Click here to read Part One.
Are you ready for answer number two?
This is a big one.
I ran a 50K to run away the grief of losing your grandfather, my dad.
It was fast. He got sick, I got pregnant, he died, I gave birth to you. He was supposed to live longer, I was supposed to hand your tiny newborn body to him after he got better, recovered, and we would all be happy, laugh at how sick he was, and celebrate your birth and his survival.
Death and birth happened at nearly the same time, four weeks apart, death coming first. Insomnia plagued me for six years after these events, from June 1, 2013, the day my dad died, until sometime during the summer of 2019, after your baby brother turned two.
To escape insomnia, because what the hell else could I do when I couldn’t sleep, I ran, and to manage and make sense of what happened to my strong, invincible, only 61-year-old dad, I ran, until the berating mind eased, the blaming of myself faded... why didn’t I intervene into his two-pack-a-day smoking habit? I could’ve saved him if I prodded him to stop, but it was easier to let him do his thing than to go up against a 40-year-old habit… still, it’s my fault, I should have spoken up, fought harder, then he would have lived to meet his first grandchild (you)…
Eventually the litany of these what if’s, these useless, sickening weights subsided with more miles, more running, until I got pregnant again, had Grey, and returned to the trails, and suddenly I was up in mileage enough to go the 50K distance, twice in one year, plus a trail marathon, half marathons, 25Ks, and more, more running, always more running.
I ran to run from the pain, then through the pain, then with the pain, feeling it all. Running was the therapy, nature the backdrop where grief became denial which transformed to anger which turned into bargaining and finally, acceptance.
Running held me gently as I pounded out the agony, wiped my tears, rinsed myself clean. It was the beautiful creation, the transfiguration, the act of turning something downright depressing, debilitating, into something uplifting, fulfilling, peaceful.
I am not alone in experiencing running as healing.
But I am alone, in some ways, from what I am so far aware, in what happened next. With healing came MAGIC.
Miracles graced us and connected me to your grandfather in surreal, serendipitous ways, which led me to keep at it, to keep running, so that I could be with him. In keeping at it, I gradually built up to running farther, longer.
Avie, running a 50K was the result of processing my dad's, your grandfather's death. The farther I ran, the more I raced, the more I was with him.
Now, let's get back to the origin of your question. You were directly referring to the 2019 Laurel Highlands Ultra when you giggled so sweetly and asked, "mom, why did you run a 50K?"
Running a 50K as a race, or any distance for that matter, is fueled by a desire to be, connect with other runners, to celebrate the distance, together enough, yet solo, the way I like it best. It's in racing that your grandfather finds me, or more often, welcomes me, before the racing has even begun, with his birth digits in my bib. The Laurel Highlands 50K was no exception - there he was, in bib form, as 520 (his birth date is 2-15-52), for the 14th time since his death.
You've witnessed it, Avie, you've heard the stories, seen the commemoration film. I race to spend the time with him that I wish he could be spending with you and Grey, with us, because it's within racing when he makes his presence so clearly, in-my-face known. How can I NOT chase it? In chasing him, he lives on, and as he lives on, the run, the race, takes on an entirely new meaning - one of rapture, jubilee, tribute.
His spirit lights me up, and from that divine source, I sprout wings and run, float, fly with the wind, like a wild, fearless wolf, playing, celebrating, through the mud and trees, feeling him and you and Grey and Eric and God simultaneously, lifting me higher, higher, higher.
Your grandfather's gift to me is his appearance at my races, and my gift to you, Avie, are the divine experiences he has given me, the stories, the bibs, the trophies, the medals, for you, for Grey.
Avie, I hope that you and Grey hold your grandpa, my race angel, the crazy, loving man you never met, in your hearts, filling you with faith and hope, and that it helps you understand why I run the way I do, why I ran a 50K.
Your mom (Brynn)