This has been my first week in Austin. My new home. I’m a texan again, and according to the rest of the state, a good-for-nothing-dirty-liberal-hippie I’m perfectly okay with that generalization though. haha
Naturally, one of the very first things I did after settling into the hotel I’m staying at until my apartment is ready, was wander
around the city into the local running store nearby! RunTex! (Which I just learned, that the owners of Charm City Run were inspired to open their first store in Baltimore after living in Austin and loving RunTex stores! Totally awesome. From one great running city to another! )
The store was pretty massive when I walked in. A lot of space, a lot of awesome going on… But, I was instantly a fan because I was greeted by this little guy…
As I was wandering around looking at all of the running goodies that I wish I was a millionaire so I could buy… An employee came up to me and started asking me if they could help with anything. I said no, that it was my first time in the store and was just looking around. The run nerd in me couldn’t resist a new local running store. So then he asked where I was from and I went on about how I had just moved here the day before and am training for the Austin Marathon & yadda yadda. Next thing I know he’s handing me flyers, brochures and schedules galore. A schedule of all of the group runs, all of the workouts that are hosted out of RunTex, races that I need to sign up for. He was the bomb-diggity!
Of course I decided to join the very next group run, last night! Y’all…. I ran 2.6 miles and it changed the course of my running life forever.
I know! I KNOW, how can 2.6 measly miles change your life when you’re training for a full marathon? That’s NOTHING.
But it isn’t nothing. That’s what I learned on that run, and I promise to never ever take a single step for granted ever again!
You see, I met this incredible man during the group run. He was an elderly man, who at first I honestly didn’t think was even running… Until we start heading down Riverside and he’s chugging along with us. He was also the first person to talk to me. Right off the bat cracking jokes and making me feel welcome. I appreciated him immediately… After all, it can be a bit intimidating being the new girl in a group of runners who clearly run together multiple times a week.. AND ARE SUPER FAST.
He started telling me his story, and I was shook from the very first moment. He has a heart condition that makes him rely on an oxygen tank to breathe. After multiple major heart attacks he has been given a projected 3 months left to live… Out of the 10 months we’ve had so far in 2012, he has spent a grand total of 4 months at the Heart Hospital of Austin (if you combine all the days he’s spent there) Yet, every single day he’s not in the hospital, even though breathing while laying down is difficult, let alone while running, he still goes out there and runs as hard as he can, for as long as he can. Oxygen tank in toe and all.
He’s even training for the Austin Marathon in February, in hopes that he’s still around long enough to cross the finish line. It would be his 16th marathon, and his 9th since being diagnosed with his heart condition.
He tells me all of this as we’re running Town Lake… At one point I couldn’t hold it in any longer and just burst into tears. He turned around in front of me, put one hand on each of my shoulders, looked me square in the eyes and said “Don’t cry for me. I’ve accepted that I’m dying, I’ve crossed everything off of my bucket List. I’ve lived a full life and I’m ready. Don’t you shed a single tear for me.”
I was astonished. Does this man not know how incredibly inspirational he is? Does he not know how strong he is? Does he not know that in 25 minutes he completely changed my perspective on EVERYTHING?
The group took a turn to head around the east side of town, I however turned around and headed back. I had already run 4.5 in the morning, and have a very heavy training schedule for the rest of the weekend… I stopped at the bridge on Congress and just stared into the sunset and let the last half an hour of my life really sink in.
Here I was before he started talking to me, complaining in my head that my hip was bothering me. Some days my head just isn’t in the game. Some days I just don’t want to run at all. But here is this man, who is defying his genetics. Here he is busting his butt day in and day out with a ticker that doesn’t want to cooperate. Doctors telling him that running could kill him. Saying that he’s a moron for even trying to run marathons. Yet he still goes out there and proves everyone wrong.
I will never take a run for granted ever again. I will never ever complain that my hip is too tight. I will never give up. I started running because I wanted to be IN CONTROL of my body, during a time where I felt like it was failing me. Where did that drive go? Why have I let the aches and pains of becoming a distance runner get to me? Stupid. Plain and simple. I’ve let myself become weak minded, and I promise you I AM DONE WITH THAT.
I am stronger than that.
So, Jim, if you ever happen to stumble upon this blog post… Which next group run I’ll definitely tell you that you inspired me to write it, I want you to know that you changed this little runner for life. For that, I thank you. I can’t wait to see you at the start of the Austin Marathon!