Facing Heartbreak Hill

The Boston Marathon is going to be my 100th marathon on 18 April.  It was never supposed to be my 100th marathon because 100 marathons is usually a time where people come and celebrate the milestone.  My 100th marathon was supposed to be about finishing the Bucket List I had when Phil was killed and starting a new Bucket List for the next chapter in my life.  I figured five years would be time enough to be ready to close one chapter and start another.  Instead, the five years has taught me untold lessons.


I have learned that I will be afraid.  I thought Phil was safe as an officer/Advisor working with the Afghan officer.  I thought that running marathons was safe until 2013.  I learned how wrong I could be in my assumptions about praying to God like Santa Claus and thinking that life is always fair.  I am not the same person that I once was.  I am afraid of unseen monsters, booms, guns, and a certain finish line that I hope to cross on Marathon Monday.  I can’t control the fears and the nightmares are starting to catch me unexpectedly, but I know that if I keep my eyes focused on the step ahead, breathe, and concentrate on the people waiting for me at the finish line, I can push through my fears to perform.  While that is not exactly the way a celebration is supposed to play out, it will be a moral victory to finish that race upright.


I have learned that I will hurt.  Grief hurts on every level.  Heartbreak Hill is the perfect metaphor for grief.  A marathon is 26.2 miles.  There is never a race where I think that I have the 26.2 miles in the basket.  During every race, there comes a time when the thought will cross my mind that I am done and that I want to quit.  I know that I will hurt more the next day and the day afterwards, but I also know that if I concentrate on just the step ahead, I can push through the pain and get to the finish line one minute at a time, one hour at a time, one mile at a time, one marathon at a time.  Yes, it is going to hurt, but by only looking at the step ahead, I can make it through to the end.  A fallen step forward is still a step forward.  While marathon 100 will be a bunch of fallen steps forward, I will crawl to the end if need be.


I will learn that my life isn’t over.  Five years ago, I had run 38 marathons.  The past 61 marathons have showed me that I am alive.  For a long time, I wanted to crawl into a corner, curl up and die.  That didn’t happen.  Running was just a way to get out of the house and feel pain separate from grieving….and, then it became about something else.  It became about the changing Linda and the new hopes, new dreams, and even something I could never have imagined five years ago—something that would have made me recoil and sprint away from.  Running became the conduit for me to meet someone who makes me think past running races to the thought of what comes after the 26.2—or the 26.3 marker.


Marathon 100 is the closing of one chapter and marathon 101, the Great Wall of China Marathon, is going to be the start of a new Bucket List and a new chapter.  While surely there will be tears and fears as I press toward the Boston Marathon finish line, I recognize that marathon 100 doesn’t have to be a celebration, but rather a part of my hard fought for journey.  Marathon 100 can be about surviving the Heartbreak Hill of life and pushing through my fear to take back my life one step at a time.  I may fall and I may cower in fear, but I am going to get it done.  Along the way, I know that people will be waiting to offer that soft place to fall and lean.  Marathon 100, then, has become a celebration of my life, my awakening heart, and the recognition that by stepping or falling forward, I am moving forward while at the same time honoring the past that shaped me into the girl I am now.  I am a fierce warrior ready to take on Boston.


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