This was not the ideal day to run a marathon nor was I in shape to run one. A constant rain fell on us from the time we started, leaving me the choice to pull a race-day decision of shortening the run by half. No one would blame me.
When I had signed up, we thought Kylie’s treatment was going well. Running the marathon to raise money for pediatric cancer research seemed to be a great thing to do for other children who would follow us. Her decline came so quickly. One of the most minor consequences of her passing was that I no longer cared about training. When the date came close, although not ready I decided to run – well, walk and run. I knew it would be a long day. Of my two running-mates, only Krish was prepared. Randy’s knee had prevented his training.
We talked beforehand and I espoused my belief that there would be no shame in turning left at mile six and completing the half-marathon. No shame at all. It seemed the logical choice.
We lost Krish in the crowd early on and we wounded two ambled toward the split not knowing what the rest of the day would hold. After running four miles, my back began to ache. It wasn’t debilitating, but we still had twenty-two miles of pavement to pound… or possibly a wiser nine.
When we got close to the split, I wanted to go left. Already hurting and unprepared, the thought of the full scared me. Decision time had come.
“What do you want to do?” I asked.
“I kinda want to finish the drill,” Randy replied. “Just think of the accomplishment!”
I didn’t want to do it. I thought he was probably crazy enough to finish it alone. My back cried out that it was a bad choice. I hurt. I ached and I was about to move left and send him on his way when I thought of Kylie.
So many times during chemo, Kylie hurt. So many times, she ached and cried out that it was too hard – she couldn’t do it. She wanted to stop every day, but she kept on going. She persevered even though she didn’t know when it would stop. When she was throwing up from chemo, she couldn’t count down from twenty-six to one knowing the nausea would subside with the numbers. It just went on and on for her. I knew the exact end. There was a palpable finish line waiting for me. The end of the misery called “treatment” for cancer never came for her. She died before her treatments ended.
The thought of her triggered emotions for me, mixing tears with the rain on my face. I knew there was only one choice. I turned right. I turned right for Kylie. How could I not finish this race when she pushed so bravely through hers?
We trudged on for twenty more miles. It wasn’t pretty. The rain never stopped and the pain persisted to the end. We walked a good bit, but ran at the finish as if we’d been running the entire time. It was finally over.
I bent to receive a medal that I wish I could put around her neck, but I can’t. I can’t because we don’t have safe and adequate treatment for childhood cancer, which is the very reason I ran in the first place. The medal will always be hers, though. And someday, I’ll tell her about it and how I thought of her and turned right.