May 13th, 2011
Yesterday, I ran on a shady paved trail through the park. The 5.8 mile path is a refuge in the heat, which was climbing toward 90˚.
I like running the same route week after week. Partly, I am a creature of habit. Also, running the same trail allows me to monitor my progress. I check in with my body. How fatigued am I? What pace can I go? How do I contend with this hill? How strong do I feel when I’m finished? I note all of these things and feel the runs getting easier, which is good for my confidence.
At the top of a big hill near the halfway point, I felt the fatigue setting in. The heat was draining me and I was sweating profusely.
Running helps me practice patience and compassion with myself, so I don’t tell myself to push on much of the time. I stopped to walk for a couple of minutes. After catching my breath, I felt much stronger and continued on my way.
It was time for a big descent. In the recent past, I have kept my pace steady, even on downhills. I don’t know what has been holding me back –– a fear of the speed, a fear of falling. I just haven’t been up to it.
With my renewed energy, I decided to let myself fly. It was a joy. I also felt hopeful that I might pick up some of the time I lost walking and make a good overall pace for this run.
As I rounded the curve, I saw a woman climbing over a wall separating my path with one of the many unpaved trails in the park.
She looked lost. She was about my age, dressed in running garb.
Pace be damned, I thought, letting go of the time I was making up. I stopped to see if she was okay.
She asked me how to find a certain trail. I told her that I am only familiar with the paved routes.
“We are about one mile from the exit,” I said. “If you want to run with me the rest of the way, I can drive you to your car.”
“Okay,” she smiled. “I think I’ll take you up on it. I’ve been running for about an hour and a half. I promise I don’t have a knife stashed anywhere.”
She continued with me on my flight down the hill. I took one of my earbuds out so I could converse.
“Are you training for anything?” I asked.
“No, I just like to run a lot,” she told me. “Are you?”
“I finished cancer treatment at the end of last year, so I’ve been doing half marathons like mad.”
She was unfazed.
“That’s great. What kind of cancer did you have?”
I told her.
“I had Hodgkins when I was pregnant with my fourth child. She’s 12 now.”
“I knew you were a cancer survivor! You didn’t blink when I told you. Usually people get really quiet and awkward.”
We ran the rest of the way down the hill, chatting about treatment, side-effects, fatigue, and children. I took her to her car, as I promised. She did not have a hidden knife, as she promised.
I realized, once again, what a unique bond survivors share. It’s as if we can enter the middle of a conversation and not have to provide all the explanation that other people require to make sense of our experience.
This is why our online community is so powerful. We are what my fellow blogger Feisty Blue Gecko aptly calls stranger-friends. We often understand each other in ways that our closest intimates cannot.
I hope to cross paths with my new stranger-friend some time soon.
This entry was posted on Friday, May 13th, 2011 at 9:14 am and is filed under Survivorship. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.