How long do I have, doc?
Not an infrequent question. And one people of science strongly dislike to answer, because really, we cannot predict such things. We can give an educated guess, of course. And we do, as gently as we can. Hours to days. Days to weeks. Weeks to months. Months to Years.
Human beings do not like surprises. We like to have some idea what is coming. So things like earthquakes, tornadoes, cancer, and terrorist attacks can leave us untethered, floating in an expanse of internet news and Facebook posts which make us feel like we have something tangible to grab onto. I sometimes wonder if this world of readily available information and feedback makes us feel better or worse. No feedback makes it unbearable, I suppose. But shit just happens and somehow we go on. There isn't always a way to explain the why. Or the what happens next.
I am accustomed to disastrous things happening to people. It is the milieu in which I work. Tell someone they have a life threatening disease, eat lunch, respond to a code blue, figure out how to send the homeless, brittle diabetic out of the hospital safely, then take off the white coat and go home and hear about middle school and high school drama, toss the ball for the dogs, go for a run, eat dinner. Sleep. Repeat.
What I know for sure, is life is horrid and beautiful and unpredictable and that my garden always needs weeding. I also know that my marathon is coming up in 24 days. I have been trying to decide how many long ones to do before I taper. My last long run was not great. It turns out that weeding for 6 hours the day before a long run is not the best idea. At least not at my age. I wear my Garmin faithfully, and upload my workouts to Strava, without which it seems like I did not run at all. Strava is brilliant, but it is also a symptom of our general need to tether ourselves to something tangible. Like the tree falling without witness, if someone runs and doesn't record their route and miles, did they run at all?
I am not giving up Strava.
I do wish sometimes, in a vague and unreal sort of way, that I was independently wealthy. I could then just run and play piano and cook gourmet, healthy meals for my kids, not to mention keeping my garden well coiffed.
Truth be told, I would probably miss wearing my monkey suit and getting to meet all sorts of amazing folks, who have the singular misfortune of stepping foot (or rolling gurney, more likely) into one of America's fine hospitals.
Being a doctor really makes marathon training tricky. Trickier I should say, because the marathon thing is unpredictable no matter what. You can train perfectly and find yourself unable to run well on race day. You might not even finish. Or you might limp in to the end with your dreams of a personal best so out of touch with reality that you wonder if you've been possessed by some kind of alien who sucks the life soul out of human beings like yourself.
It is a funny thing to get upset about, not doing well in a marathon. I mean you are, after all, alive, able to run and likely to have scored some good booty in the expo bag you picked up prerace. It is not a tragedy.
24 days. That's a fact and it is indisputable. I may have a few bumps in the road along the way, but I suppose I will show up at the starting line just the same, shivering in the predawn air of San Francisco with a bunch of other loony tunes.
Till then, I will just keep following the path in front of me. Grateful. And be-Garmined, like a jeweled princess with a rapidly developing runner's tan.
The path in front of me, May 2013