Dear Ben, Jared, Pat and Jordan,
HAPPY ONE YEAR!
It’s been a year. Can you believe it? One year since we made those toros our bitches in Pamplona. One year since we all ran like idiots down those cobblestoned streets. One year since Jared … I think it was Jared or was it Pat … broke his promise to his mom – or was it his girlfriend (same?) and did the unthinkable. One year since I found the four of you standing in the street looking all uncomfortable and walked up and said “Hey, guys, are you running?” and then weaseled my way into walking through the gates with you.
One year. I know all too well how much can change in a year. July 10, 2006 I was sitting in a chemo chair feeling poison being pumped into my body. One year later I was in Pamplona feeling my legs pump as fast as they could go – but not fast enough according to the ass behind me that shoved me down. In 2006 I didn’t know if I would live. In 2007 I felt invincible.
For weeks before the run, as my sister and I were planning our trip, we would talk about me running. We talked about the fact that they frown on women running. We figured the hard part wouldn’t be running, but walking in alone. We talked about how difficult it would be for me to just stand there – alone – waiting for the rockets to go off. I said over and over again that I didn’t care. I’d walk in there alone if I had to. I said over and over again I would crawl under a fence if I needed to. I said over and over nothing would keep me from running that day.
I knew all along that I’d be running alone. I needed to. I wanted to. Fighting cancer isn’t a team sport. You do it alone. You take the chemo. You feel the effects. You force yourself to get out of bed. You fight when you want to give in. You eat when you want to puke. You smile when you want to cry. You do all of that by yourself. Alone. All the support in the world doesn’t change the fact that the cancer is in YOUR body and YOU have to fight it. It may not be a death sentence. But it is solitary confinement.
So running alone felt right to me. It was my way of putting an exclamation point on the end of that sentence.
But deep down I was nervous …not of the run, but of walking through the gates by myself. Of standing there, with a bunch of dudes speaking Spanish and getting pumped up and not being a part of it. I was worried I’d do something wrong and get tossed out. I was concerned I’d just stand there, like the girl who is last picked in gym class, alone, embarrassed and awkward.
So I had a plan. I thought if I could just find one person to walk in with. If I could just target some guy who looked confident and spoke English, I could ask him if I could walk through the gates with him and then I’d be okay. I was sure I could find someone … and for 2 days before I ran, I kept looking. My sister and I, we kept trying to find someone. We’d overhear people talking about the run. We’d ask them if they were running and they’d say no. We’d start conversations with people hoping they’d mention running. We’d eavesdrop on every English conversation we heard hoping to hear, “yes, I’m going to be running and I sure wouldn’t mind someone walking in with me!” But we never found anyone. We came close a couple of times but no one ever bit.
The night before the run I went to sleep knowing I didn’t have anyone to walk in the gate with me but praying I’d find someone somehow anyway.
At 6:55 the next morning I kissed my sister on the cheek, climbed down from our spot on the fence and walked away from her. I came up the side street by myself. I waded past so, so many drunks. I weaved in and out… heading toward the dreaded gate. I walked alone. I was going to run alone. It was okay. But I felt awkward. My heart was thumping. I was a little sick to my tummy. I wished it was different but shit fire and save the matches, alone or not, I was going to walk through that gate.
And that’s when I saw the four of you.
You will never know. You will never fully understand what the four of you mean to me. You let me walk in with you. And for that, you would have been my heroes for life. But you did so much more. You talked to me. You told me of your trip across Europe. You shared your stories with me. And you listened when I shared my story with you. You stayed with me when they let us go just three minutes before the rocket went off. You even jogged a little with me after that first blast.
And then I lost you … the four of you ran ahead… fast little buggers that you are. I lingered. I so wanted to get near those bulls. I wanted to cheat death … one more time … feel danger brush by me again … so close … but miss me. Again.
I got knocked down right before the arena. And I did the unthinkable … I got back up! The bulls had rushed by and I was determined to run into that ring … if not ahead of those horn then I would be behind them. And so I chased those tons of beef and burst into that ring with my arms up and yelling as if that whole place was waiting for me … only for me … just for me. And I swear I thought nothing could feel better than that.
I ran around and around the ring. I was laughing so hard. I was crying. I was disoriented. I was waving. I was yelling “OLE! OLE!” for no reason at all, just because it felt like the right thing to say. And that’s when you found me again. One of you picked me up and spun me around and around. And the 4 of you were screaming “You did it!!! YOU DID IT!!” and while you were yelling I was trying to figure out a way I could smuggle you into my luggage and take you home with me because in the space of 1 hour of waiting and a 3 ½ minute run you had worked your way into my heart. My big, mushy, chemo-damaged heart.
And I will never, ever forget you.
Happy Day,dear wonderful friends ... wherever you are