Remember “the why”

I knew that I wanted to get out on the Boston course this weekend to cheer on the runners on their longest training run before Marathon Monday, so I decided to hit up practice with my TNT team first and then head to Newton to help our the Boston team at their 20-mile mark finish line. It turned out to be the best decision I could have made — good for the legs and better for the soul.

The full marathon schedule called for seven miles at race pace. I didn’t have any hesitation at all about the workout and having covered ten miles at a 9-minute pace, I wanted to go out and maintain anything between 8:30 and 8:45, since I know I won’t be able to sustain anything quicker for more than half of the race.

Well, that lasted about a mile and a half.

My calves were so tight that my shins were screaming and my legs felt like my feet were in cement. I slowed down, and then walked. At our water stop I sat down and rubbed my legs down a bit and got on with it. I knew I could finish the mileage, even if it didn’t feel good. Think running is hard? Try chemotherapy.

I caught up with the group and ran with a really nice girl from Cambridge, who is running her first half marathon in Providence. She was good company. I wrote on my fundraising page this year that the people are what bring me back to Team In Training each time. It remains true. Somehow, I finished the run at 9-minute pace. Truthfully, 9-minute pace on race day would deliver a personal best, a sub-4 hour race, and would have me popping a bottle of Veuve. Best not to complain.

I hit the road for five miles Sunday morning and, while I still moved pretty slow, I was in a better mental space. Seeing some familiar faces at yesterday’s 20-miler gave me a hefty dose of perspective.

One runner I caught up with is a recent lymphoma survivor. He was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma nearly 3 years ago. Two weeks later, his first child (a son) was born, and four days after that he started cancer treatment. In remission, he ran the Boston Marathon in April 2012, crossing the start line alongside his oncologist, also a member of Team In Training. Since then, cancer has struck his family again. On January 6 of this year, his wife gave birth to their second child, a daughter. Just one month later, his wife was diagnosed with Hodgkins. She shares her husband’s oncologist and begins her third round of chemotherapy today. It is literally the craziest thing I have ever heard.

Worrying about 30-seconds or an extra minute per mile sounds pretty silly now, right? The other thing that dawned on me is that this keeps happening. There are so many people who’s stories propel me on each training run, so many people I can make dedications to. Reality is that people are going to continue to receive cancer diagnoses. Reality is that one in three American men and one in four American women will face cancer in their lifetime. So, while an 8:30 or a 9:00 or a 10:00 minute mile is petty, running — and raising money — is not. The connections I have made through Team In Training and at Dana-Farber give me plenty of purpose — a whole lot of WHY.

Last April, two days before a historically scorching Boston Marathon, one of the TNT coaches I worked alongside managing the team reminded our runnersDon’t worry about how you are going to get to the finish line. Remember WHY you want to cross the finish line. The WHY is what will get you from Hopkinton to Boston.

In all that we do, remember the why.