Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This Is For You

The donations poured in and the preparation for the race began. I had begun increasing my mileage the previous weeks so I didn't feel the need for much physical preparation for a 5k. However, mentally I didn't know if I was ready to run such an emotional race on my first Father's Day without my Daddy. Nonetheless, I was determined to carry on.

A few weeks later, I had raised close to $400 and it was time to get my feet moving. On race day, I turned in my donations and picked up my packet including my blue ribbon symbolizing Prostate Cancer. I wrote "In memory of Delbert Beard" on the ribbon and pinned it to my shorts. It was a reminder of what this race was all about. It would serve as my cheerleader, my supporter, and even my partner for the next 3.1 miles. As I stood among hundreds of runners and walkers who were survivors of Prostate Cancer and supporters for this cause, it all felt surreal. Never did I imagine that my father would pass away so soon and so suddenly. Losing him only a month ago, the wound hadn't even begun to heal...

Mixed feelings of sadness, excitement, and nervousness began to take surface. I was beyond anxious to start the race. My palms were sweaty, my stomach was turning, and my feet were antsy. I stood among the crowd thinking about my father and his war with cancer. Once again, I recognized the fraility of our lives and how abruptly our health can simply be taken away. I looked above and spoke softly to my Daddy, "This is for you."

When the gun was shot, I took off running. It had been almost 8 years since I ran a 5k and the thought of pacing myself somehow elapsed my mind. The adrenaline kicked in and I ran off with the crowd thinking about those last few days with my father and his illness over the past 9 years. I thought about his numerous fights with cancer (his constant trips to the doctor's office for chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatment; his numerous hospital stays; his loss of coordination and body movement; and his inability to care for himself.) Despite these struggles, his will and determination to stay alive never subsided. While he lost many battles, he never gave up.

As I finished the first mile in rapid time, my breaths became shorter and my legs began to burn. I told myself to slow down, take it easy, don't push yourself too hard. By the time I reached mile two, I simply wanted to quit. The shortness of breath returned, my body was aching and my feet were telling me to stop. I thought about my father and his fortitude. He never gave up, he kept on going. So I continued as fast as I could thinking only 1.1 miles to go. As I crossed the finish line at 23:48, this wasn't my best time but this was definitely my best race. I had ran with a purpose and let me tell you that nothing can quite compare to how I felt as I crossed that finish line with a smile on my face saying "Daddy, this is for you."