fit and lose weight, but I'm alive.  Mark is dead.  This is nothing.  Mark's final days were spent in intense pain - all the while knowing that the end was near and he was going to leave his wife and young girls behind.  Wow.  What am I doing complaining about running.

Then, suddenly, I was crying.  Then I was trying to run with my heart pounding and my lungs on fire and gasping for air from the tears, not just from the running.  Still, what I was enduring paled in comparison to what Mark and his family endured almost 3 year ago.

I kept running.  Suddenly I had way more motivation to "run" the whole thing than just some stated personal fitness goal.  Suddenly I really was running for Mark.  I could stop and walk at anytime.  I could cheat and go less than 3.1 miles.  I could have a banana and Gatorade when I got to the finish line.  Mark had to face the reality and the pain of pancreatic cancer and ultimately his own death.  There was no stopping.  If Mark had to endure that, I could surely run every step of a 5K - what a small feat by comparison.  I really have no idea what struggle and pain really are. 

From that moment on, there was no way I was going to stop and walk.  I kept moving.  I was slow, but I was "running."  It was for Mark.  Whenever I thought I just had to stop, I thought about Mark.  I thought about how lucky I am.  I thought about how easy this was compared to what Mark went through.  I kept running.

This was great motivation, but it resulted in quite a few tears as I slowly finished the 5K then crossed the finish line.  I was really glad that, despite the fact that I had several friends with me participating in the run, I ran the whole thing basically by myself.  It was nice to have that epiphany by myself and to cry my way through a 5K by myself.

I'll run other 5K's.  I'll participate in other races, bike rides, triathlons, etc.  I'll raise more money for charity.  I'll sponsor more friends and family members in similar charity events.  I'll never forget how lucky I am to have the opportunity to run and bike and swim.  I'll never forget that my struggles are nothing compared to the life and death struggles of others.  Oh, I'm sure I'll still occasionally whine and complain and bitch and moan about running, the scale, etc., but I'll also try to frequently remind myself that sometimes we all need to step back and get a little perspective.

That was for you, Mark!


  1. awesome post!
    Good Luck this weekend!

  2. This is an incredible story and good for you for running the entire race.

    We find motivation and inspiration everywhere we turn and this post of you running the entire race has motivated me.

    Thank you for sharing.