I was able to get hold of my mom this morning as I drove over to Campbell for my long run. I could run right from my doorstep, but I've got into the habit of going to Campbell and running along the Los Gatos Creek Trail, which is a long and scenic bike path. Distance running can be a pretty solitary experience at the best of times, and at least along the bike trail there are always other runners, not to mention a few water fountains and bathrooms.
More importantly, my mother was in excellent spirits. Going over to the golf club and watching some of the match was a very positive experience.
"I was on a real high," she tells me. "It was lady's day at the club so I got to see a lot of my friends. It was really good."
We talked a bit about her medications. She's switched off of Marinol, Oxy-Contin and Phenerol and the new drugs seem to be working fine. She's a bit less distracted and while her appetite is not huge, she's eating regularly. This is key to her well-being.
"The worst is when you're throwing up," she says. "You lose all the progress and then it takes a couple of days to come back to full strength. I still feel a little weak internally, sort of shakey. I'm not shakey on the outside."
Her sister Carmel and her nephew Robert are visiting later today and she's enthusiastic about that.
"How is work," she asks me.
"Work is good," I say. "I got a promotion."
"Did you get a raise?" This is exactly the exchange I expect from my mother. She has always been very goal oriented. It's a good value I've learned form her; it has served me well.
"Yes," and I am at once proud and also embarassed. Who knew that at 43 I'd still care what my mother thinks of my accomplishments. But someone once told me that the only genuine congratulations are those from your mother, and I believe there is some truth to that.
We talk a bit more and she has more energy than she has had lately, which is very encouraging. Eventually she loses her train-of-thought on something we say our goodbyes and our I-love-you's.
* * *
I do my long run along the creek trail and my spirits are higher. The nice thing about running for me is I can focus on one thing and not think about work or my mother's situation. I get into a groove where it's just about the next mile and the speed crowds out everything else.
I see a few other marathoners on the course. I can always tell the marathoners from the casual runners. Marathoners have a focused look in their eyes. They may be tired and they may be moving fast or barely shuffling, but there is a concentration and determination. It could be raining or a hundred degrees and they will still be out there, slack-jawed, eyes straight ahead, completely absorbed and resolute. For a marathoner, nothing gets in the way of the weekend long run. No matter what pain or suffering there is on the long run, marathoners know that it is better to take their lumps during training because there will be that much less pain on race day.
Running along the Los Gatos Creek Trail sometimes feels like a secret society. I've been running here often enough that I start to recognize some of the regulars and I will occasionally nod or smile at others to acknowledge the shared experience of it all.
Long runs are typically run at a slow pace, slower than your goal pace for the marathon. It's hard for me to run as slow as I should and my legs start to tire after about 12 miles. I put on my iPod and let some classic rock and 80's music from U2, The Clash, and others keep me company.
At mile 14, I noticed I've picked up my speed. My last mile was at an 8:00 pace, which is a bit fast, but I'm getting bored, so I decide to keep the faster pace for another 2 miles. It's good to push yourself for the last 2 or 3 miles on a long run. The last mile is miserable in the way that the last mile of every long run is miserable. I keep looking at my watch to see how much further I have to go, impatient for it to be over. But I finish my 17 miles and I know no matter what else happens, I accomplished something good.