That is the mantra I repeated to myself in times of exhaustion when I was training for my first two marathons back in 2003 and 2004. The early morning runs, the aching joints, the self doubt, all of these things played a factor in wearing me down and making me want to quit. But then I would repeat those six words to myself and I would find some buried reservoir of energy and continue moving forward.
I am running for my son.
The reason behind my sudden urge to run a marathon was raising money to find a cure for cystic fibrosis, the deadly disease that Jacob was diagnosed with when he was barely a month old. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). A defective gene causes the body to produce thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections, and obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food. To combat the disease, Jacob must do daily breathing treatment with a nebulizer and a machine called “The Vest,” which vibrates his chest to break up any mucus build up in his lungs.
Additionally, he must take enzyme supplements to help him digest food. Jacob takes a total of 13 different medications daily to keep him a healthy little boy who loves to play with his older sister, Sophie.
After a two-year hiatus, a simple jog through a rain-soaked parking lot last Thanksgiving lit a spark in me to begin running again. Between 2003 and 2006, over $20,000 was raised for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation through the marathon fundraisers I ran. The time felt right to make another go at it. New shoes were bought, a slow steady regime was adopted, and on November 16, I will participate in the Pasadena half marathon, just two days after Jacob’s 7th birthday.
This past summer, we visited family in Ohio and I stuck with my training as best as possible. The very first morning, as I cut a path through the memories of my childhood jogging through the neighborhoods where I grew up, an epiphany hit me. I vividly recall a Coldplay song chiming through my headphones and I had a clear vision of the future. Jacob and his loving sister, Sophie, were sitting together on a swing, reading, he with his head on her shoulder. They were older, in their teens, and the sun was setting behind them. In this vision, I stood, observing, feeling blessed for the wonderful life I have and the beautiful family I love. And it occurred to me, suddenly, that I am not just running for my son.
I am running for my family.
As this thought came over me, I had to stop running, gasping for air and trying to hold back tears. Any passerby would have thought I’d injured myself. CF affects everyone in the family. As parents, that daily routine of 13 different medications can get overwhelming. But we do it because we love our child, and would go to the ends of the Earth to ensure his good health. And then there is Sophie, our precious daughter, who sometimes seems to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders. She loves her brother so much, it brings tears to your eyes when you observe the way they interact. I dread the day the two of them begin asking questions about the statistics, like median life expectancy and the fact that only half the people with cystic fibrosis live to be in their mid-30s.
I am running for my family.
This new mantra has given me renewed strength on my weekly runs and when I am in need of an extra push, the lyrics from that Coldplay song echo in my head:
“The sky could be blue, I don’t mind / Without you it’s a waste of time.”
Without my family I’m a waste of time. That’s why I’m asking for your help.
That’s why I’m running for my family.
We need your support. Please consider making a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation by clicking on this link. I’m not asking for much, 10, 20, maybe 50 dollars, whatever you can afford. Every little bit helps; every little bit goes a long way in finding a cure for this dreaded disease. It truly is a matter of life and death for people with CF.
My family and I, we thank you with all of our hearts.