In the weeks after Annie died, Cameron and I started running a bit. I don't consider myself to be a runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought that it might be good therapy for both of us. Way back then, we talked about the idea of possibly running a 10K and dedicating it to Annie. One night, after a late run, we sat in the dark on the front lawn and set a goal to someday run from our home, to her grave, and back (approximately 7 miles round trip). At the time, my longest run was 2.5 miles and to run seven seemed impossible. Winter came, I stopped running, and those goals faded.
More than a year passed before I again started to seriously consider running for Annie. I knew that running was not my favorite thing, but I couldn't help but feel that it would be neat to do something hard, something really hard, in honor of my daughter who did unbearably hard things every minute of every day of her life. I know there is no comparison between running a race and living with and dying from heart defects. I really know that. But, it still felt like a good idea, and I couldn't help but think that Annie would be proud of her mom. I committed to run a 10K. Then, with some coaxing from friends, I changed my mind and decided to do a half marathon. 13.1 miles. Unthinkable at the time. But I set the goal, I paid the entry fee for the race, I loaded my ipod with every song that reminded me of Annie (as well as plenty that would motivate me to run faster) and I went to work.
I started running again.
I ran 2 miles. Then 3. Then 4.
One early morning, I left my house and about a mile into my run, I decided that this would be the day that I would run to Annie's grave. Instead of taking my usual route, I changed my course and headed towards the cemetery. It was a beautiful morning. I reached the cemetery just as the sun was coming over the mountains. Realizing that I was finally accomplishing a goal that I had set so long ago, I wiped the tears from my eyes, blew my daughter a kiss and ran home. From that day on, all my long training runs included passing by Annie's grave and blowing her a kiss. I didn't look forward to running every day, but some days it was just what I needed. Often, I could feel Annie close, and the memories of my time with her were part of every single run.
Race day came early. 3 o'clock in the morning early. Cameron and I got very little sleep that night, but arrived in time to load the busses along with the thousands of others that would be running the race with us. The bus drove us up the canyon to the starting line where we waited in the dark for the race to begin. At 6 am we started running. My only goal for that day was to run the entire time (no walking) and enjoy it as much as possible.
It was difficult. There were moments when I really wanted it to be over (especially miles 10 and 11) but, I did it! My race time is nothing to brag about, but I did it. The best part, hands down, was the final stretch to the finish line. My whole heart was with Annie and this was a really emotional experience for me. Something I will never forget.
I don't know if I will run another race, but I'm so glad I ran this one.
Love you, Annie.