Staying the Course

Nine days ago, after two weeks of hospital visits, tests and anxious waiting, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Complications after the diagnostic biopsy had left me unable to run for 10 days, but the day after I received the news, the antibiotics had done their work and I was feeling physically fine. Mentally I was all over the place, alternating among fear, defiance, sadness, and the relief of knowing at least the first step of what I have to face. So, on a beautiful spring day in BC, I turned off my brain, laced up my running shoes and hit the trails for a run. As Scott Jurek so perfectly puts it in his book Eat & Run, 
"You could carry your burdens lightly or with great effort. You could worry about tomorrow or not ... None of it mattered as long as you moved, as long as you did something. Asking why was fine, but it wasn't action. Nothing brought the rewards of moving, of running." 
That day I ran miraculously dry, dusty paths through forests and up and down hills, over rocks and roots and past rushing streams. I revelled in the sweat and salt coating my skin, breathed in the fresh cool air, and turned my face toward the sun when it peeked through the trees. And when my muscles began to tire and the fear crept its way back in and caused my eyes to burn, I yelled out loud, fuck you, cancer. 

About 2 minutes later, I came within 10 metres of a black bear. He was beautiful, furry, and huge - and was just ambling across the trail I was in the process of running up, not in the least bit concerned with me or my problems. I stopped short, my heart racing, and slowly started stepping backwards until I felt I was far enough away to turn and go back to find a different route up the hill. Now, bear encounters occur regularly here - it's to be expected when you're running around in their territory - but this happened to be my first one. On this day of all days, I saw that bear as a symbol of two things I would need in the coming months: strength and the willingness to adapt.

Running is about staying the course. My training goals may need to shift now in terms of performances I can reasonably aim for in my races this summer, but I will do them. In fact, I'm running a trail half marathon in 2 days. In all the years I have run, I have learned this: no matter what you are facing, whether it is a physically or mentally hard run, a bear on the trail, or cancer, you keep moving. That knowledge gives me both comfort and strength.


  1. Nice! I found you on BCO. I ran all through my youth, in 20's,30's, and forties. I am in mid 50's now, and even though I have only ran a few times in the last few years, it almost killed me! But I used to love to run! And reading here today made me want to feel that feeling again, second wind, third, even! And I always ran along my river in Sacramento. Imagining I was a wild woman. Now I am going to walk around the block, this very minute!

  2. Awesome, thanks! Hope you had a great walk and can still feel like a wild woman : )


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Follow the Yaks: Trekking the Langtang Valley in Nepal

Diez Vista 50k 2018: Back in my Groove

2017 in Review: Missteps in the Right Direction