Up from the Pavement
Triumph over Grief and Trauma through Medicine, Miracles, Love, Laughter, and Faith

As I continue to discover what my body will and won’t do, we pushed the limits yesterday by attending two giant expos, the Marathon Expo and the Home and Garden Show.  I was holding up pretty well and enjoyed trying some of the demonstration items like massage chairs and home exercise equipment, when I came across THE WIGGLE CAR.

It’s a small plastic sit-on toy that is sized for children, but the salesman cleverly posted, in large letters, that it will hold up to 300 pounds.  It looked like great fun and the salesman was very happy to let me try it.

The hugest challenge was that it sits about 4-5 inches off of the ground and I wasn’t real sure I was going to get all the way down to it, and if I did, I was also concerned that it would slip out from under me at the last minute, leaving me to crash my bionic pelvis onto a concrete floor.  I just took my time and slowly worked my way down to the ground.  There were about a dozen people watching and I simply didn’t care.  I could have hurried so that I didn’t look so old or decrepit, but I have learned to protect my body over my ego as it is far more fragile.

And, what a surprise, no stranger at the Home and Garden Show yelled, “Hey Grandma, get off that toy!”  Quite the contrary.  Adults watched with fascinated attention, and several others joined me, including a silver-haired woman, a tragically cool Goth teenager, and, by that time, a fairly intimidated 8-year-old boy.

It was so much fun.  I really loved it.  I rode it for far longer than would probably be considered a “polite” amount of time, but the salesman could attract more attention to his booth if people were riding these things, so as long as he encouraged me to stay on it, I did.  Never even occurred to me that I might have to buy one, I hadn’t gotten as far as thinking of what would happen if and when I ever got off of it.

But, off of it, I did get.  I asked about the price and walked silently away from the booth, slowly considering whether or not I was going to try to pry $45 out of my tight-fisted husband’s wallet.  Having been married 10 years, I knew how the discussion would go, so I argued his part in my head for several minutes, slowly coming to the conclusion that I would not, in fact, ride that thing more than 2-3 times a year and that we’d have to find somewhere to store it in the meantime.

I came to realize that the car itself, although fun, was probably not the best purchase I could make.  However, what I was really attracted to was the fact that I was having physical fun.  I never lost my sense of humor throughout this recovery, but I did lose the ability to jump and run and bounce and dance and twirl and hop and skip and slide and climb and crawl and roll and do cartwheels, all of which I did on a somewhat regular basis, despite being 40 years of age.  Riding this Wiggle Car was the first real physical fun I had had in a very long time and I just didn’t want it to end.  I told myself that if I continued to recover, I might once again be able to be more physical and that I didn’t need a Wiggle Car to do it.  What I needed was perseverance to keep up with my Physical Therapy for as long as I took and the mental commitment to doing various maintenance exercises for the rest of my life.

For starters, today we are going to try hiking.

We’re going to drive 60-90 minutes to the Superstition Wilderness, a place we both love to hike, with the idea that I will hike for as long as I can, and I even bought trekking poles to help.  When I call quits, that’s it, we leave, no questions asked, no pushing or cajoling.  And, if we drive an hour to hike 25 minutes, that’s what we do.  At least it’s a start!

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Today we’re going to the P.F. Chang’s Rock and Roll Arizona Marathon and 1/2 Marathon EXPO.  Yeah, not the race, just the expo.  We’re doing that because I’m pissed.  I’m pissed that I still am not in any condition to run, or even walk, the Half Marathon.  I really thought there was a chance I’d be entered in this year’s race.

The first year that the Rock and Roll Marathon and Half was in Arizona, 2004, I ran the Half.  The next year, 2005, I got ambitious and signed up for the Marathon, but I overtrained and was ready for it about 2 months early.  I then slacked off and really wasn’t ready when it actually came around.  I finished it.  Badly, but I finished it.  Next year, 2006, got smart and did the Half again.  I was in decent shape and let a girlfriend talk me into doing the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk later that year.  Although she dropped out of training for medical reasons, I found others to train with and completed 60 miles in 3 days in November, 2006.

I knew that the 3-Day would take place about 10 weeks before the 2007 P.F. Chang’s race, so early on, I told myself I wouldn’t be doing the P.F. Chang’s.  However, as soon as the 3-Day ended, I started calculating whether or not I could get enough rest and recovery time and still train for at least a mediocre Half Marathon.  I decided with all that walking behind me, if nothing else, I could walk the entire Half Marathon if I had to and I’d still complete it within the time limits, so I decided to do it.

I gave myself 2 weeks’ rest, then 8 weeks’ training for the 2007 P.F. Chang’s Rock and Roll Half Marathon.  As the day got closer and closer, I realized that I probably could finish much better than I had originally anticipated.  I was about as physically strong as I had ever been in my life and felt very healthy and vital.

Two days before the race, we went to the Expo.  I had Jon prepared that I was gonna spend about $300.  In the previous 3 years, we’d go to the Expo, I’d see a bunch of stuff I was sure I’d need, and he’d never let me buy it because it was very expensive and I couldn’t really convince him that this marathonning thing was going to be a permanent hobby of mine.  Plus, I really didn’t know how or why to use all the stuff I wanted to buy, I just wanted to buy it.  However, that year, I was prepared.  I knew exactly what I wanted and what I needed and I went to the Expo with both a shopping list and a $300 okay from my husband.

What joy!  I got real, grown-up athlete kinda clothes!  I traded my free cotton tee-shirt for a $60 technically-advanced running shirt and I knew exactly why I needed it and why the cotton shirts had to go.  I got throw-away paper clothes to wear at the start line and I finally saw the wisdom of buying $14 worth of paper clothes you absolutely intended to wear once and throw away.  I even got a “nice” shirt I could wear to work.  When I got home that night, I was so jazzed.  I was ready to run my Half Marathon in style.  I was really excited.

The next day, I had to work, and at 7am, I got the phone call that my 57-year-old father had died, after successful gastric bypass surgery no one knew he was having.

Now what?

Well, my father was dead.  I guess the thing to do is to immediately fly to Wisconsin and begin taking care of his affairs and arranging a funeral for him, but I had this little matter of a Half Marathon the next day, on a Sunday.  I found out he had named his girlfriend executor of his estate when forced to sign pre-surgical end-of-life documents, so I realized I didn’t actually have to go arrange for his affairs, nor did I even have any legal right to do so.  So, I made a difficult decision.  I decided not to rush onto a plane, but to stay in Arizona overnight, run the Half Marathon the next day, and then see about getting cross-country for a funeral.

My dad died from his obesity.  I was running marathons to combat mine.  He was gonna be just as dead after the marathon as he was before the marathon, so I decided to stay and do the marathon for me.

What a great decision that turned out to be.  If you have to get terrible, shocking, devistating news, I highly suggest you get it a day before a marathon.  On January 14, 2007, one day after my father had died, I ran the best Half-Marathon I ever ran in my life, and I cried during the whole thing.

When you line up for the race with 30,000 strangers, you are actually quite alone.  Everyone is focused on the task ahead of them and no one is even looking at you or thinking about you or even really aware that you’re there.  When the tears started coming, I was self-conscious at first, until I really looked around and took in the fact that I was essentially invisible, as was everyone else, so I let myself cry.  I jogged a mile or two, just letting the tears leak out, silently.

Then, one of the bands on the course was playing a song that totally reminded me of my dad and I was immediately overwhelmed with sorrow and I started wailing.  Again, self-consciously, I looked furtively about and seriously, no one even noticed.  So, I thought, what the heck?  I’ve got about 2 more hours of this, I may as well wail the whole time and get a good chunk of my grieving underway so I don’t have to do it later, at a professional meeting or some other, less convenient, place.

So, I ran and I cried and I cried and I ran and I finished in really good time.  I was exhausted and elated and defeated and victorious.  I proudly accepted my medal and went on to lunch with my family and friends, as was customary.  They tried to focus on me and my accomplishment, but with a dead dad hanging over the lunch, it didn’t turn out particularly festive, and that was okay.

I found out fairly soon after the race that next year’s race was going to be right on the anniversary of my dad’s passing.  I knew, immediately, that I would run.  Plus, it was going to be the 5th year of the event and I had run all previous years and it looked like they were going to do some fun things to celebrate their 5th year.  I managed to get myself elected to be one of 10 Marathon All-Stars a fun publicity contest they sponsored, but I had to agree to run the Full Marathon to be an All-Star, so on January 13, 2008, one year to-the-day after losing my father, I ran a Full Marathon with “I love you, Dad”” written in several places on my body with a black Sharpie marker.  I wore an image of him on my shirt, and the headband I had bought at the expo, the day before I found out he died, ironically said, “Will run for chocolate.”

Six months later, I was hit by a car.  In November of 2008, I got on my feet for the first time in 4 months.  It was clear I would not be running a marathon in January of 2009 and I was pissed.  That was the first one I was going to miss.  I didn’t miss the one after the 3-Day and I didn’t miss the one after my dad died, but I was going to miss this one.  Jon wrote to race organizers and they graciously agreed to send me a finisher’s medal, even though I hadn’t even entered the race!  So, I did miss the race, but at least had the medal.  The idea was that maybe I would at least walk in the Inaugural Rock and Roll Las Vegas Half in December, 2009.  That way, I would still be completing an event in 2009 and technically hadn’t missed a year.
As December approached, it was clear I wasn’t up to the challenge.  Although I had walked a few 5k’s, that’s about all the distance I had been able to put together and it would wipe me out for most of the rest of the day.  So, no race in 2009.  Fine.  At least I got the medal.  Maybe I’ll do the 2010 P.F. Chang’s in January?  Not likely, but I can dream.

Yeah, not even remotely likely.  Although I have begun to jog on a treadmill at Physical Therapy, I can only hold a jogging pace for anywhere between 8 and 30 seconds.  Yeah.  Seconds.  So, that’s it.  I’m going to miss the 2010 marathon, too, and I am pissed.  I hate that this accident happened to me and interrupted positive changes I was making because they are so freaking  hard to make.  I’m alot like my dad.  Left to my own devices, I’d much rather sit on the couch and eat pizza.  I love cookies and ice cream and cake.  I hate vegetables.  I hate exercise.  I hate almost everything about being healthy, but I had learned to love the marathons and they got taken away from me.

I have a few friends running or walking this year and I’m so insanely jealous I can hardly stand it.  I love them and I wish them well and I am also very happy they are doing it and I want to support and encourage them, but it does tear me up inside.

I want, very badly, to turn this negative attitude around, and that is why I’m going to the Expo today.  Fuck it.  If I can’t run the race, I’ll at least go hang out with the people who are, and I’ll act like I belong there.  That’s what I did in the beginning anyhow, and it worked.  It got me into the event and into the culture and I want to be back there.  I don’t know if I can ever fully go back there or not, but for now, I’m gonna dream.

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I was stuck in a nursing home for 3 1/2 months in 2008 and I blogged my daily trials and tribulations in a frank, honest, and often, humorous manner, accumulating somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 daily followers.  If I heard it once, I heard it a dozen times, people said I needed to “make it into a book.”

Seventeen and a half months later, I am actually working on just that.  I still have my faithful cheerleader and writing coach, Diane Owens, and we are just about to the point of either submitting query letters or book proposals to publishers.  We are going to proceed with the expectation that we will find someone to publish the story and expect to have a book to sell by December 2011.

Be the first on your block to own a copy.  Place your pre-order now!  I don’t know how much it will eventually cost, if published, but I’m willing to offer all pre-orders the low, low price of $14.99.  Send a check to:

Marlo J. Archer

1237 W. Auburn Dr.

Tempe, AZ  85283

If I don’t find a publisher by 2012, I’ll self-publish and you’ll still get your copy.  If it turns out that the published price is lower than $14.99, I’ll send a refund check to the address that was on your payment check.

All pre-orders will be numbered and signed by the author.  Reserve your copy now!

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