Little did I know that I would hug my dad for the last time on November 2, 2013. He and my mom had come to visit me in Reno, NV from Duluth, MN. I had a plane ticket to come visit for June 7, but that was 12 days too late. He died on May 26, 2014.
My original intent was to come to Minnesota for three weeks this summer for events such as my nephew’s high school graduation and then run my favorite hometown marathon, Grandma’s Marathon. My marathon training was on target until I got that call on Memorial Day from my brother that my dad had just a few hours left to live. And that’s when my life took a turn. Enter the lemons.
I was able to make it back to Minnesota on May 27. Running the marathon didn’t seem like such a great idea anymore but I thought I would give it a shot (the lemonade). My original plan was to chase my dream of a personal record of 4 hours and 30 minutes. After all, it’s sea level compared to the high altitude in Reno. However, since I was in Minnesota for three weeks prior to the marathon the “sea level” advantage was nonexistent.
I also found myself drowning my sorrow in Minnesota comfort foods. I couldn’t get enough tater tot hotdish, my mom’s freshly baked buns, and anything laden with cheese. This provided more lemons to a marathon training body.
And to top it off, my good Minnesota friend got breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, and was undergoing chemotherapy. That was the last lemon and I needed to make some serious lemonade. I decided to run the race in honor of Jen Johnson using the hashtag #iwillrun4jen during my correspondence.
I also lost my training peeps. While some folks back in Reno were literally climbing mountains on training runs, I was climbing molehills. But when there are lemons, there’s an opportunity to make lemonade. I reconnected with a friend who was also running Grandma’s Marathon and she arranged to come up to Duluth to do a 22 mile training run on the course. It was a beautiful day and we just had fun getting those training miles in and celebrated with salty carbohydrates and beer at the local brewery. And that’s when I decided I just needed to adjust my training schedule and just go with the flow. And something amazing happened.
On race day I went for my original goal of attaining my personal best time for completing a marathon. And then I discovered about mile 16 that it wasn’t going to happen. I was losing speed and energy with each step. That’s when I started chatting it up with others on the course and even encouraging others to keep on going when they were just too exhausted to run. Everybody on the race course has a story and a reason for running. I met some incredible people along the way – I can’t even remember their names but their stories of triumph will remain in my head and heart.
Highlights included seeing my mom and friends at the halfway point and another group of friends at about mile 24 when I had nothing left to give. My friend Jen with breast cancer ran a block with me to give me the encouragement to keep on going. That meant the world to me. It just goes to show, it’s not about crossing the finish line, it’s about the journey getting there and of course making lemonade out of lemons. Although there was something special about crossing that finish line at my hometown race. My cousin and her daughter were at the finish line to catch me as I nearly collapsed, as they placed that coveted finisher’s medal around my neck. And the after party was grand at my childhood friend’s cabin. Being surrounded by family and friends was the perfect concoction for making lemonade on a bittersweet day where I didn’t get my goal time and more importantly as I grieved the loss of my dad and honored my friend with breast cancer.
When life gives you lemons, why not try to make some lemonade? It’ll quench your thirst and you might gain some insights on the way. My next adventure? The Hood to Coast Relay in August!