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The Great Goat Hill

From the new book due out in December.

After I moved to a more rural section of Massachusetts in June of 2013, not far from Connecticut and Rhode Island, I joined a local running club. They held a Monday night trail/road run around a pond. It was shaded and made for cooler running in the summer. I really enjoyed that!

There, I met my best friend Tim.

I liked trail running so much that I decided to try it on my own one gorgeous fall day. The crisp New England air, the scent of sweet chrysanthemum, and the artist's palate of the Lord God himself, surrounded me in vibrant fall colors. From the greenest green, to red, yellow, and orange. All this beauty under a brilliant blue sky with a few wispy white clouds. I don’t care if I ever see a street or sidewalk again, I thought.

I checked in on Facebook and hit the trail.
 
As the canal path narrowed along the Blackstone River, I stopped to make a cellphone video of this incredible scene to share with the mere mortals (non-trail runners) in my life. It was just so amazing, just perfect.

Breathtaking.

As a kid, I summered on small islands in the middle of Indian Lake, which is located in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. My siblings and I played a serious game of hide and seek. One which used the entire island. The topography included granite rock cliffs and sandy beaches, as well as a small deciduous forest with a stand of mighty pine trees. Once you were spotted by the most recent loser, it was a race to homebase.

Streaking along wooded paths, bouncing from rock to rock, and making the final cliff jump to the sandy beach below, we raced to home. 

That is what I was thinking about as I was virtually dancing from one flat stone to the next, my ever-changing cadence up to avoid a tree root, a fallen limb or a loose rock. I was so connected with nature that I felt almost weightless. 

BAM!

I hit the pine covered section of trail like a burlap bag full of turnips from the local farm being dropped off an old pickup truck. It took a moment to account for all my appendages. Fortunately, this part of the trail was nothing like the dry and rocky gullywash I had transversed moments earlier.

The alarms began going off. Skinned knee, check; scraped elbow, check; pine needles in my shorts, check; head trauma, none.

Whew! I started to get up. CRAP! I cried out to no one just a mere three miles from civilization. This scream would have been more dramatic had there been a canyon echo. There was none. I swore on getting evermore creative in my cussing.

I was alone and steadied myself on my knees.

I probably should have prayed; however, first I needed to find my glasses, which without, I can see nothing in focus. I searched around the brightly colored leaves and brown pine needles. It was like sifting through a swimming pool-sized-vat of mustard and ketchup.

My first concern was, what if they are broken like Piggy’s were in Lord of the Flies?

What would I do then? My next thought was, what if I can’t find my way back home? Could I realy on my uncorrected vision, or would it be blind faith? I had read about the poor Italian runner who got lost in New York City after the 2015 marathon. I often ask my wife this rhetorical question such as this. “Do you know why I have a GPS, honey? Because I need one.” The good news is that I had my phone. My next thought was, I hate trail running. Eff the damn tree and roots and rocks and creepy creatures and - shoot, this sucks I sputered. And damit, there is no cayon echo. A bullfrog belched.

I fired off another string of expletives.

I continued to search for my glasses in an ever widening circle in the middle of hell itself. After what seemed like a month, I found them in perfect condition. The problem was that they were next to a snake!

Shoot, I screamed with my inner-wimp. Actually it was a stick which happend to look like a sixteen foot anaconda.

I made my way back to the car where I took some water and old Dunkin’ Donuts napkins and cleaned up my wounds. I watched the video I had shot a few times, and headed home. Son of a gun, I hurt. Trail running is stupid. Trees are stupid, gravity is useless…

I pulled in the driveway and limped up the stairs.

My phone rang. It was my good friend Tim. Hey David, I saw that you were running the Blackstone Canal trail on Facebook. You know that there is a trail race down near there. We should do it. I hung up the phone. I dislike telemarketers. A. Lot.

He called back, “Hey David”

“NO!”

Stupid F$%cking Marathons

From my new book due out in December.

At his office I sat there in a chair and listened to every ugly detail of my cancer diagnosis. Really, all I heard was surgery and radiation. I didn’t know what to ask.

I took the names of two doctors.

My first appointment was with a surgeon who does six to eight prostatectomy surgeries a week. There were no happy people in that waiting room. Scared men, nervous wives, and some frail men there for follow ups. I looked at my phone and kept to myself. Soon I got checked in and brought to an exam room.

It was strange looking down over Boston' Back Bay.

Like a prison, this cancer was. Then Joel Olsteen’s German twin entered the room. The surgeon introduced himself and chattered away about the wonderful life I would have after surgery. For Pete’s sake, it was like buying a used car. The hard sell was on. I really didn’t listen. I didn’t have any questions. I scheduled surgery for after the Boston Marathon of 2014.

Two Days after.

Not long after I saw a radiation oncologist. He was in Framingham (MA), and his office was one floor under the Framingham Heart Center. I thought about those days in ICU just across the jetway. It was surreal. Two of the most tragic health events in my life in one building.

I just sat there defeated.

I finally got called into the office. The doctor was super bright. After the pleasantries of greeting each other, he asked me. “Where is your wife? Wives usually want to know how this will affect them.”

I looked down - sort of ashamed. “She had to work.” It was all I had. How could I begin to explain living through all the uncertainty of congestive heart failure was all she could handle. She was angry and felt insecure with me out on disability.

Then risking my life to run a stupid fucking marathon?

Then cancer. She had almost completely shut down when we had to move. It was worse on the way home from the doctors appointment where we discussed my results. In fact it was ice cold. I was alone. It was too much for her.

Damn it, it was too much for me!

Running that marathon - yeah, I sort of hoped I would die that way instead of shriveling up and dying of cancer.

Hope in Berlin

Another little excerpt from my book.

I kept counting the kilometer markers on the marathon course.

God there were so many! I closed my eyes and breathed a sigh of gratitude. I had beat heart disease. I had beaten four types of cancer - so far. I could still run with my prostate tumor. That makes 8 full marathons with this damn disease. There is something in all this that made me very emotional.

I'm OK, I said to myself.

I checked my phone and had a Facebook message from Ruth. It was my only connection. I felt a little better. Mile 22 was a blur and so was mile 23. I just put one foot in front of the other. I ran by Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church where the terrorist attack was in 2016.

As I came in Potsdamer Platz, Ruth was in front of me taking a few photos and waiting to hug me.

There it was. 40 kilometers! I stopped for a quick drink and took a selfie. There was a guy walking and he was in pain. I grabbed his arm. "Comrade, let's go get a medal."

He laughed but couldn't get going. 

I started running again. I didn't care if I locked up, but I was going to finish. I picked up my pace and raced on past the Lowenbrau building. I rounded the corner and there was Brandenburg Gate. I poured it on. I just wanted to be done. To drink. To relax.

They hung a medal on my neck.

I thanked God for allowing me to finish. Finish with cancer. Again. There were still 2 marathons on my bucket list; London and Tokyo. I am almost there.
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