In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful
Thank God, December 30 is finished. It was my daughter Bayan’s birthday, and it was very hard having to keep writing the date – 12/30/10 – over, and over, and over again. Bayan, if you don’t already know, passed away from lymphoma in June 2009. It has been very tough, especially this year, and I pray the Lord brings my wife and me comfort as the years go by. I have shed many tears this year over my baby…
But, as I reflect at the close of 2010, I can only focus on the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon us. Despite the daily pain and anguish of living with the fact that my daughter is gone, there have been many good times this year. There have been many smiles, and many moments of happiness and joy. I thank the Precious Beloved for all of them.
Yet, when I look back on 2010, one of the things that will play prominently in my mind is the 2010 Chicago Marathon. This year, I ran it in honor of my late daughter. It was one of the happiest moments in my life. Last year, I watched my cousin run the 2009 Chicago Marathon in my daughter’s honor. When I watched him limp across the family reunion area, I almost broke down in tears. His run and pain in Bayan’s honor really touched and inspired me. Thus, for 2010, I decided to sign up, train, and run the Chicago Marathon.
I am not a runner, and thus, finishing a Marathon seemed to be such a daunting task. But, I knew that with the Lord, anything is possible. Training took up almost all of my free time for the entire summer. My golf game, not a beautiful thing to begin with, really took a hit because, instead of golfing, I would be running almost every Sunday morning. There were many days where I would run next to the golf course and wish I was there…I would re-focus my energy on the run; I would re-focus my energy on October 10, 2010 (10/10/10).
There were so many days of painful, sore legs; so many days of blisters on my toes; so many days of blood feet; so many days of dehydration; so many days of fatigue and knee pain. Yet, I had to continue…I had to make it to 10/10/10. In fact, just before I took a Ramadan break, I injured my hamstring, and I could barely walk, let alone run. Thank God, the rest during the month of fasting allowed my leg to heal well enough for me to continue my training. On the Thursday before the race, I ran a very short 3 miles, and I got on the ground and turned my hands up in prayer to the Lord:
"Lord, I have done everything I can…I have followed the training regimen as best I can. Now, it is up to You. Please, help me run and finish this race for Bayan."
Then came the fateful day. I knew it was going to be hot, and so I made sure I drank a lot of Gatorade on the night before and the morning of the Marathon. Of course, I was up all night going to the bathroom…but even if that was not case, my nerves made sure that I didn’t get a restful sleep. It was so cool to see all my fellow runners get ready as I waited in the Starbucks to get a scone for my pre-race meal. There were so many people walking to the Start Line that morning, and the cool AM Chicago breeze was so refreshing as my insides were shaking with nervous fear.
I met my cousin, the one who inspired me to run, and we started the race together. As I crossed the START line, I could hardly believe that I was actually running the 2010 Chicago Marathon. In fact, my cousin even asked me: "Has it sunk in that you are actually running this race?" The first half was really enjoyable: the weather was perfect; the spectators were awesome; the city was absolutely beautiful. I felt great, and we crossed the half way point at 2:26. We were poised to finish the race in under five hours, and I was really excited.
Then came the oppressive heat.
It became more and more difficult as the second half of the race continued. My legs began to burn more and more as miles 16, 17, and 18 passed. We stopped for a bathroom break at mile 18, and after that it was very difficult. The sun bore down on us as the early afternoon progressed. Inevitably, I slowed down. I walked through each and every aid station, drinking as much Gatorade as I could. But, when it came time to run again, it became much more difficult. Many times, we resolved to continue walking until the next mile marker. It was not my original plan to do so, but I was just so completely exhausted.
At around mile 23, the final stretch of the race was upon us: Michigan Ave and 35th street. I knew it was a very long while until I saw the fabled FINISH sign. I kept telling myself, When in God’s name is Roosevelt Road going to come? Roosevelt Road is the very last street before the finish line. We walked a lot of the last 3 miles: I was disappointed, but I couldn’t help it. Yet, despite how much pain I felt, it never even crossed my mind to give up. Never. If I had to crawl across the finish line, I was going to do it. Bayan never gave up, even though I know she was in so much pain, and so there was no way on God’s green earth that I was giving up.
At around mile 24, we were walking and in a lot of pain. I heard someone on the loudspeaker saying, "You have only two miles to go! You will finish this race! Keep going." Even though I would never even think about stopping, it did help to know that I was almost there. Finally, Roosevelt Road was upon us, and I was already jogging again. Roosevelt is a pretty steep hill, and it was so very painful to run up hill after such a long, hot day of marathon running. But, at the top of the hill, I turned left and saw it.
It was the sign that read FINISH.
I broke down in tears, and my cousin held me. All those months, all those long hours of training, all those many, many miles in the heat, humidity, rain, and cold. It was finally there: the finish line. We crossed at 5:37:51. No, it was not a great time. I finished close to the end of all male marathon runners. But, it was my time. It was my race. It was my marathon to honor my fallen baby.
I was in a lot of pain at the end of the race. I could not sit down my legs hurt so much. But, I was ecstatic. By the Grace of the Precious Beloved, I finished the Chicago Marathon. By the Grace of the Precious Beloved, I ran for my daughter who could never run on her own again. By the Grace of the Precious Beloved, I joined the ranks of an elite few who can say that they ran 26.2 miles all on one day. It was a day I will never forget; it was one of the happiest days of my life.
My wife called me, with sheer elation in her voice, congratulating me. She told me how proud she was of me, and it meant so much to me to hear her joyful voice. It meant more to me than she will ever know. And I will also never forget the many happy congratulations that I received from colleagues and friends. It was a nice ending to a very happy occasion.
The year 2010 had a lot of pain for me: the one year anniversary of my daughter’s death; her birthday; and the constant pain in my heart from the wound that will never heal. But, 2010 was also the year that, by the Grace of my Precious Beloved, I was blessed with completing the 2010 Chicago Marathon. And I am truly, my Lord, forever grateful.