I volunteered at the Mile 20 water stop for the 2012 Twin Cities Marathon. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to be a spectator or volunteer at that event without walking away absolutely amazed, inspired, motivated, and with the desire to run. Having run that event the year before, it was bittersweet to be there as a volunteer, but I had just gotten the green light to start running short intervals the week before after my foot surgery, so I wasn’t running more than two minutes at a time without stopping to walk, and not more than 20 minutes for a “run” – not really marathon caliber.
I never remember my dreams, so I figure the ones that I remember must mean something. I know the TC Marathon course…having run it on training runs and for the real thing. Having biked it with a friend on her 20 mile training run just a few weeks earlier. I had dreamed of the course before (they were nightmares, really, in anxious anticipation of my 2011 debut), but this one was different. Along the course, it is typical to see hundreds of amazing spectators, live music, creative signs, friends providing motivation (and spare packs of GU). In my dream, right around Mile 17 (West River Road) where there was a bend in the road, and I could see a big purple balloon floating in the distance. I kept my eye on this balloon. Purple is my favorite color after all.
Once I came around the bend, I saw that the balloon was tied to a lawn chair, and in the lawn chair sat a man who was looking expectantly at all the runners passing by. I looked again…this time trying to shake the unlikely image from my head, because it didn’t compute. The man sitting in the lawn chair with the purple balloon was my Dad. As I came into view, I saw that great smile of his spread across his entire face as he clapped and stood up. As I ran by, he gave me a standing ovation and two quick pats on the back. I was so stunned I didn’t even stop to give him a hug (which I regret, but can you really regret not doing something in a dream?!). And I kept running, with an amazing sense of empowerment filling me from my toes, and I could still feel where my Dad clapped those great yet tender hands on my back as I went by.
Two things (at least) are notable about this dream. First: This is completely in character for my Dad. He was always my biggest cheerleader. He rarely missed an event I participated in, whether it was a volleyball game or a band concert. In college, at every G-Band concert or Christmas in Christ Chapel (where I played in Orchestra) ended with finding my parents in the crowd when we stood after our final piece, and I’d see my Dad getting to his feet to start the standing ovation. I have no doubt that my Dad would have found a shady spot for his lawn chair along the marathon course, cracked open a Diet Pepsi, and scanned the crowd of runners by until he spotted me. The fact that he didn’t reach out to give me a hug (or that I didn’t stop) is also pretty consistent…he was a stoic full-blooded German after all. Second: My Dad has been gone for almost five years. After a relatively brief (yet agonizingly painful for our family) battle with Alzheimer’s Disease (he was diagnosed in 2004), we said our painful final goodbye to him on April 22, 2008. He’ll never actually be sitting in a lawn chair at Mile 17 the next time I’m lucky enough to run Twin Cities Marathon.
When I woke up (with wet eyes and a damp pillow), I knew I had to do two things: (1) run the marathon again so that I could see my Dad at Mile 17 (sure, it’ll just be in my head, but the vision is remarkably clear), and (2) dedicate this one to him by running on the charity team for the Alzheimer’s Association and fundraising to honor my Dad’s memory. Tackling marathon training again so soon was not an easy decision, and not one I took lightly. It took a few months of mulling in my mind, as well as some serious talking and prioritizing with my husband before I could truly commit and know I had the full support of my family behind me. And that second thing I had to do wasn’t as easy as it had been to sign up with the Run to Stop MS team in 2011 – an “Alz-Stars” charity team for the Twin Cities Marathon didn’t exist yet. However, a few emails with my story and several questions and several replies later…it did. Check out my Alz-Stars webpage (and feel free to give generously if you can!).
I’m all signed up for the 2013 Twin Cities Marathon on October 6, 2013. There are a few reasons I’ve got this goal dangling in front of me: I turn 40 later that month (seems like a good way to celebrate my birthday), and I’ve got an improved foot after last summer’s bunion surgery that remains to be proven. Mostly, though…I want to work hard, push myself to and beyond what I think I’m capable of (because that’s what my Dad would expect of me) and honor his memory in a tangible way that will help other people coping with Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m not trying to be SuperWoman, but if I did have any super powers, I’d certainly know who I inherited them from.