Halfway Through 2020

It’s been months since I wrote here. The recap for my last race, as it were.

This was going to be a year of ridiculously badass things. Marathons. Ultramarathons. Chasing Boston Marathon qualification. No one saw coronavirus coming.

It’s been a rough three months, and I have to say there is a lot of fraying around my edges. When things started being cancelled, I saw it as an over-reaction. Bummed out that the New Bedford Half Marathon had been cancelled, I set up a “Cancellation Running Festival” where the main attraction was a half marathon course (substantially more hilly than New Bedford), but since there had been so many other races canceled that weekend I added a 5-mile course and implored folks for design their own distance. More than a few people showed up.

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Who knew this would be our last big “get together?”

After this, the world went to shit. This was literally the last best day of the year for me. I’m sad thinking it is further away from today than it was from January 1. Yet, here we are.

In the intervening time, I’ve experienced all of the gifts quarantining has given: emotional upset, loneliness, existential dread, but also a sense of accomplishment and ownership I may not have had otherwise, time free enough to run more, and commute less. A few others tossed in there for good measure as well: health scares, discord. This has been an amazing half-year. If I’m completely honest, I’m not sure if I mean amazing in a positive or negative because it’s been a lot of both. I know there are so, so many people hurting from illness, from a loss of economic security, from racial injustice, I know my situation is small, but I also have to believe it’s not atypical – I know my experience is being repeated over and over again.

As it happens, today is the 12th anniversary of my father’s passing. As I look back, I realize that I do a wonderful job of throwing myself a pity party every year. But the theme is always consistent. I screwed it up.

I spent today doing what I usually do, just thinking about all the things I could have and should have done better. After a full day of going back and forth about what I should do, I finally decided to go to the cemetery.

I spent 15 maybe 20 minutes in silence at his marker. Just listening. Taking in the sounds. Remembering that day we laid him to rest in the memorial park, how badly the honor guard had messed up folding his flag, but I told them not to refold it. All of those things. And then I got up to leave.

As I drove out I was thinking about what I could have done to honor his day. And then I realized it. I parked my car, and ran back to his marker. On 9/11, I ran 9.11 miles. Today, I was going to run 7.6 miles around the memorial park. And so I did.

My niece leaves him a coffee every year. This year because of coronavirus, maintenance has been scaled back, and so her coffee from Memorial Day was still there.

It was cathartic and I got to explore the memorial park in a way I hadn’t ever taken the time to do before. As 7.6 clicked off my watch, I stood in front of dad’s marker – I was there at 7.6 when I wasn’t there for 7/6.

I felt at peace running through the park. Focusing on my body, how it felt. I had some reason to run a distance. I didn’t have to question it, it just felt right. I needed 7.6 miles.

And when I finished, I stood by his marker, knelt, crossed myself, and then wiped some sweat from my forehead and crossed his marker, leaving a little bit of me with him today.

How many countless times I wish I had him here to ask him advise or for his opinion, knowing he was always in my corner. A guy can always use someone who is always unabashedly in his corner, and it is always so much better when he’s your dad.

Today was hard, but it ended well. Maybe I have just a little more forgiveness left in me.