Wow, the months have flown by. I can’t believe it’s been almost 6 months since my last post. I had entered the holiday madness of multiple Nutcrackers and Christmas eve gigs until 2 a.m. After that, a new roommate and seven different programs of music to learn (over the “break”, of course) for January. My beloved cat Cinnamon crossed the rainbow bridge, my best friend’s mom (and my second “mom”) died after a long and full life, my cousin’s house burned down, and I finished my taxes. Oh, and I spent New Year’s Day night in a sleep lab. Did I leave anything out? BTW, my friend who had the Whipple has made a remarkable recovery, and she went skiing about a month later.
The big news is that I have now finished my first marathon, in Fargo, North Dakota. Running a marathon was unfinished business; I had been diagnosed with cancer just 10 days before I was supposed to run my first one. I felt the time was right, I was feeling good, and the scheduling gods at work smiled. Fargo it was.
Training went OK but not great. After chemo my legs have been weakened. Whenever the doctor hits my knee cap with the little rubber hammer, there is very little response. So, my gait is rather like a flat-footed Frankenstein monster. Not very efficient for running. Gotta work on that now it’s all over.
My trip to Fargo was an endurance challenge of another kind. What was supposed to be a straightforward journey of Nashville-Dallas-Fargo turned into the trip from hell.
On a sunny morning in Nashville, I left in plenty of time for my 8:15 a.m. flight. We started boarding on time, and only after we were all on board with carry-ons crammed into bins did the captain inform us that there was a slight delay taking off. Storms in Dallas. But we were going to sit on the plane because as soon as the weather cleared we would take off.
Right. Ten minutes led to an hour, led to the snacks and water being passed out so we wouldn’t revolt.The captain reminded us that it was better to be on the ground wishing we were in the air, than in the air and wishing we were on the ground. At the time I wasn’t so sure.
Finally, at ONE P.M., we were allowed to take off, but we were now rerouted to fly around the storms, over New Orleans and Houston. Twenty minutes from landing in Dallas, we were diverted to Wichita Falls because Dallas was shut down due to tornado warnings.
Ah, sunny Wichita Falls Air Force Base. A great place to spend some time on a plane. While we were waiting for weather to clear and the plane to be refueled, I checked my e-mail. Obviously I wasn’t going to make it to Fargo by 2. My flights had been totally changed, thank you American Airlines. I was now going to fly to Chicago at 5:45 p.m., and to Fargo at 8:40. That was the general idea anyway. Honestly, I stopped keeping track of time, until we finally got to Dallas at 5:20.
As big as DFW is, I managed the connection, only to find the flight delayed. I finally had a chance to grab something to eat, the closest thing being a Subway. Not very substantial given that my entire day’s food intake consisted of granola bars and lime in my water. Anyway, my window of opportunity for catching my remaining flight was rapidly closing, so I called my hotel in Fargo and cancelled my room. I really thought I’d be stuck in Chicago for the night. By the time we took off for Chicago, I was in a stupor. Every take off and landing had been like riding a roller coaster, and there were more storms up north. I began to think that perhaps I shouldn’t have eaten that sandwich…
By the time we arrived in Chicago, I had 10 minutes at one of the busiest airports in the world to make my connection, from the end of one concourse to the end of another one. Oddly enough, another guy was making the same connection, so we sprinted together and we made it. This time, the flight was delayed because part of the crew was stuck somewhere else (Wichita Falls, perhaps?). But I had made it to the final flight! Enough time to call the hotel back and pray they still had a room available for me. After all, 25,000 runners were descending on a city only about 10 times that size, and hotel rooms were at a premium.
Finally at what time I don’t know, we took off for Fargo. This time, even though the flight was bumpy, we got to fly over the storms. By this time it was dark, but at that latitude, there is always a bit of dusk. What an amazing sight! The curve of the earth in the distance, and below me was the most amazing lightning show ever. By this time I could enjoy it, and I had no fear of any gremlins out on the wings.
I finally made it into Fargo at 11:30 p.m. My luggage made it the next day, but fortunately I came a day early, and I had carried with me everything I needed for the big day. So, the only thing I really had to do was catch a bus to pick up my race packet. But my feet were already hurting from the day before. Oh well. I had nothing to complain about. I arrived on the same flight as Sarah Reinertsen, one of the speakers, a girl who is a world class Ironman triathlete – with one leg.
So why did I choose to run the Fargo Marathon? One big reason, as you can see below.
Also, I have a friend there, my old college roommate. I lived there for 10 years and hadn’t been back in about 25, so I figured that at the very least reliving old memories would distract me from certain pain. I had never run more than 20 miles in training, before the big C. The longest I’d run in my most recent training was only 16 miles, so I was really forging ahead into unknown territory.
The day was gorgeous, almost perfect. I caught a ride with a couple of marathoners from Ontario, so at least I didn’t have to walk half a mile to the shuttle. It was sunny and 49 degrees at the start and even 6 hours, 55 minutes, and 29 seconds later when I finished it was overcast and only about 60. Amazing running weather. I finished with a woman who was running her 100th marathon.
The course was interesting, with a lot of crown support. Not one, but TWO Elvis impersonators, square dancers, bagpipers, accordion players, church choirs, you name it. My feet hurt from the first step, but I was determined to keep going. As I look back on it, I honestly don’t really know how I did it. It was 7 grueling, painful hours, but I couldn’t NOT finish.
When I finally crossed the finish line, I couldn’t walk anymore. Well, I could, but I certainly didn’t have the will to. I saw a guy driving a golf cart and asked him for a ride to the bus station, all of three blocks away. Unlike Nashville, all the city buses were free on Marathon day, so I hopped the 15 back to my hotel.
It took me a half an hour to walk the quarter mile to my hotel. Oy.
Next time, I’ll tell you more about the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation. I had pledged to raise $1000 for them at the marathon, and I accomplished that. Made the pain worth it!