In college, I lived along the main street in a very small town. Every
morning, I looked forward to taking my coffee out to my miniature deck
filled with Target plastic furniture. As this became my routine, I
noticed someone else’s: a young woman who used the endorphins from
running to jump-start her day instead of getting energy from caffeine in
I admired her effort and her dedication to staying active, while
silently guilting myself for barely making it to the gym. I kept
thinking: “I wish I could be the type of person who just got up and went
for a run like it was no big deal.” It seemed unfathomable to me at the
time, not only because athleticism wasn’t a big part of my life, but
running? Well, it was hard.
Three years later, I was sitting on a different porch at a Mexican
restaurant in my hometown, drinking a margarita, when my father told me
that he had colon cancer. A retired fireman, my dad was always a
superhero in my eyes, incapable of failing or being weak. While he had
battled other minor health issues over the years, hearing the C-word in
relation to someone I loved so dearly took my breath away.
It also inspired me to put my own well-being smack dab at the top of
my priority list. Though I had attempted to run short distances before
then, his diagnosis pushed me to sign up for my first half-marathon, in
support of cancer survivors everywhere.
As I trained, I thought of my dad, unable to ride his bike like he
loved or eat the kind of foods that he was so great at making. The very
thought of him being held back by something potentially life-threatening
would get me through long runs and unforgiving hills. If all he wanted
was to walk without his stitches pulling at his stomach, surely I could
make it through an elective run on a Sunday afternoon.