It’s half time at Super Bowl 51 and New England Patriots are losing 21 to 3 to the best offensive team in the NFL. No team in the Super Bowl has ever come back from more than a 10 point deficit and the way things are going this is not going to be the evening it happens. The first half saw the Patriots get the ball 7 times, punt 4 of those, turnover the ball twice and only score once. While the Atlanta fans (and most non-New England fans) are grooving to Lady Gaga and toasting a Patriot rout, in the New England locker room it is business as usual. Coming out on the field for the start of the third quarter Coach Bill Belichick said to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels “We’ll be okay. Our guys believe.”
It would be easy for the players to give up at this point. Especially when Atlanta starts the third quarter with another touchdown pushing the score to 28 to 3. But Brady talked after the game about not focusing on where they were or what had happened but instead focusing on what they needed to do, just one play at a time. The result was nothing short of remarkable (I’d say that even if I wasn’t a New England fan).
In my late 20’s and early 30’s running was all about competing. While I never came close to being in the top 100 runners in the Boston Marathon, I could hold my own in local races (I was a star running against weekend warriors and old ladies). I have a bit of a competitive streak in me (Pam is rolling her eyes, declaring that is a wild understatement) and like most runners, races became less about finishing first and more about beating my previous best times (called Personal Records or PRs in running parlance). And so, it was in the year I turned 30, I had decided this was the year I was going set a new PR for the Boston Marathon. I trained hard and on the day of the race found myself 7 miles into the race slower than expected and just not feeling it. I decided to not force it, let go of the idea I would set a PR, and just run how I felt. At half way I was still slower than I needed to set a PR but I was feeling better. By the time I hit Heartbreak Hill (around 19 miles) I was running a faster pace than when I started and I was able to keep the pace for the remainder of the race. I not only ran the second half of the race faster than the first but I set a new PR by over 2 minutes. My first lesson I can remember in letting go but not giving up.
That came in handy last year when I was diagnosed with cancer. At the time I was actually more pissed about missing what would have been my 10th Boston Marathon in a row than I was concerned about the impending battle with Leukemia (I suspect the psychiatrists would have a field day unpacking my brain on that statement). I was often asked if I was angry, frustrated or disillusioned about getting Leukemia and my initial response was “Why, should I be?”. I never really had a “Why me” moment, I guess I just accepted lots of people get cancer, “Why NOT me?”.
But acceptance and letting go was not in my vocabulary when we lost our son. It was a long time before I could find peace and only after I moved pass the “Why did it have to happen” and on to “how can I give it some meaning” that I was able to heal. The Marathon as the fund raiser for Help in the Nick of time was a big part of healing (there…it looks like I unpacked the whole Marathon more important than Leukemia issue for the psychiatrists).
Given my own experience I can’t think of anything worse than having to deal with pediatric cancer. Facing your child’s mortality and watching them suffer through prolonged and painful treatment is something no parent should have to do. It’s why we have focused Help in the Nick of Time at assisting families who are facing this challenge. While there is nothing I can do to address the disease itself, there is a lot we can do to help the families in dealing with the situation and maybe helping them to "let go" but not give up.
So it is that I’m working towards being on the starting line of the Boston Marathon again this year. Unlike previous years I’ve “let go” of the idea of any PRs and accepted I’ll be lucky just to make it to the finish. But this is my way of not giving up, and where I can, helping others in the process.
Stay tuned...more on the training with cancer to come.