Runners aren’t usually shy about doing hard things. Many of us get up and do hard things in the lonely dark before most folks have even begun brewing coffee. I’m thinking of one particular runner, though, who is maybe better at doing hard things than any other person I know. So unflinching in the face of hard things is she, that she’s running the Portland Marathon on Sunday.
The hard part isn’t even the 26.2 miles, which will be punishing enough in their own way. The hard part is that this is her second time running Portland, only it’s a completely different race than the one she ran before.
I’ve been sitting on this post because every time I think I want to publish it, it just doesn’t seem to do her justice. With only one day before the race, even though there is no way in which it will be good enough, I want to share her story, because in my eyes she is an actual phoenix. A living, breathing, running version of one of those mythical creatures that is tried in the fires of life and rises from the ashes of it, resplendent and completely, unbelievably awesome. Here goes….
This is my friend, Erin.
I’m introducing her to you because she’s the single most inspiring person I know (and I know some pretty great people). When I’m not running out my own selfish frustrations and personal hang-ups, I’m running for her. And in many cases, running with her, since we’re on a new morning run routine (which is exactly as amazing as I could hope it would be. Start your day with four miles and a good friend? Every single day if I could.)
But I digress.
Last year, Erin lost not one, but two parents, and a grandparent to cancer. That’s not all. In the same 12 months, she went through a world-rending marriage/divorce combo job that would have ripped the rims off anyone else’s life, and left them a smoldering shell of a soul in the bottom of a ditch somewhere. At least that’s what I imagine would happen to me in similar or- let’s be honest -much less tragic circumstances. “You’re kidding!” you say. I wish. I wish with everything I am, that I were. Yet I watched her handle those 12 months with dignity to spare and a determination that never ceases to amaze me. She faced the fear of all that with both eyes forward, and the bare will to be brave enough to remain who she is, despite it all.
Flash forward, and here she is now, motivating me for morning runs, smothering my dog with kisses and pumping me up for another dark, early morning spin around the neighborhood. A year later she is as supportive a friend and vibrant a human as ever there was. So much life threw itself at her in such a short time, and even so, through the eye of such a complete and total shit storm, she is gracefully moving through it, shinier and brighter than anything I’ve seen.
She’s running around-literally- giving gingers everywhere an incredibly good name. She works as an occupational therapist in far-flung rural Washington towns, spending sometimes 3+ hrs a day in commute time to give rural schools resources they wouldn’t otherwise have, on top of which, she’s training to run the Portland Marathon for the second time. The first time she ran it, both her parents were waiting at the finish line. This time, I have no doubt they’ll be there, just maybe less visible to everyone but her.
There’s more to this story, as you probably can guess. It’s filled with heroism, friendship, and the kind of bravery we’re used to reading about, but rarely ever see in person. I’m humbled to be trying- stress TRYING- to help her tell it. I love to write, she has an incredible story to tell, and we are eager to the task, but its daunting, none the less. Its full of nervousness and doubt, this endeavor, but it’s a story I’d read cover to cover, over and over again, and tell to my children, and their kids. That tells me it deserves to exist. This tells me other people might want to hear it, too. That tells me we have long nights ahead with steep learning curves, and so I ask your help- if you have any experience with writing/publishing/editing etc. please get in touch. It may just take a village. Our most grateful thanks to you ahead of time for any assistance you can offer.
This is my friend, Erin.
She’s the very essence of awesome, resilience, and just plain rad on two legs. If you run into her on the course tomorrow, – you’ll know her by her t-shirt:
give her a great big shout out to let her know you’re pulling for her. I will be.