Running for me, like for many others, started out as merely a new challenge to take on. Over the years it has continued to be place in my life where I could strive to get better and it has undoubtedly kept my food-centric and sedentary lifestyle from catching up with me. But it has also developed into this thing I do in order to cope with the challenges of life.
Many people marveled at the fact that I trained for marathons while going to school and tutoring full time, but I remember feeling that if I didn’t have running during those particularly stressful times, the stress may have broken me. When my mom was in the throes of battling cancer, I would sometimes feel like I was about to explode from worry and helplessness, and going for a run would calm me down. In good times, running is meditative and I hardly think at all; in tougher times, it helps me deal.
This past week, I’ve had a sad reason to run.
On December 30th, my dad informed me that the son, Tyler, of close family friends passed away suddenly. The Hagamans were the first family my family got to know when we moved to Arizona in 1993, and given that my dad and Mr. Hagaman were both pilots for Southwest Airlines, we spent nearly every holiday with them for a decade. Tyler and I were only 11 days apart in age but a year apart in school, and although we never really shared the same circle of friends growing up, the times my family spent with his are enough for me think of him as a memorable part of my childhood.
My older sister rode horses with Tyler’s older sister, and Tyler and I spent countless hours together fighting the boredom that came from weekend-long horse shows. He taught me how to play with dinosaurs and introduced me to potato guns. He taught me (sort of) the arts of 007 and Mario Kart. I remember riding bikes with Tyler and his dad way out in the Verde Valley of Arizona.
Later, we both attended NAU for undergrad and one day my senior year, as I was going into my apartment I heard, “Kathryn???” And sure enough, Tyler had moved into the apartment closest to mine. As neighbors, he showed me the awesomeness/awfulness that is techno music (<< possibly not even the correct term) with cranked up bass. He introduced me to the Alien movies and got me on board with acupuncture. Tyler also washed and bandaged my hand in a coffee shop after I (embarrassingly) crashed my bike into a curb on the way home from class.
It was fitting that he did that, that last thing, because after NAU Tyler eventually made his way into PA school in Denver. He had one semester left.
I knew before the funeral today that Tyler was a very loved individual because that’s how it goes: those who treat others with warmth and who bring out the best in people tend to be cherished.
In the last few days, I’ve thought of Tyler and his family a lot on my runs. My heart breaks for his mom, dad, sister, relatives, and friends. I’ve also thought about just how lucky I’ve been with the lives of my own close friends and family. Instead of saying, ‘I love you’ as part of a routine, I’ve tried to say it with its intended meaning. I want to make an effort to be more involved in the lives of my friends who live far away (which is most of them), and, as cliche as it sounds, try not to take their presence in my life for granted.
I read somewhere that salt water, namely tears, sweat, or oceans, helps ease all pains. As a mountain girl from AZ, I can’t speak to the validity of the ocean in calming the soul (though I’m sure it’s very therapeutic), but I can attest to the powers of a good cry and/or a good sweat. And for the latter, I must run.