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I Am the Healthiest Sick Man

As the tempest rages against me, I am still 100% successful at not dying. I have mustered a little faith, a little perseverance, and lot of support.

Today was going to be a recap of Tokyo.

However, I didn't even unpack my suitcase and things went sideways. First a little about Tokyo. Ruth and I boarded our connecting flight on Monday the 25th. We had about an hour to make our flight to Japan which was leaving from Washington DC. Just as we were about to board (all ready to scramble between terminals at Dulles International), our connection was delayed due to high winds.

Needless to say, we ended up spending the night in DC on United's dime.


Sure, it was nice room, but we already had one in the Shinjuku District of Tokyo. The next morning, we caught the shuttle to the airport. We had a little trouble with one of the passports. Usually it is me. I have dual citizenship because my parents liked to sleep around.

This time it was Ruth.

Off we went west to the Far East before noon, flying over the Great Lakes, Alaska, Russia, and eventually Japan. We landed at Narita at noon the next day, Wednesday. We tried to book a limo van that was direct to the hotel, but they were full. Then we tried to book a limo bus to the Shinjuku West station, but that was full.

I was on edge, and the difference in air pressure kicked my headache in to high gear.

We quickly passed through immigration, giving up our fingerprints in the name of security. Then the dog sniffed out suitcases in customs. We passed the sniff test and headed to the lobby. We were able to get the last two bus seats leaving in 5 minutes, so we rushed to the limo bus stop.

We headed into the city, first farmland, then suburbs, and then the skyline.


We flipped on the GPS and headed for the hotel. It took a bit to orient (pun intended) ourselves. We checked in. The Japanese are very polite and formal. We agreed to pay for the night we had missed.

It was cold and rainy, grabbing our umbrellas we found a little curry joint down the block. We came back the room and managed to put our suitcase on the little couch. There was a 12" wide path around the bed, so we traded turns using the floor.

Then there was the bathroom.


A heated toilet seat! Score!! And the flush button was the bidet sprayer - so unscore! Finally, we got in bed and switched off the lights. We closed our eyes and left the TV on the Japanese version Cops where they take criminals into custody without guns or handcuffs.

Day two.

It was still raining as we went to breakfast to plan out our day’s activity. They had fish and rice as well as cold eggs. The coffee was not refillable (free in the lobby, but not at the table?)

Tomorrow we are going out. Fish and rice is NOT breakfast.


We spent Thursday visiting the art museums. It took 40 minutes to find someone who could tell us what train to take. My English is very good, my Portuguese is pretty good, and my French and Spanish are passable. My Japanese, not so much. Friday, we went to the Expo to pick up my number. It was at a giant mall and all the vendor tents were outside in the rain. We skipped them.

I procured my cheap @$$ Finisher Jacket for 100,000 Yen!! ($100US) and went for sushi!


Saturday the sun came out to taunt us. We took a bus tour of the city and shrines. We went to the Tokyo Sky Tree and looked out over the city. Relaxed a Sumo Noodle restaurant and we ended with a Tokyo Bay sunset cruise.

Sunday morning it was race day. 40 degrees Fahrenheit and just south of 5C.


I wrote on Facebook: It’s 4:57 am here in Tokyo. I’m in awe of all the support I have received on Facebook and MyFitnessPal. 198 notifications when I logged in. I really don’t have words to express my gratitude. I’m trying to focus on the task, sticking to my marathon plan. My mind is swirling with disjointed thoughts - the ones that make their way through the chronic headache I’ve experienced since August. I hope I haven’t forgotten anything. I wonder how much rain we’ll get. I’m praying I don’t get any cramps. I keep trying to picture myself at the finish line. It’s crazy, but I am here. I confess, I’d like it to be over. But apparently it is the job I was made to do. A dream I had one day while I was angry at cancer. Angry that it might steal my joy and at times, my life.

At first it seemed doable. Today it seems daunting.


On the other side of the world, my friend Katie lies in bed, sharing her last days with family and friends in a NC hospice. All I can think of to say is “hang in there kid, you’re almost finished.”

Today I have hope because of your faith, prayers, and encouragement. Sickness won’t win today. I’m almost finished.


It was lightly raining. I bought a breakfast and shared it with my wife. I ate a little fish and the toast. I left the rest for her. I kissed her goodbye and headed for the starting line. It has been hell getting here I thought, but I am as ready as I can be. In 2013 I had my first of 5 cancer diagnoses. This was my 10th full marathon and 6th world major.

It is likely my last marathon. It’s my own personal super bowl.


If I finished the course without getting swept by the balloon girls clearing the course of slow runners and road kill, I would earn myself the coveted Abbott Word Majors 6-Star Medal. It's an honor among about 4000 runners worldwide.

I wanted to be one.


As I walked to the starting line, I followed the signs for Gate 3 and Corral K. Tokyo is a very quiet city, but today you could hear the rain falling on thousands of plastic ponchos. People were speaking in just about every language known to man.

And speaking one only known to God.


I walked up the stairs to my corral and we stood packed in like sardines for an hour in the rain. Finally, the confetti cannon went off and the throng of runners began to move. I saw Ruth about mile 1. I love her smile! We tried to connect at the 10K but the subway system was a little confusing. It was disappointing.

I looked for a porta-potty, but they were all very far off the course and the queues were long.

I couldn't take the chance of being swept. Not today.


I carried on keeping my rhythm of run for 3 minutes and walk for 1. My heart rate monitor, which I rely on to tell me where I am, quit working. I was so mad I wanted to throw my Garmin in Tokyo Bay - wherever the hell that was.

I pressed on and saw Ruth again about 28 kilometers - around 17 miles.


I passed the 18-mile mark, which was the longest training run I had done since London last year. The rest was an unknown. The halfway point in a marathon is really 20 miles. You never know what those last 6.2 miles will bring you. Leg cramps, a torn muscle or ligament, even a stress fracture. It is all there waitting to come between you and the finish line.

I finally found a porta-potty at the 30K marker.


It was in a small parking area just off the course. I jumped the curb and got in the queue of 4. I had found another one earlier on, however the queue was 10 or more deep. I jumped back on the course. The Grim Reaper was sweeping slow runners, and I was not going to be one today!

There was bad news at the porta-potty. A blood stream poured out.


I had a little talk with myself. "David, you can go and get medical attention. Or you can run 10 more freaking kilometers and be a 6-Star Finisher." I stopped thinking about all that could go wrong and focused on the finish line. On the out-and-back I could see miles 23 through 25 on the other side of the road.

I saw the Abbott cheering team and tent at mile 25.


I began to cry out loud. This is what I came for. I kept running, not paying attention the run/walk prompts. I keep pushing. I pulled over for a sip of water and ran some more.

Finally, under the cloud shrouded Tokyo Tower, I ran in front of the Abbott cheering team. They rang cowbells and screamed "Go 6-Star!" "Run David!" It was the first time I was excited about the race. The rest had just been sheer willpower. But this was different.

I could feel the prayers of friends and family.


I heard to voices saying, "I'll see you at the finish line." Mile 25 clicked off. 1.2 miles left, and it all turned to slow motion. The rain, the pain, the excitement, the fear of not finishing.

It was a weird sort of tunnel vision.


I made the right-hand turn towards the finish line. It was raining hard as road narrowed. The yellow cobblestones were glistening with tiny streams running through the mortar cracks. I pressed on and heard my wife call my name from the sidewalk!

"You did it, babe – you’re getting your 6-Star."


We had a very quick hug and kiss. I heard her say "I love you!" as headed down for the final 300 meters. It seemed to take forever.

There it was before me, the finish line. I poured it on.

I did a fist pump (because I can't use my left shoulder.) I shouted F%^& YES as I stepped on the timeing mats! I never looked at my finish time. I still haven't. I don't care. What I care about is that I finished. I found the Abbott tent on the way out of the chute. I got a space blanket, water, food, and just stood in the tent with the volunteers sobbing as they hung the medal around my neck.

It was the hardest thing I have ever done.


I flew home the day after. The sound of wet plastic ponchos haunts me.

A quick health update. Thursday of last week I had an MRI for the headaches. As noted in a previous blog, the contrast and I are NOT friends. The next morning, Friday, I was in the ER with a very swollen lip. It was some sort of allergic reaction and they put me on all sorts of steroids and Benadryl.

Saturday evening, I had so much abdominal pain, I was throwing up. I had an 11mm kidney stone and the surgeon inserted an emergency stent. I am waiting to have the stone and the stent removed as soon as they can. That needs to fit into my medical schedule including Botox injections tomorrow for the headaches, skin cancer treatments on the 18th, and my shoulder repair the 29th.

Of course, you can pray for me.

And here is blog about my run.

79 votes + -

23 comments:

kdbulger wrote 31 months ago:
You finished a World Major marathon with a huge kidney stone, cancer, and chronic debilitating headaches. Wow. I am in tears, in awe of your perseverance, and your grit. I have been waiting breathlessly for your update and to know you are okay. As okay as you can be, anyway.

Congratulations, David, there are few who have earned congratulations to the extent that you have.

Be well, rest well, and take care of your body and your soul.
debk0718 wrote 31 months ago:
You're an amazing warrior. Very glad that you were able to complete the marathon in Japan. Will keep you in my prayers for relief and recovery from the kidney stone, and for your shoulder repair and recovery.
Anonymous wrote 31 months ago:
So very cool...
Love you!
Lee
megamom wrote 31 months ago:
Wow, as a nurse I can't imagine you running while that stone was trying to pass. Very impressive. Congratulations on your successful run.
girlwithcurls2 wrote 31 months ago:
I have followed your blog for years. I am one of the quiet supporters who have never posted a comment, but have silently willed you on, encouraging thoughts blowing you forward from behind.

You did it. I'll be thinking of you as you get through this next hurdle. You and your wife are good at reminding people to LIVE. Life doesn't happen to us. We are not passive participants. Grab it by the balls and ask, "What's next?"

Well done, David. So many people are proud of you.
Anonymous wrote 31 months ago:
You had me literally in tears with this. I have done half marathons, walking only because of my Parkinsons which my neurologist didn’t think I could finish In a million years. I did a 10k last year, walking from just coming out of chemo and radiation less than a month earlier and blew my oncologist away (I told him I found out the hard way that it was stupid but I got that damn medal and it’s got a place all alone beside my medal hanger and beside my 2 half medals!!). That 10k was as hard as my half’s were. I cannot imagine doing what you did! I simply cannot even fathom it. Not even one bit! You are My idol, I get your book out often when I get down thinking “I can’t do this” and you rejuvenate my courage to try again. You ARE the KING, And Ruth is most definitely your beloved queen. Congratulations, as I’ve said before I would sleep with that medal! You earned it, definitely!!!
Rosie5151 wrote 31 months ago:
Fantastic! Moving! Emotional! Inspiring ! I'm glad you found your victory. Now to find it with your health.

Keep being a super star!
Thehardmakesitworthit wrote 31 months ago:
I have been waiting so lonnnnnngggg to hear your "voice" again. and you did not disappoint. The detours you have had to take throughout the last few years are mind boggling. And yet, here you are making it all seem as though it "aint no thang". You are an amazing person and have given me inspiration so many times. Congrats is just not enough on this accomplishment. You are indeed blessed in this life David. Hoping for managable outcomes on your latest detours.....
hroderick wrote 31 months ago:
I got happy tears from this blog.
kenlad64 wrote 31 months ago:
Always impressive story telling, ... Keep being brave and sharing you're inspiring more people that you will ever know. I still have that purple t-shirt you sent me!!!
kendallvon wrote 31 months ago:
I've never done anything like that... You're the bravest person I "know". I'm in awe.
Twiley510 wrote 31 months ago:
You made me cry. I am so proud for you! You have persevered no matter the challenge. You, sir, are amazing.
brittvshows wrote 31 months ago:
So many tears from others and myself. So proud of you. I kept gritting my teeth as read this blog, whispering "Please, God, let him say he did it!" And you did.

Good luck with the current list of health issues. You can overcome anything, but I so love your determination to simply live life to the fullest.

I salute you, sir.
ronjsteele1 wrote 31 months ago:
I want to laugh and cry with you. Congratulations! This is such a major accomplishment! As a fellow believer, I pray strength for you and that you will take the time you need to heal. Well done!
shunggie wrote 31 months ago:
I teared up when reading this. You are an inspiration for all of us. No excuses are acceptable. Congrats on all you have accomplished. I hope only the best for you going forward.
bluesrockerman wrote 31 months ago:
Un freakin believable! I also have been following you for years. You truly are an inspiration to me and so many others. Congratulations and may God guide you through the rest of your journey. If anyone has earned it, you have!!
ggeise14 wrote 31 months ago:
Go you! Perseverance is you! Congratulations.
DeeDee2211 wrote 31 months ago:
You are Brave, Strong, Amazing, and Inspiring! Congratulations!!!

Wishing you only the best for the medical treatments you are about to undergo. Prayers on the way for you!
mockchoc wrote 31 months ago:
You blow me away. Go you!!! I often read your stuff too just I don't post often.
SheilaCali wrote 31 months ago:
I wept for joy as you carried all of us across that finish line! Faith, community, and commitment have paid off for you, mighty warrior. The fight to finish is strong in this one. Your journey to and through Tokyo sounds like a movie to me, although they say the book is often better. I'm sure that Finisher jacket will get lots of wear!
franklin505 wrote 31 months ago:
Awesome well done so very brave
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