Words cannot express the feeling of sorrow I felt as I stood, braced for running, at the starting line. The National Anthem only brought tears to my eyes and the pre-race speeches left me wondering why pain seems to always accompany joy. Standing next to me was a friend. A new friend, but a friend nonetheless. A friend who had battled and survived cancer just a few years ago. A friend who just lost his wife only weeks ago. That kind of pain is unimaginable. I understand what it is like to lose a loved one, but I do not understand what it is like to lose a spouse, a soulmate who knows you like no one else.
She knew that he loved to run. I imagine that it didn’t take long to convince her to join him at the race. That is the kind of thing we do for the ones we love. Yet, as we stood at the starting line, she was the one missing in body…. however, she was present in spirit. I know it took my friend a lot of strength and courage to show up to the race that day. I deeply respect him for that because I don’t think I would have been able to do it with so much peace and love still in my heart.
We anxiously awaited the firing of the gun along with 6,000 other participants. It was a great day to be on the beach if you were a runner… not so sure if it was a great day to be lounging in the middle of a race course. When we were given the signal to start, my friend took off with so much determination that I feared I would not be able to keep up. We ran in silence most of the way, but every once in awhile commented on the distraught beachgoers or complained about the sweat pouring down our backs like a waterfall. When my friend slowed down I would take the lead to maintain the motivation to keep pushing forward. However, all of the motivation he needed was found within and above. When I asked him how he was doing, he would simply state that he was doing good and it was more than convincing.
The finish line was fast approaching and I did not need to reflect too long on what was going through my friend’s mind. The answer was written all over him. He glanced up and raised his arm to the sky. The crossing of the finish line was an emotional passage that I was honored to be a part of. Even though she was not physically present, I knew that she was there cheering for her husband. I have no doubt that my friend will never quit for her. Regardless of how painful the road will be at times, he will continue moving forward. There is still too much joy remaining.
I thought about all of the things that I often take for granted and I am thankful to my friend for opening my eyes to the world around me. I will never quit living life no matter what challenges I may face in the future. We all have the strength within ourselves to pick up the pieces and carry on… it is just a matter of whether or not you will try.