On Friday night, my husband says to me: “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that I am telling you about your 30th birthday gift early. Also, you have to work really hard for this gift. The good news is that you are going to be running the London Marathon.”
Man does he know me well. I am beyond thrilled. This is more than just another marathon. It combines three life passions into one very special trip.
First, Running. The Virgin London Marathon is part of the World Marathon Majors. Boston, London, Chicago, New York and Brazil are the top 5 Marathons throughout the world. This will be my first time participating in one of the big ones…but maybe I’ll add the whole series to my bucket list! (Granted, since Boston is a qualifiying race, at my pace I’ll be 60 before I am eligible).
Second, it’s London. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am obsessed with London. I had the most amazing opportunity to live there for 6 months in college. I worked for Ernst & Young, Global right in the heart of Mayfair, on the Strategic Planning Team. I was 20 years old, living on my own, in a foreign city, and getting paid for it (quite handsomely I must add). Professionally, the experience was unmatched. I worked on projects for the Global CEO of EYG. I spent months right in the eye of the Arthur Anderson/Enron storm, while able to see Big Ben from the office. I planned events for people across the world. Surrounding me were smart, ambitious people who mentored me and taught me things like the proper way to order a screwdriver (Vodka Orange), pronounce aluminum (al-you-min-ee-um), and the difference between “pants” and “trousers.”
Personally, my “coming of age” novel also happened in London. I become independent through the process of finding my own place to live and paying bills for the first time (and trust me, I have fantastic stories about living in the tiniest flat imaginable with Christof and Leon from France, sharing a bathroom, showering with a sink faucet and doing laundry in the bathtub). I also consciously made the decision to reinvent myself when I was over there. Meeting new people, making friends, establishing myself professionally - I had the chance to choose who I wanted to be. And I chose a confident, smart, gregarious, caring person. The core of who I am today was refined by those 6 months. It’s no wonder that London holds a special place in my heart. It’s the most amazing city in the world and I will happily take someone to the mattresses who thinks otherwise. It’s my safe place. The city that breathes warmth into my heart and soul.
And lastly, I am raising money for and running on behalf of Parkinson’s UK – the largest charity funder for Parkinson’s research and support in the UK. My dad has Parkinson’s Disease. He’s been suffering from PD for almost 15 years. It first started as a little tremor and slower movements. But now, many years later, every single action of his life is affected. He hasn’t driven in over 2 years. He can’t write. He has difficulty swallowing so most food options are off the table and he drools constantly. Walking is very difficult due to dsykinesia, freezing, and shuffling. His arms swing in big motions without him realizing it. And talking is a struggle. He has to focus on every single sound and syllable to try to get his brain to speak to his muscles. You see, Parkinson’s patients suffer from a lack of dopamine in their brain. If you think of the brain as a series of gears that operate in sync with each other…dopamine is the oil that keeps them running. Without it, they stick. They malfunction. And no matter what the cocktail of pills he takes each day, there is no cure. One medicine solves the tremor, but adds the dyskinesia. One fixes the dyskinesia, but makes the rigidity worse. There are always side effects. He was lucky enough to have Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery 6 years ago which definitely slowed the progression of the disease. But it IS a progressive disease. His days aren’t getting any easier.
And here is the thing…he’s the nicest man you’ll ever know. Even as a child I used to say that if I grew up to have half of his kindness, I would still be an amazingly good person. He never complains. He has an inner strength that you would never know about because he walks softly, carrying a big stick. Watching him go through this year after year, day after day breaks my heart. I am a controlling person and yet have absolutely no control over this. I can’t stop him from hurting. But, on April 17th, I can run in honor of him and the millions of others that battle this disease. And I will raise money. Buckets and boatloads of it. I will sing his story to every person who reads this blog, follows me on Twitter and has shaken my hand.
And then, I will run 26.2 miles because I can and in honor of those who can’t.
London, baby. We’re going to London.