Back in late March, which of course seems like five years ago instead of five months ago, I signed up for the America’s Finest City Half Marathon along with several friends, my sorority sisters in particular. A few of them were hitting the big 4-0 this year (or just turned last year or will turn next), one just had her second baby, another was thinking about losing some weight. Before I knew it, we had a group of ten, all of whom signed up for either the half marathon or the 5-K, and the happy/nervous/silly/jokey/wonderful thread of emails touting our goals were making the rounds. And then, as is natural, they quieted down through May and much of June.
Once late June turned into July, we started back with the check-ins: how is everyone’s mileage? Any new workout songs? What are you wearing on race day? And my favorite: Are we going to the spa afterwards? I was getting more disciplined with my training runs and was doing well writing about it, but I was worried I was not doing enough cyber cheerleading to lead the group that I had once again “tricked” into doing this race. I had mercifully gotten very busy with a project and had to put all the creative energy there.
And then, the worst news of all came. One of our friends, the fantastic Staci, who was so excited to run her first half marathon having never been a runner up to this point in her newly 40 years explained in an email that her her mother had just been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. As always with cancer, hearing that one of your people is being afflicted with this dread disease, life tilts ever so slightly to the surreal and unimaginable, and all normal plans cease to make sense. Half marathon training now seemed… frivolous.
After getting the group email from Staci, I emailed her directly to offer my love and support, and in a moment of insanity, I said this to her:
“In addition to needing cheerleading, you also need to be running, SO KEEP IT UP!! I am here for you, however geographically compromised. That’s why they invented the internets.“
I signed off, hit send, then totally freaked out. Was that insensitive? Selfish? Tone-deaf? Was I a total asshole for just telling my friend that she needed to keep training for this stupid foot race because I thought it might actually help her sort through the chaos of her mom’s cancer?! Yes, I was pretty sure that I had lost my mind, but when I calmed my self down and waited VERY impatiently for her reply, I thought about my friend Staci B.
Staci and I were in the same pledge class in our sorority, which means we arrived at the same time and were therefore known to have a bond by chronology. She is a beauty, and while it is always a bonus to have friends that look like Andie MacDowell hanging out with you, it is far better to have a friend that makes you laugh, especially at publicly inopportune times because she is stealthy and clever with a comment right when you need to be focused on something really serious like room selection, or debating the hiring of a new house cook. (Not that she should have ever been in on that conversation! I have many memories of very picky eating.) And then, while she would sometimes dissolve into the giggles that would get me, most of the time she looked at you like, “What? Why can you not control yourself? You need to get it together or we will both get yelled at.” We lived together in the house for almost three years, went to endless parties and events, even traveled to St. Louis for a sorority convention where we really caused some trouble, and I always always always felt safe and happy for knowing her.
When she said that she wanted to train for this half marathon, I thought, okay, good this is something I can support her through. And I knew she was beyond stoked for it, because she was reporting to me her literal milestones, passing two miles, and then five, and then nine. I was SO proud of her… and I guess that pride is what made me tell her to keep running in the face of the most terrifying and unfair news someone like her or her mother, the lovely Susan, or their equally incredible family should have to bear. When her email reply finally did come and she plainly told me she didn’t know what the next five weeks would look like and that running had moved lower on the list, I wrote back and said we would all be running for her anyway, so to just keep focused on her family and her mom.
Tomorrow is the race. And tomorrow Staci will be running. I am overjoyed that she is doing this and true to her easy grace has already raised over $2,000 for her mom’s chosen cancer research foundation. Please feel free to donate, it is a small show of support for one of the best people I know, and will be a reflection of support for the best people in your life.