I can be tough when I need to be. In high school, my ankles were so bad during football season that I started and played as long as I could before the inevitable SNAP that would put me on the sidelines for the rest of the game. At my Grandfather's funeral, I kept my composure, despite the fact that I more or less lived with him for several months. Heck, I even remained stoic when Bambi's mother was taken down at 300 yards, as well as when Old Yeller yelled no more.
On the very remote occasion, though, I have shed a tear or two as an adult. At Sheri's and my wedding, I had a couple of tears come out when I saw her walking down the aisle ("How could I be lucky enough to have someone like her be willing to spend the rest of her life with me?"). The tears came out again during the ceremony when, after meticulously planning to ensure that parents and step-parents were equally part of the ceremony, we realized that the florist forgot a third rose, which was to go to my Mother. I can neither confirm nor deny a tear coming out at our first child's breath (as he screamed bloody murder). The first ten minutes of the movie Up...well, that's a mulligan as the entire world cried at that part. There was also a close call during "Rainbow Connection" in the recent Muppets movie (perhaps it was allergies...someone in the theater was wearing some strong perfume).
That's more or less it for my crying, though...
...until about 3 weeks ago.
I was set up to break the 20-mile barrier for the very first time during my marathon training in early November. During this training run, I had Joe Taricani's "The Marathon Show" podcast playing through the earbuds, and I started off the run by re-listening to the last 20 minutes of Episode 213, which chronicled the 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon. I heard a bunch of friends' voices on there, and it really got me in the mood for the run.
Episode 216 started around mile 5, which highlighted the Newport Beach Race for the Cure. During this half-hour show, Joe interviewed many people who were survivors. But he also interviewed family members of those who have lost loved ones to breast cancer.
The Race for the Cure episode nearly did me in. It started echoing thoughts that I had during training for my first half marathon. I was stressing my body more than I probably should have; I didn't have a heart rate monitor for my first half, and I know that I was overdoing it with the pace...I finished most training runs with a pulse over 180, and the long runs found me exhausted around 8-9 miles in. I struggled through the training, but I kept thinking to myself that what I was going through was nothing compared to what those in cancer treatment go through. The miles I ran during this show were the fastest I ran that day.
Just a few days before my 20 mile training run, I saw Angelo Merindino's photo essay where he chronicled his wife's battle with breast cancer - a battle that she ultimately lost in late 2011. Let me warn you now that, if you have not seen the photo essay
before, click on the above link with caution. It is extremely powerful -
it is not an easy page to look at as you know what the bottom of the
page will eventually tell you. The pictures streamed through my mind as I ran. I then started thinking about a co-worker of my wife's who lost a similar battle to cancer over the summer. I thought about members of my wife's family who have battled breast cancer and have won. I thought about members of my running team who have fought breast cancer and are running farther than I ever will; about friends who have family members currently battling various forms of cancer; about a young boy I know recently diagnosed with cancer and agonizing about what he and his family have to be going through; about my grandmother losing her battle with pancreatic cancer.
I re-found my determination from my training for my first half. I buckled down and got down to business with this 20-mile run. I was struggling to fight back tears, though, as I continued to listen to the rest of Joe's show.
Later on in the run came Episode 218 of the Marathon Show. This episode had Joe interviewing runners in the 2013
MedTronic Twin Cities Marathon. The first story that got me was the
interview of a family of a man running his first marathon after a
stroke, and the source of pride in her voice hit me hard. Then, around
mile 22 on the course (and around mile 16 for me), Joe interviews a
woman completing her first marathon. When he asked her, "What's the
finish line going to mean to you?", she started to break down as she
answered the question. This episode inspired me for a couple of miles, and I had a surge of energy (the "runner's high").
The energy soon left, however, and I hit the proverbial "wall" around 18.5 miles in. Despite my attempts to pick it back up, my pace slowed by over a minute. The self-doubt and self-loathing that I am all too well-known for was bouncing around in my mind, and I wanted to throw in the towel; I was worthless. I'm failing at the training. I'm failing at my fundraising. I'm failing at being a good teacher. A good husband. A good father. A good person.
I managed to work up a mild trot for the last few feet until I heard the chirp that indicated I had completed 20 miles. I stopped my watch, fully expecting it to tell me that I can anticipate being swept up by the RunDisney folks and not being able to complete my attempt at a marathon finish.
I looked down at the statistics.
To complete a marathon, I had 6.2 miles remaining after 20 miles. According to my watch, if I start dead last with the balloon runner (the 16:00 pacer) at Disney World, I'll have 1 hour and 50 minutes to complete that last 10K. That's over a 17:40 pace per mile.
I can walk a 17:30 pace.
As I stared at the watch while standing on the trail that I was running on, the realization hit me that, barring a major injury, I was most likely going to complete my first marathon.
The first tear followed about 3 seconds later. It had to be the allergies.
As I write this, Team AllEars just unofficially passed the $60,000 raised mark for 2013. We have all committed not just to running a race in Walt Disney World as we have the fundraising requirement, too. I take the fundraising requirement just as seriously as I do the training for the race. I set a lofty personal goal this year...perhaps too lofty a goal at $1,500. With less than 6 weeks to go, your support has brought in around $400 so far on my behalf, and I am grateful for that. Traditionally, the bulk of the funds raised come in during the month of December. My fingers are crossed that this again happens...not just for me, but for the entire Team. As we make our final push in our training and in our fundraising efforts, please consider a donation. If you would like to donate on my behalf, please head over to my fundraising page. The amount donated does not matter; Even $1 donated is $1 more raised to help fight not just breast cancer, but all forms of cancer. While I would love to have your donation count towards my goal, you can also help others on the Team who may be struggling to achieve the $500 minimum. If you want to help someone else out, please go to our Team Fundraising page and click on a name who has less than $500 raised so far. Whether a donation comes in under my name or under someone else's name, the money all goes to the Avon Foundation.
I am sure there will be several opportunities for tear ducts to get a workout over Marathon weekend. Most of you will think that crossing that finish line will be one of them. Those who have been at a Team AllEars official Meet on the Saturday of Marathon Weekend also know what to expect. With this being our last year, I can only imagine what the main Meet will be like. This is an amazing, fantastic group of people who have dedicated countless hours trying to help rid the world of cancer. These men and women, current members and past members, are living proof that we can make a difference.