Friday, September 28, 2012

Running, Grieving, and Meaning

It’s been a year and a half since my wife passed away after a long battle with breast cancer, but I’m only recently beginning to realize the fullness of what I’ve lost. Whoever said that the stages of grief come in an orderly progression was wrong. Grieving is not a neat and systematic process at all. It’s totally haphazard. It was much like my training for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon.

Some days were good. Some days were not.  To run was a struggle, but I tried hard to put a run in as often as I could. My skimpy training reflected my own attempt to create a picture of me doing something to move on with my life with my loss.

With a rose in hand, approaching the
finish line at the Half Moon Bay
International Marathon on
Sept. 23, 2012 in California.
I came to the race very guarded; but all that changed right before the start of the race. I was greeted by two runners, Michelle and Stacie with her family, who thanked me for what I do. Then, a few good friends, husband and wife Alvin and Michelle, Myrel, and Ja, who showed up as a surprise, to show their support. During the race, I ran into Chris, who is running to raise awareness for the Prader-Willi Syndrome and in honor of their daughter Grace, and who has been following my journey since he and his wife met me last year at the inaugural race. And also, Alva, who broke to me the sad news of Pete Mingwah’s death only a week ago. Pete, the ultimate and inspirational couch to ultramarathon runner, is like a brother to Alva. Then as the race went on, a few more runners who remembered me from last year and who recognized me as the runner with the rose gave me a shout out on the course. I met a few more runners – Patrick, Rachel, mother and son team Joanna and Paul, and Cynthia, who is race director of a trail and adventure race company, Desert Sky Adventures.  I also like to mention the volunteers and organizers who joyously and eagerly cheered me on throughout the race. The entire race turned out to be a blessing of an experience for me. Instead of feeling my loss, I realized what I had gained.

My run was for my wife. It was also for all the people I prayed for and those who asked for it on their behalf. As much as I remembered my loss during the run, I also recognized the caring, giving, and the affirmation I received from the other runners, volunteers, and organizers I met in the race.

Grieving, like running is not easy.  Grieving is not fun, unlike running.  But grieving and running, in the right direction, can be both nurturing.  There is joy and enlightenment that eventually grow out of them. It doesn't matter if the training was a mess, or if the grieving was disorderly. What matters is that you are at the starting line (again) to face an opportunity to grow, to change, and to be a better person than you were before.

Some excerpts taken from Widower: When Men Are Left Alone by Scott Campbell and Phyllis R. Silverman

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Re-Post. Praying for Families

At Mile 20 of the Annual California International Marathon in Sacramento, CA is an infamous water station decorated with an arch that looks like a solid brick wall. It’s scrupulously tormenting especially when you actually hit the wall when you get this far running.

That’s what happened to me in a marathon seven years ago. At Mile 20, I started to fatigue. I could feel spotty tingling cramping sensations on my calf muscles. My legs were starting to feel heavy instead of the fleet footed strides I did the last 20 miles. I started to worry for I knew I was bonking.

But I had to dig deep. When the body starts to fail, the mind takes over. I remembered what my wife gave to me at the starting line.  She gave me two folded pieces of note inside a Ziploc Bag.  She tucked it inside my fuel belt and told me to read it somewhere around Mile 20.

A note from my son to me
during the San Francisco
Marathon in 2005.
A note from my late wife
to me during the San Francisco
Marathon in 2005.
The first note was from my son. “Dad, you have 6.1 more miles. You can do it! I love you.” The second note was from my wife.  “Dear Love, I wish someday I’ll be able to run 10k easily, then ½ marathon, and then marathon. Thanks for inspiring me. Good job, Dad! Keep running! – Loves.”  Tears started rolling down my cheeks.  I looked up ahead of me and I started running one step after another.  I will finish this marathon with all that I have left for I can't wait a minute longer to see my family.

As you know, 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 for her. One month after that 10k, her cancer came back and metastasized. My son was 8 years old when he wrote me that note; he is 15 years old now. He is “retired” from running for now and is doing other sports. Even when my wife is not with us anymore, she and my son are still my inspiration to keep me going. Especially when I “hit the wall” in my life’s journey.

On September 23rd, I will be running the Half Moon Bay International Marathon in Half Moon Bay, CA. in prayer for your special intentions, especially for families who have lost a loved one or ones.  Send me your prayer requests by posting it here or on my Facebook Page,  or by sending me an email at

Back page of the same note
written on the hotel pad.
From my wife during the San Jose
Marathon in 2006
Sharing with you another note I found recently that my late wife wrote to me during the San Jose Marathon in 2006. That weekend, she made every effort to go with me and stay with me at the hotel the eve of the marathon, even though she was in pain from her cancer treatments.

She wrote: Dear Love, I'm praying the rosary for you now and I will again tomorrow. I feel thankful for you offering this run to me. I feel very blessed having you do all the sacrifices to take care of me. Thank you so much for still seeing me as the home of your heart even if I don't look attractive and that I can't do most what I could do in the past. But I know I'll get better. I can still be "normal". I'm looking forward to that. I'm glad Tim and I are here with you. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH & SO MUCH. Loves, Jinky.