33. Run, though your heart is breaking.

Running tip #33

I’ll never forget the exact moment my mom told me that my father had cancer. It was on a Sunday evening long before cell phones were invented.  I had just finished a solo track workout in Wallace Wade stadium at Duke University and there was a pay phone at the top of the bleacher steps that I sometimes used to call my folks.  I would dial zero and then their number to ask the operator to make a collect call “to Joan Nesbit” (me) and – of course – I wasn’t there, so my parents would respond, “Joan’s not here; is there a number where she may return the call?”  The operator would then give out the pay phone’s ten digits and they’d dial me right back for free.

On that particular Sunday night, there wasn’t another living soul at the track so my mother telling me of the C-word was not only heart-breaking but bone-chilling.  Having just run some fast 200’s, I was physically chilly from cold sweat … but that was not why I was frozen after I hung up the phone.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t think.  I didn’t know what to do.  My whole system was out of order.  But then I did something many may interpret as unfeeling.  I pulled on my track sweatpants, zipped up the sides, and headed out for my “normal” cool down on the moon-lit intramural fields.  It was just me with the heavens listening as I ran and cried and cried and ran for 20 minutes around and around that field.   Nothing anyone could have said or done could possibly have comforted me that night, but somehow the simple sacred act of running saved my heart from being permanently broken.


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