As some of you may know, I ran my first marathon just over two years ago in Anchorage, Alaska for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. Recently, I’ve found myself thinking of that experience—and in particular, one specific moment that I’d like to share:
“Then—without warning —The Wall. I’ve just passed the 19-mile mark and, suddenly, I’m struggling to advance. What’s this? I wonder, incredulously. It’s as if a random stranger sprang from the crowd, handed me an SUV, and asked me to carry it on my back. The crushing weight of fatigue seizes the muscles of my legs; they rebel against my intent to move forward. Physically spent, my finish depends upon mental grit—and I’m not convinced I have it. For an hour, I push against the miles, walking more than running, maintaining a constant internal monologue: Don’t stop. You can do this. You came to finish this marathon, and you’re going to finish, dammit. At mile 23, I’m demoralized and on the verge of quitting. Runner after runner has passed me. My four-hour time goal is about to topple. A stinging layer of salt has formed on my face from all the perspiration, and my calves are so tightly coiled that I worry one will burst from beneath the skin. Why the hell am I here?
And then I see her: A single woman, alone, perched on a small hill to my right. She’s holding a sign. I look around to discover the runners have thinned, and I, too, am alone. Limping toward her, I squint to read her scrawl. I’m a leukemia survivor, the sign reads, simply. Thank you.
Even now, I’m overcome with the emotion of what that moment meant—that a woman who’d endured so much could thank me, and thousands of other runners she’d never met—for doing something that had seemed so insignificant outside the boundaries of my personal goal. Each time I think of her, this anonymous woman, I’m reminded that we all have something to be thankful for—and that life is often too short to express it.
And so I want to thank each of you, for all the ways you enrich my life—even when I forget to tell you exactly how much I appreciate it.