Sandy Roffey runs to feel whole again after her loss.
In this feature series, we share your answers.
This is contributor Sandy Roffey’s
I’ve never been able to run, not on the street or on a track. The impact was too painful for my right knee, and I would spend days recovering from one jaunt around the block.
I’d also never particularly had the urge to run. I could never understand the feelings of peace and freedom that many of my friends professed to have while running.
Then my brother died. Suddenly. He had colon cancer, but seemed to be handling chemo well. One day he walked his girls home from school, said he was tired, sat down, and never woke up again.
It was the second time I had lost a brother, and it left me reeling.
My brother had two young daughters, and my heart ached for them. I couldn’t take the pain away, not for me and not for them.
But I could run. Not on the street, not around the block. But on the elliptical.
It wasn’t running at first. I used the elliptical as, well, an elliptical. But as I played music in my headphones, inevitably “Born To Be Wild” would come on–what I think of as my brother’s theme song. His picture would stare at me from my bureau, as my feet moved rhythmically back and forth. My breath would back up in my chest, and I would bite down on the sob that wanted to come out so that I could hold myself together for the children and family members who needed me.
After a week I figured out that I could let go of the handles on the elliptical. I could push myself, my feet lifting up off of the long flat pedals and padding back down again as I ran, almost as if on a treadmill. It’s probably not the safest way to use the elliptical. But my knee doesn’t hurt afterward, and as I run faster and faster the sobs stop in my chest. I pump my arms beside me and feel like I’m flying. Sometimes tears roll down my cheeks, but I don’t stop running.
I think about my brother. I think about his daughters. I ask his forgiveness, because I feel like I’m failing him, and failing them, no matter how often I see them. I feel like I’m failing them because I’m not their Dad, and I can never replace him. I feel like I’m failing my own children because I spend so much time worrying about how my nieces are doing, how much they miss their Dad, if they know how much he loved them, if they know how much I love them.
I run from my failure, I run and I promise to do better for them all.
Eventually, my chest loosens. The tears stop falling. I can take in a deep breath, and my feet can slow down. I use the elliptical as an elliptical again, and not a magical road that allows me to run away. I slow down, and finally stop.
For a little while, my sorrows are left behind me, far behind, even though I was essentially running in place.
I can play with my youngest without my mind scattering in a thousand different directions, and I can feel like I am whole.
I can believe it, until the next time, and then I’ll run again.
For The Good Men Project Sports’ Why We Run feature, we are looking to collect YOUR comments, posts, Tweets, and emails that answer the questions: Why do you run? What are you running from? What are you running towards, if anything?”
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Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons