Running With Spirit
I run for a lot of reasons — I run for relief from stress, I run to feel powerful, I run when I’m angry, I run because it brings me joy, I run to feel free, I run to push myself beyond my limits physically and mentally, I run because I love my tribe of runners, and I love running with Eric and our kids. For me all the other benefits of running, weight maintenance and health maintenance, are wonderful but secondary. I would run even if those benefits didn’t exist. Running is a mind, body, and spirit activity for me and I am grateful for it every day.
As I mentioned in my last blog entry, at the beginning of the year Eric and I joined a challenge called Run the Edge, the challenge is to run 2,015 miles in 2015. We’re doing this as a team and the name of our team is We Run 4 Paula. We decided early on to dedicate our running miles to one of my oldest and dearest friends, Paula, who was battling breast cancer. Early Tuesday morning Paula passed away. I have been riding the roller coaster of grief. I’ve learned from past losses that you really just have to hang on and let it take you where it is going to take you, you only have so much control over your emotions and the only thing you can control is your reaction to them and what you do with them.
I had a six mile run scheduled for Tuesday, I didn’t do it. Instead, I wrote about Paula. I couldn’t run yesterday, I just didn’t have it in me. But today I knew I had to. I was hesitant, a bit unsure, feeling like I didn’t know what my body was going to do with the fact that I was running in Paula’s memory instead of running to send her strength and endurance. Of course, the other thing about running for Paula was that her courage and joy were amazing, and her spirit was indomitable, and she inspired me to be strong. That hasn’t changed, that’s still reality.
I went into our garage where we have our treadmill, where we do most of our running because of the security situation in Tegus. Next to the treadmill is a wall where I’ve put up inspirational sayings I can look to when I need a push, I looked at them before I got on the mill and saw the “Team We Run 4 Paula” sign. I got tears in my eyes, I took a deep breath, and I got on the mill.
Anyone who knows me knows I am not a particularly religious person, I’m on the fence about God. I’m kind of with Frank Lloyd Wright: “I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.” I guess I’d call myself a spiritual person because I believe there is something much bigger than me at play but as to who or what he/she/they/it are I haven’t a clue. I believe in some of the philosophies of some religions and disagree with others but the existence of God, or heaven, or an afterlife? Insert shrug here. So, that’s my starting point.
I began to run, I felt good, better than I had expected to feel. I was enjoying my run, maintaining my intervals of running and walking, which I need to do because my calf injury from May is still healing. Not quite two miles into my run I felt what I can only describe as a powerful surge of energy, and I began to feel stronger. Then I felt this incredible joy and freedom and tears were streaming down my face but they weren’t sad tears, they were profoundly happy tears, and I began to run faster. Now, this is where it gets into “eh, okaaaay” territory but I felt Paula. And not just felt her as in, felt her memory or my gratitude for her friendship, or inspiration from her strength, I actually felt her there, running with me. I felt sheer exhilaration, a desire to run harder, go faster, because it was just so fun! I felt how she’d been weighed down so long by cancer, unable to feel the freedom of movement without pain, and now she wasn’t, now she was running and free — and laughing! I felt that way, I felt Paula, for about two miles. Then I felt like it was just me again, though she was still there, and I ran the last mile even harder for her.
I know it may sound nuts. I know it could just have been a runner’s high, or wishful thinking, or my grief. But I believe she was with me, I believe it. And I believe she loved the way the freedom of the run felt. I believe, after decades of knowing what her joy feels like, I felt her joy and her spirit. Regardless, though, of whether it was my imagination or reality what it taught me is that Eric and I not running in Paula’s memory, we are running with her. She’s in a different form but she’s still with us, she’s with everyone who loves her. She is watching over her beautiful daughters and her partner and she is with us. I believe this.