When it comes to people's motivations, I wonder about the big things, like why they chose their particular job or spouse or house, why they did or did not have children, why they love or hate the way that they do. And I wonder about the small things too – why they chose a particular tattoo, why they stuck that bumper sticker to the back of their car, why they’re sprinting to catch a train. Believe me, I don't do it in any sort of judgmental way because, you know, people in glass houses and all...
Since I’ve started to write, I’ve been much more curious about my own motivations – Why do I eat sugar despite that just a few months ago, it helped me so much not to? Why do I keep writing and publishing in this space, one year and one day after my first post? Why did that race in Falmouth yesterday mean so much to me? Tonight, after an ice cream cone with my kids, I'll approach that last question.
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It turns out that when people run the Falmouth Road Race (and, I think, other road races, too), they wear revealing t-shirts. No, no, not revealing as in see-through, although there were some of those. I mean revealing as in descriptive of the wearer's motivations. I’ll never forget the shirts that I saw yesterday. They carried me 7.ish miles.
One of the very first shirts that caught my eye did so just as we shuffled with the crowd over the starting line. A tall man in front of us was wearing a white t-shirt with Journey to Parenthood information on the back. It read, “Our journeys may be different but our dreams are all the same ... to become parents.” For much of mile one, I thought about my dream to adopt a baby boy or girl into our family. I barely noticed that much of that part of the race was uphill.
Along the route, I also noticed dozens of multi-colored t-shirts for Children’s Hospital Boston. One pair running in front of us was running for “Maddie.” I couldn't read the black ink that told the date that Maddie was born and the date that she died, but I found myself curious about what she looked like and what her family went through to try to save her.
Joe Andruzzi’s Foundation, UpBeat Cancer, sponsored several red, white, and blue tank tops, and I thought that was a nifty play on words. Whenever I saw one of those tanks, I wondered if the runner was a cancer patient like I am.
Dana-Farber's shirts were light green, sky blue, and a soft orange, and every time I ran by someone wearing one, I wanted to thank them for helping save my life. For some reason, however, almost every Dana-Farber runner I passed wore earphones and looked serious about their pace so I sent them good (silent) vibes and continued on my way.
Before yesterday, I had never heard of Compassionate Care ALS, but that organization had a huge contingent at the our hotel and along the race route. I made a mental note to look them up to see if they could help our friend who was recently diagnosed with the terrible disease. I bet they really could.
As we ran along the oceanfront and through shady, beautiful Falmouth neighborhoods, I also noticed t-shirts for spina bifida, "trauma to art," Alzheimer's organizations, and even one that simply said, "I hate cancer." There were also several women in grey tank tops that read, “I run so battered women don’t have to.”
One of my most favorite colors to see yesterday was purple. Since her mother died from brain cancer several years ago, a friend of ours has organized the sale of purple shirts with her mother's initials on the front. Every time I saw a “PCC” shirt, I thought about Katherine and how inspiring she is to continue to raise money for brain tumor research, and how strong she is to go on, with such grace and such kindness, without her mom physically by her side.
The cystic fibrosis shirts touched my heart, too. On the way back to the car, Brian and I walked behind a man who had run to stop that terrible disease. Part of me wanted to tell him all about Ashley, but I knew I'd cry if I said anything so I kept quiet, and internally thanked him for his good deeds.
Yesterday as we ran, Brian and I wore our fluorescent yellow We Beat Cancer shirts. I have to admit, one year out from my diagnosis, running in a shirt that said We Beat Cancer felt pretty darn victorious. And running it from corral #5 was just how Brian and I wanted it.
So what did the Falmouth Road Race really mean to me? It meant running in a sea of t-shirts that each told a powerful story. It meant running with men, women, and children of all ages and sizes who each had someone or something that made them go out and train, and then go out and race. It meant running beside people who had been through something awful or seen tragedy from some short or long distance, just like I have. It meant doing something even though there were lots of reasons not to.
I've written before about my unique sort of faith in human resiliency. I think that yesterday felt almost spiritual because I was surrounded by so much resiliency all in one place. Indeed, I have never seen (and I mean, really seen, in the moment) such an enormous crowd of people gathered to make terrible situations or unbearable tragedies the starting point of something beautiful.
The race in Falmouth was so precious to me also because it reminded me that one year ago, I had no idea how resilient people could be. When I sat down at the computer in our playroom around four in the morning on August 11, 2012, a large part of me thought that cancer meant my end. I had absolutely no idea that it would be my beginning.
Yesterday, I was immensely proud of our We Beat Cancer t-shirts, partly because I believe that my loved ones and I really did beat cancer, and because I know what our running that race is going to do for families that are struggling to do the same. Since the race, however, I've remembered something even bigger -- that t-shirt or no t-shirt, we are all motivated by people and by stories that could fill up as many blog pages as I have written over this past year. Despite that I'll never even know a fraction of those stories, I still know that they would prove to me, once again, that my deep faith in humankind and its magical resiliency is well grounded. In simple things. Like running.