Updated: Apr 25
Recently I was welcomed into a local marathon club and joined their weekly group run last Sunday. Most in the group are experienced marathon runners. Some just came back from the Tokyo Marathon and are about to leave for the one in Boston later this month or the Toronto Marathon in May. I was the only newbie and jogged slowly with two others, our coach and J, who’s recovering from a COVID-19-induced heart condition. I learned from the coach that most of their runners were between 45 to 60 years old and that only 20 to 30 per cent were below 40. I couldn’t help but wonder whether older people are attracted to marathon because of heightened health concerns and/or life-changing circumstances similar to (hopefully not as terrible as) mine. In any case, it felt nice to be in company with so many committed runners and I also have a feeling that the club will have an important role to play in helping me complete my first marathon ever. On that day, I finished my first 15k of road running.
In my previous blogs, I reflected upon how Aaron’s memory had given me the strength to run. But to tell it as just another inspirational story would be misleading. In fact, at any moment my positive attitude may be washed away by sudden onslaughts of pain, sadness, or just pure boredom of a life that I no longer share with my beloved child. Still, I am moving forward in life with a determination that I did not know to be present in me. I myself was intrigued by this “supernatural” strength and then made a discovery: losing Aaron has been so painful that there is no longer any pain that I can’t endure, whether it is the most tiring workouts, the most annoying migraines, the most boring chores, or the most tedious tasks associated with research, reading and writing. I had thought that my academic career had been completely derailed and it’d be time for me to retire, so when I was back to work with vigor in early March, I surprised myself. I am experiencing a great irony: my life is so utterly uninteresting that I can finally embrace it with renewed interest and patient quietude.
Is my life inspired or depressed, enriched or deprived? I don’t think there’s a clear answer to it. Living with grief can be so complex, confusing, and open-ended. My Christian faith assures me that I will eventually rest in peace and joy. But I guess on the road to that destination, I have no choice but to work through all the wondrously messy feelings, thoughts, desires, and memories that make up this unique human experience.