Starting last night around midnight, a group of us ran from Bet Shemesh to the Kotel, a total of almost 39 kilometers. We got there just as dawn was breaking and were able to daven (pray) as the sun came up.
A night run is a completely different experience than running during the day. Often, with just a flashlight mounted on a band around your head, all you can see is a couple of meters ahead of you. You can be running fine and feeling great.
Then all of a sudden, the trail turns upward, and you may have no idea how long the climb will be. But you keep running. Or you could stumble over a rock that you had not seen, and you use your arms to try and catch your balance so that you don’t end up getting a mouthful of trail.
Since most of you are familiar with my writing, you know what comes next. I try and tell all of you to live and enjoy life like a night run. You never know when all of a sudden, the pleasant run becomes tougher and you’re not sure when the tough part will end. Or something comes up out of nowhere, and you need to find a way to stay upright and continue on.
When Stella was diagnosed, on the heavy recommendation of friends, I went to see a therapist who specializes in helping those with cancer or a loved one with cancer. I am not at all ashamed or embarrassed to admit it. Hey — dealing with cancer is HEAVY and it’s ok to seek some help.
But as helpful as this was for me, what really kept me sane was running, especially with my Bet Shemesh Running Club. Now I’m not saying that everyone who finds themselves in a similar situation needs to start doing crazy runs. Everyone is different and not every approach will be helpful for everyone.
But it worked for me.
Just not all the time.
I remember one night in particular where I was so stressed out that I ran as hard as I could until I could hardly breath. The resulting physical collapse mixed with an emotional collapse which left me in a puddle or tears and sweat on the road.
But, the guys picked me up and stuck me back together again so I could go home and resume the “Strong Man” facade. So maybe it did work.
But that was not a normal moment. Most of the time, runs with the club were a huge release from the stress and worry of caring for someone who is both very sick and very loved. In a serious run, you get to take a break from your situation and just feel the power of letting your body do what it is capable of without interference from the mind. I came to relish the Friday morning runs and bike rides like never before. It’s not like I ever stopped thinking of Stella — no, not for a second. BUT, on a run it didn’t consume me as the worry did at other times. After a serious, serious run, I could return to being a husband, father, and friend with my “batteries” recharged for another week.
And it was also key that I ran with a group. No one should ever have to run through life alone. I remember meeting someone in chemo one time. We started talking, but when I asked her name, she declined to give it because she didn’t want anyone to know she had cancer. Of course I respected her decision, but I do feel that it is not the best course to try and fight cancer by yourself.
We raised a whole army — and knowing this army was just a blog post away was enormously comforting because we never felt that we were alone. Thousands of people helped us when we needed it, and we now find ourselves in turn trying to give strength to others who are fighting this monster.
Which is what we hope to do now, or rather in November. We have a very special message for all those (far too many) battling for their lives against this dreadful disease:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Beyond the actual tangible part of the “event,” (which will indeed directly support those with cancer,) an important component will be to do something so crazy, so huge, so insane — that we will spread awareness of a special message:
If you or someone you love has cancer, you don’t have to run alone.
So there are a few more details, and I promise in just a few weeks to let you all in on the plan.
Until then, keep on running.