Saturday, July 30, 2011

For You

In honor and memory of Jinky 1968-2011
I have mixed emotions about running tomorrow. Like the San Francisco course, my feelings go up and down. I feel excited about doing my 22nd marathon; but I feel sad that I will run without my beloved wife for the first time. I already missed two paid-for marathons in Napa and Oakland.  I was just too devastated to go out of the house for a run.

But you see the picture above. I have my bib number and I will brave the full marathon tomorrow. The pink carnation I will hold in my hand the entire race in her honor and memory. She fought her battle against breast cancer with a lot of courage, so shall I go out and give it my all even though I am undertrained. She didn't sign up to get cancer and suffer, so why should I complain about the pain tomorrow. This race is for you, Jinky. Like the San Francisco Marathon slogan, this is definitely worth the hurt.

God bless all runners in the San Francisco race. And in solidarity, may I invite you to go out and offer your run, walk, or workout tomorrow in prayer for the sick and the suffering who are unable to enjoy the blessings of physical activity...for strength and healing.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Makes You Happy?

My wife's Jinky's artwork in 2005 for her students' project
This is an artwork done by my wife to show her answer to the question above:  What Makes You Happy?  It was a class project for her K-1 students where she asked them to draw their answer to the question above. Then she compiled them into a book form.  This was done in summer of 2005.  I stumbled upon it during my sentimental journey of grieving - cleaning and sorting up my wife's things.  I was immediately struck by her sincerity and astuteness of her answer.  Her artistry also showed her neatness and kind character.  She has simply found one of three secrets to her happiness: her family.  And to complete the other two:  her friends and her faith.

As you can see from the drawing, we were also a running family.  And borrowing (and modifying) the famous slogan of Fr. Patrick Peyton of the Family Rosary Crusade:  "A family that prays (and runs) together, stay together."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bid Me Run

2004 calendar marking my very first run 
"Bid me run and I will strive with things impossible." - Shakespeare, Julius Ceasar

I was sorting through my deceased wife's wife's things when I stumbled upon a 2004 calendar. In there, I marked my  very first race - a 5k in Napa Valley, California on March 7th.  It was a memorable day marking the start of my life on the run.

My wife and young son came along with me driving early in the morning.  Unsure of what to do, we were there at six for an 8 am start. Where is everybody? My wife and son went back to the car to sleep but I told them to to meet me at the finish line 40 minutes after the start, my expected finish time. Nothing else I wanted more than for them to meet me at the finish line of my very first run.

I was in full sweats when I started and middle of the race I was burning hot. Damn it! I wanted to get rid of my layers! I was running at a much faster pace. Before I knew it, I was approaching the finish line.  It was about 26 minutes. My wife and son were nowhere to be seen. I was proud to finish faster than I thought but I was bummed they weren't there to witness a monumental race of my life. I was walking out of the chutes when I saw them walking from the parking lot.  We were all pleasantly surprised that I was already done.

This same race I met an elderly man who was in his 60's who finished at the same time as me.  He said he started running in his 30's and just kept going since then. However, his arthritis had been bothering him so he scaled down to running 5ks from running full marathons. What?  26.2 miles? He completed 14 of them!  I was awed at this gray-haired but fit looking man.  Before he left, he bid me:  Keep running, you can do it, too!
Run to the cemetery to visit my wife

It's been seven years since my first 5k.  And this Sunday I will be running my 22nd marathon in San Francisco. Bittersweet feelings expected. For wife will not be there at the finish.  Nor will she be home when I'm all done.  But this race is for you, my beloved wife.

"I will not rest until I rest in Thee." - Praying Runner

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Two Notes

My son's note in July 30, 2005
Just sharing with you two love notes my wife and my son wrote to me to inspire me on my marathon.  It was the  San Francisco Marathon in 2005.  We stayed the night in Hyatt Hotel and they slipped the notes in my fuel belt early in the morning before I walked to the start.  My wife lovingly told me to open and read them on Mile 20.

My son's note said, "Dad, you have 6.1 more miles. You can do it!  I love you."  Along with his mom, he did the Progressive Marathon during this event.  He is 14 years old now, an avid runner as well.

My wife's note in July 30, 2005
My wife's note said, "Dear Love, I wish someday I'll be able to run 10k easily, then 1/2 marathon, and then marathon.  Thanks for inspiring me.  Good job, Dad!  Keep running!  -Loves" 

My wife was never able to run a 10k easily, nor a half, nor a full marathon with me.  She did run a 10k in 2006 but it turned out to be a very difficult one.  One month after that 10k, her cancer came back and metastasized.

I ran 19 more marathons in the last 6 years and she and my son gave me their all out support in each of them.  This year, my wife's heath rapidly declined until she passed away on March 18th.  I skipped 2 marathons I registered for that month.  But this time on the 31st of July, I have decided to run the San Francisco Marathon.  This is the first race I will be running without her.  I will miss her terribly, but I know she will be with me.  Like what she told me in her note, I will keep running.  I will not rest until I rest in Thee.  -  Praying Runner.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Run to the Cemetery

Nothing else gives me more life than to run to the cemetery and visit my wife's grave.  The route is terrible because it's on a busy road, but the arrival is heavenly.  I reach a wonderful feeling of calm and rest which every long distance runner aspires for at every race.

I like to show you a short music video I created when my wife's headstone was installed a few months ago and also a favorite  verse of mine.  The music is from the Disney-Pixar movie "Up".  It's a story about a man whose dreams of adventure died when his wife died; but eventually found it when he chose to step out of his own limits.  (Please turn up your volume when you play the video.  The sound recording is not very audible. Also in the video is my son arranging the flowers in her headstone.)

          "I will not rest until I rest in Thee." -- Praying Runner

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 1 of My Return to Running

My running has been sporadic, to say the least, since my wife passed away 4 months ago.  I actually started running again with friends but then I just isolated myself and stopped running.  I realized I use up my emotional reserves every time memories of my wife hit me hard.  By then I had nothing to give to running.

But one memory inspired me to return to running for good.  As I was going through her closet, I saw one letter she wrote to me on Father's Day in 2006 offering a 10k run for me.  That 10k turned out to be her last run.  The following month, her doctor told her that her cancer recurred and metastasized.

As tears flowed, I knew that I should go back to running.  But it wasn't easy getting back up on my feet.  My grieving was draining and exhausting me.  I didn't realize that it could affect me physically.  I had to dig deep for some kind of motivation to get me out there.

On my shoe, my wife's name, "Jinky"
Today, with God's help and my wife's intercession, I was able to muster the courage to start again.  It was one lazy afternoon and 93 degrees outside; and I was alone at home.  It was the perfect day to stay indoors and watch TV.  However, I got up from the couch and went to the bedroom to change to my running gear.  Then I took a marker and wrote my wife's name on my pair of shoes.

I walked the the whole block until the corner; then like a plane after being a given an all clear from the control tower, I took off running.  I chose a favorite 9-mile route on the suburban streets where I live. I knew this route and every crack on the sidewalk by heart; but I haven't returned to it in months.  It felt good, reliving lots of fond memories, running this route then coming back home to my wife who was always waiting for me to return.

Every run is for you, my beloved wife!  Long may I run!