At 7:30 tomorrow morning, my hometown should be drenched in a cold, steady rain. I’ll be on the south side of town with 619 other soaked nuts, running the Charlotte 10 Miler in Taylor’s honor for the second straight year.
Last year, we got a blue sky and just enough of a winter chill to cut through my long-sleeved tech shirt – good for some lung burn on the nasty hill at mile eight, but not too much to bear.
This year, I might have lakes in my shoes by mile two. So while the kicks I’ll call into service for this race cost more than some of my designer heels when I bought them, they’ve pounded more than 500 miles of asphalt roads, concrete sidewalks and pit gravel tracks; I’ll leave the shiny, new, broken-in-just-enough pair in my closet at home. I haven’t decided if I’ll expose my iPhone – keeper of my special music playlist – to the elements. And if that isn’t enough to throw me out of whack, I had a third surgery on my nose – I obliterated it playing soccer almost three years ago – last month and had to put a short hold on my training.
Needless to say, I don’t know if I’ll set a new PR tomorrow.
But this running thing, I’ve learned, is all about making adjustments; it’s about knowing how to perform even when the elements you can’t control – from the weather to your own body – deal you a wild card. A soccer player turned distance runner who didn’t enter a race till I turned 25, I made a living on the soccer field by being faster than everyone else. I set up shop on the sideline and went up and down, down and up, for 90 minutes, every game. While I miss soccer – I reached my limit for surgeries induced by the sport – I love how the sport of running can be a journey. I can stick my ear buds in my ears, lace up my shoes, run down my driveway with my house at my back and just wait for the path – and the world – to come to me.
Life is a little like that, too – and in a weird, roundabout way, so is our fight against Batten disease. I had no inkling of Batten disease until the moment my mom called me in tears on the morning of July 24, 2006 – the day of Taylor’s diagnosis. I was 24 years old that day; I was one month into my marriage and eight months into a new job; I’d recently bought a house; I was writing a novel. I had a very specific plan for my life, and I didn’t think anyone – or anything – could get in my way. But Batten disease forced me to make tough choices. It forced me to take a few detours. Batten disease was bigger – and more awful – than anything I’d ever faced.
We’ve all taken more than a few hits since that day in 2006, but we’ve won some big races, too. And the best part is, we’re still running – most of all Taylor. My favorite quote of all time is one by Cindy Smith, whose son, Brandon, passed away in 2009 after a courageous battle with infantile Batten disease. Cindy said that “Life is not waiting for the storm to pass. It’s learning to dance in the rain.” And just as Brandon taught his family to dance in the rain, Taylor has taught me to keep going on not only the best, but also the worst of days. So you’d better believe that I’ll keep running – on roads, sidewalks, tracks and in this fight for children like Brandon and Taylor – for as long as I’ve got legs for running and heart for fighting.
p.s if you’re half as crazy as me and live in the Charlotte area, come on out to the finish line of the Charlotte 10 Miler around 8:45 tomorrow morning. I’ll be the one in Taylor’s Tale purple and the water-logged, no-tread shoes.