Yesterday, I went out running with my preteen daughter. Over the past year, she’s taken up an interest in the exercise I’ve enjoyed for twenty-seven years. I started running when in the eighth grade, I was surprised by how quickly and easily I could cover my middle school field’s four laps I had to run in gym. I’ve kept at it more or less ever since and in my late 30s, while I was running distances I never could have covered as a teen, my pace had more or less held steady. Sub-6:00 miles, sub-20:00 5Ks, and a reasonable hope to qualify for Boston were all part of my running life.
Then 2013 happened. Zealous to outdo myself in my second marathon, I over-trained through the winter, ignoring the little tweaks of discomfort in my Achilles. Then discomfort became pain became the inability to run at all. Then after two months of rest, I ran – or jogged, really – Boston anyway, until just past Kenmore Square, I heard about the bombs. So no Boston finish, two months of failed physical therapy, two more months of not doing much of anything physically, and then six weeks immobilized in a walking boot, my Achilles is finally un-swollen, and I can run this month again. Three times a week, short distances, slow pace, then I go back to the doctor to see how my tendon is holding up.
And despite all the medical attention, despite all the care, despite the daily icing and prayers, I no there are no guarantees, at least for my Achilles. I can bet that if she sticks with it, my daughter’s outpacing me will continue. And at some point, my life as a runner will be over. I’m just hoping that I can eke out another decade or three on my favorite roads and trails.
This weekend I talked with a friend of mine told me that his cancer, which had been in remission for years, looks like it’s coming back in full force. We live in Boston, and so he has the best cancer care in the world. Dozens of us have been praying for his health as well, praying for a miraculous defeat of this disease. Right now, though, things aren’t trending in a positive direction. My prayers for my friend, and even my prayers for my Achilles are my own version, I suppose of the ancient prayer:
Your Kingdom come, your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
I believe that I’ve started life in a kingdom where people don’t die of cancer and runners never need stop. But of course, I also live in a world where all my friends and family, and I too, will die, usually after our bodies fail us in some way again and again, sometimes spectacularly so. What, at my best, do I do with all of this? I mourn each loss, I hunger and thirst for the health and joy God can bring, and I do what I can to hold it all with humility and mercy. And as I do so, I feel glad that Jesus calls me happy in these places. Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, and all that. Along with my friend, comfort and satisfaction and mercy and all the earth is mine.
And I watch my daughter run. You run, girl – never stop!