Saturday, November 26, 2016

Five or Bust

My dad died earlier this year.

He had never taken good care of himself and struggled with type 2 diabetes for years.

Diabetes experts have made clear what a person should do to mitigate the risk of diabetes: smoking cessation, living an active lifestyle, eating healthy foods. Sadly, my dad’s decades-long smoking habit was far too entrenched, his love of fried foods far too established. As he got older and mobility became an issue, his ability to remain physically active became more and more difficult. Towards the end, diabetic neuropathy and other complications arising from diabetes painfully accelerated the decline in his quality of life.

As he got more and more sick, I started to feel so angry about the way he lived his life. Why couldn’t he take better care of himself? Why wouldn’t he change his ways? And while this anger felt justified for months – and even now, occasionally, despite the fact he’s gone – a grief counsellor told me this:

Each of us has the right to live the life he or she wants, no matter what risks that creates, no matter what others want that person to do. Everyone’s choices are theirs alone to make. And whatever you or I or anyone else wants or thinks that person should be doing is purely selfish – selfish, not because we care, but because those choices aren’t ours to make.

Talk about an eye-opener.

But… that’s love, isn’t it? Being able to accept someone’s failings or imperfections no matter what, even though we might not agree with their actions or if we think they’re making poor choices.

My dad may not have been a pillar of health, but there’s no question he lived his life the way he wanted. Yes, he smoked, he drank, he wasn’t terribly active later in life. But he raised a family, he had friends. I’d like to think he loved and had fun and enjoyed his time while he was here. In fact, I have to believe that because otherwise, what’s the point of it all?

So. About this blog.

When I started Five by 35, I’d already run one marathon and had decided to run four more – a total of five marathons before I turned 35 years old. There were ups and downs: a fastest ever half marathon during training, heartbreaking injury, a noteworthy and unexpected comeback. But by the time I had four marathons under my belt, everything changed. Grad school and a shift in my career goals took focus away from my running and, with that, my desire to finish a fifth. And in June 2014, from an airport in Paris, after two and a half years of being on the blog, I decided to hang up my shoes and call it quits.

I never considered this a defeat or failure – merely, a shift in my priorities and desire to do other things for a while. As I said (wrote) at the time, “I wanted to believe that I still had it in me to do number five. But if I'm being honest with myself, I just don't wanna…running will always be a part of me but, for now, marathon running is no longer in the cards.”

At the time, I truly believed that I no longer wanted to run marathons. That was it. All she wrote. But surprisingly, over time, that desire resurfaced – very small, at first, until recently.

I ran my first marathon in 2009 with Team Diabetes in support of the Canadian Diabetes Association. I had fundraised because I wanted to show my support for loved ones living with diabetes – my dad included. The thought of joining the team again entered my consciousness a few weeks back and would not leave. “Why not?” I thought. And then, “It could be a tribute for my dad.” So it seems only fitting that I put my shoes back on.

I will be registering with Team Diabetes and have fundraising information for you all shortly. To repurpose a line used by The Trews: “I only ask money of friends and total strangers.” But it’s all for a good cause, so I think that’s okay.

35 may have come and gone, but I can still run and so I’m gonna. Five or bust. For you, Dad. And me.


Correction by author: a day after posting this I realized that I had, in fact, run two marathons before starting Five by 35 – not one marathon, as originally noted. My bad. I blame my poor memory... and not combing the archives more thoroughly before writing this post.


  1. I got a little misty-eyed reading this. I believe there is a very faint silver lining to all grief- something that makes you re-evaluate your life and make a change for the better. For me, that was going to grad school. I'm so glad you're running again and I can't wait to cheer you on this spring!

    1. This is an amazing comment. Thank you so much, Laura! It's so encouraging to have such a supportive friend like you in my corner.