The 2014 NYC Marathon: wind and grief

4th avenue, South Slope

Fourth Ave, Brooklyn, between miles 6-7; the guy with the Puerto Rican flag was the crowd favorite. (Photo credit: Luke Redmond)

The wind was the headline story – sustained winds of 20 mph, gusting to almost twice that.  When I share stories with other runners, it’s the wind we’ll talk about. The way it pushed us sideways on the Verrazano bridge; the unnerving, rattling sound of our bibs straining against their safety pins; the hats, garbage bags and other debris whipping past us; the unexpected, energy-sapping blast when we turned west into the Bronx in mile 20.

When I think about the race in personal terms, though, it will always be “the race I ran while C was dying.” I wish I could say I thought of her with every step, but that wouldn’t be true. In the selfish way of the non-dying, I thought about a lot of things. I took in the spectators and my fellow runners, slapped a few hands, said a few words of encouragement. I looked for members of my running club. I blew a kiss to my husband. I debated when to toss my water bottle (around mile 5), my gloves (mile 12), my goofy hat (never).

Where my thoughts tended to settle on C was in the tough parts, when I used her name as a mantra to maintain my cadence (“C” – foot strike – “C” – foot strike).  And yes, I can’t write that without again confronting the fundamental selfishness of the non-dying and the non-immediately bereaved, and acknowledging the chasm it opens. We’re sad, but our lives go on – foot strike after foot strike, mile after mile, day after day, season after season. Theirs end, or have a hole ripped out of them. That selfishness may be necessary (how could we endure otherwise?), but it’s still enraging.

Here, then, is my race report. Continue reading

Dying of breast cancer after Breast Cancer Awareness Month

IMG_2159Breast Cancer Awareness month is over. My friend C spent it at home, sleeping most of the time, not taking much food or water, her husband and daughters at her side as her body slowly shut down.  Today I learned that she died in the early hours of the morning, Pacific Standard Time.  We’d known for months that it was coming, but you always hope for just a little more time – right up until the day you don’t, when hope shifts from “more time” to “peace.”

She’s at peace now.

After a loss, we try to find comfort where we can, even in odd thoughts. Those strong winds from the west during yesterday’s marathon? I’m pretty sure that was C. And I’m choosing to think of the timing of her death as a final act of defiance, a “fuck you” to pink merchandise and beribboned platitudes and demeaning, sexualized slogans. No way was she going to die during Pinktober. And she didn’t – she held on until the calendar flipped a page. Continue reading