My watch beeped. Glancing down, I realized I had passed mile 23, that this was the farthest I’d ever run. Tears streamed down my face as I realized, “Oh my God. I’m doing this. It’s happening. I’m actually doing this thing!” My path to this place, my first marathon, had been a rocky one.
Two weeks earlier I had been sitting in the office a rehab facility, listening to a counselor say I was showing “severe levels of clinical depression and an eating disorder,” that I “probably needed to complete intensive outpatient treatment,” and finally, that maybe I “should not run the marathon.”
At home my grandfather, my father figure, was fighting a battle for his life, his second round with pancreatic cancer. He was only 66 years old. When the doctors predicted he had only three or four months left to live, he and my grandmother agreed to hospice care, during which I watched my hero deteriorating before my very eyes. Each time I went home he looked worse and worse. Each hug became more fragile, but more meaningful. His body became tiny, but his spirit remained as strong as ever. I became paranoid any time my cell phone rang that it would be someone breaking the news of his death. Every text message, phone call, and voicemail made my heart stop.
I couldn’t lose him. It would break me.
I couldn’t sleep much, and when I did, my head was filled with nightmares of bones, cancer and death. Marathon training had been a welcome outlet for the pain I felt as I watched his slow decline. At that point, I had been training for three months. My two 20-mile training runs were complete, and I was feeling ready physically. But mentally, I was in complete misery. I couldn’t eat. I had previously fought and overcome anorexia, but this was different. My relapse was due to the extreme depression I was experiencing, not body image issues like I had before. I wanted to eat, and I really tried, but eating, like many other things, became physically impossible. I cried over food. I just couldn’t force one more bite. Part of me wanted to die.
Only one thing in my life remained easy … training.