How the Marathon Changed My Life
I was a junior in college at The Ohio State University. I was planning out my senior year, with a new job on the horizon as a 30 hour a week manager for a residence hall while beginning to apply to graduate schools. So basically, I was very busy, but I thought I was just busy enough.
During the entire past year, just 1 state away, my uncle was battling cancer. He spent most of his time in the hospital, with periods out when he would feel better, but his world was mainly medical procedures and staying in a hospital. And for someone who loved the outdoors and was a runner and cyclist, this was not a way to live. But he always smiled and kept a positive attitude through it all. And the reason this hit so close to home is because he was one of the biggest supporters on my running journey, other than my parents. I prayed often that he would get better and we could run together. Unfortunately, that never happened.
On a cold evening in February of 2013, I got a text message from my mom. My uncle Chris had passed away. The shock hit me hard. Just 24 hours before I had talked to my mom and my uncle was improving so well and they were talking about when he could go home. But, like many of you know if you have had someone you love effected by cancer, specifically leukemia, illness can come out of nowhere and battle an already weak immune system. This is what happened to my uncle.
I was shocked. Numb. I didn’t know how to process all the emotions. Luckily, my brother was attending OSU as well so we had each other to process, but I wanted to do something about this grief. Little did I know that a tragedy would change my life forever.
One of the things my Uncle passively taught me was that life is too short. I had loved running so much, but I had put it on hold because I was “too busy”. How many of us have used that excuse before? Well, I realized in that grieving moment that I will always have the excuse of “too busy” and I will never achieve my goals and dreams with that excuse. So I made a commitment to run a marathon, something I had said I was “too busy” to do. And I committed to it as a senior in undergrad, while having a management position in student housing, and applying to graduate schools and dietetic internships. So not a lot of extra time. But I refused to let the too busy excuse control my life any longer.
So I trained for this 26.2 miles in my uncle’s memory, raising funds for cancer research at St. James Cancer Institute at Ohio State. I ran only one 20 miler and did pretty much every run on my own throughout training, finding weird times to run. But I put in the work, no matter the excuses that would come up. Then race day came: October 4, 2014 for the Nationwide Children’s Marathon in Columbus, Ohio.
My parents showed up. My grandparents showed up. My Aunt and cousin [Uncle Chris’s family] showed up, and my cousin even ran the half marathon that day. My brother and best friend ran the marathon as well. I didn’t really know what to expect. I can’t even tell you what I fueled with that day. All I remember was running around a city I love for a cause I believe in: ending cancer, for a man who showed me how to live life. I just kept running and honestly, I can’t tell you if I felt pain [I’m sure I did, but blocked it out. I hear that’s a marathon thing ;) ]. I ran some with my best friend, and then some on the back half with my brother. And it was amazing to have my family there to cheer me on. But the biggest impact was my employees.
Throughout training, I was a resident manager for a resident hall and I managed 27 student employees for the front desk. I interviewed, hired and trained them throughout the year. They watched me train. They saw all the hard work I put in. Little did I know I was making an impact on them through my training. But there they were, as I ran out of Ohio Stadium, they were cheering and had signs made up. I smiled and almost cried. That was around mile 18, so still a good ways to go, but their excitement for me was a great motivational push.
As I was finishing the race, turning down streets in Short North of Columbus, I realized how much I was loving this whole experience. From start to finish, I was enjoying myself. As I crossed the finish line in 4:01:28, I made a commitment to myself: I would qualify for the Boston Marathon in my uncle’s. I was hooked after crossing the finish line, as you may relate to.
That was the day that changed my life forever. Not because I became a marathoner. Yes, that did change my life, but because of the lesson to never use “too busy” as an excuse in any area of my life. I choose to live my life as if each day was my last and wanted to make sure I left the world a little better than the day before, in my communities. That is the lesson that my Uncle Chris taught me and how the marathon changed my life forever.