He should be here by now.
I pull my afghan tight around me, the one my mother crocheted together with her own hands. I try to focus on my book, to enjoy the fall breeze and luminous colors dancing on the trees all around, but he should have been here by now, and fear is setting in.
I walk down the trail until at last I see him. He looks better than I expect him to after what he’s just been through. But he still looks bad. Yet he is there, making his way over knotted stumps and rocks protruding from the dirt path. I finally see him, and for the first time in five days I completely forget about the call from the doctor, the one where they told me that I might have pre-cancerous cells on my cervix.
“Do you have any food?” he asks. His face is pale, his voice weak. Besides a few M&Ms graciously spared to him by another runner, he hasn’t eaten a thing since the last aid station eleven miles ago. He has covered 26 miles already, and he’s not done. I assure him that there is food right around the corner.
He makes it to the wooden picnic table and the volunteers ask him what he needs. He sits and snacks and tells me it is hard. Very, very hard. I ask him if he can keep running; he’s not sure. Yet after forcing a couple hundred of calories into his body, and refilling his water bottle, he rises and continues down the trail to face the final five miles before him.
Five days prior I was sitting in a coffee shop when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but I picked it up anyways. When you are waiting to hear from publishers about a book deal, you jump to answer the phone every time it rings. It was not a publisher. “Is this Eryn?” She was calling from a doctor’s office.
She began to explain the situation, I opened a word document on my laptop to take notes. She told me that this is important, and that I need to schedule a follow-up exam; a more in-depth procedure so that the doctor can monitor the situation, and treat it if the need arises.
I thanked her and hung up. And it was not until I took the terms she was throwing around and punched them into Google that my heart began to beat heavy and my hands developed a tremble.
I read the screen and a pit formed in my stomach. “Often associated with the development of cervical cancer if left untreated.”
I told myself it could be nothing. But is it ever really nothing when it is the very thing that took your Grandmother from you? I packed up my things and left the coffee shop to head home, unsure of what to tell my husband.
Five days later he’s running through the woods for eight hours. His feet will take him 31 miles today. The moment he spoke it over a year ago, just an idea in his head, I knew he would cross that finish line. A few times today has he doubted it, but I never did.
I spend the day driving back and forth between aid stations, asking what he needs, how his feet are, and assuring him that he’s doing great. And while I do, I will away all of the thoughts of cancer that have haunted my spirit with fear over the past five days.
With each mile he places behind him, my husband reminds me that we have a God who calls us to believe in big things, and equips us to pursue them. With each foot placed in front of the other, he is showing me that we are called to hold on to hope even when the journey is long and arduous, and even when doubts and fears encroach. He is showing me that the big dreams on our hearts are always worth running after.
“30” he texts. One more. Only one more. I sit alone, watching leaves bid the summer goodbye as they spin to the ground. Every few seconds I glance over at the opening across the field, waiting for him to emerge from the woods. Finally I see him, and my eyes begin to sting with tears. I watch as he winds his way around the expanse of tall, dried grass. He places his hands on his knees as he climbs up the final hill.
I place my hand on his back, then find my way to the finish line where I watch him cross over. I drop my bag to the ground and embrace him. We stand there, and for a moment it is just us, there in each other’s arms, and there is nothing else. No fears. Only hope.
He did it. And only because he chose to believe. He chose to hope, and to do something big. And with every step he took, he inspired me to do the same.
“I wouldn’t be concerned.” The doctor will tell us three days later. “You’re going to be fine.” She says, and I remember how to breathe again.
We leave the office and relief courses through my veins. Somewhere throughout the past week I had forgotten how to dream big. I had wondered if the dreaming was worth it.
And it wasn’t in the doctor’s words that I remembered what hope felt like, it was in my husband’s slight limp as he walked me out of the hospital, a small reminder of what he had accomplished three days prior.
Over eight hours he chose time and time again to press on. I saw the pain in his stride and, at times, the doubt in his eyes. But I also saw his heart, where I knew there was a deeply rooted belief carrying him on mile after mile. And that belief was this: that God calls us to big things, and life is far too short not to chase after them.
God has strategically crafted our hearts to believe in that which is bigger than ourselves. He calls us to hope and to a future. He is a God of big promise and big provision. I saw that this week, in words from a doctor granting me space to breathe again.
But mostly I saw it in my husband who very tangibly showed me what it looks like to banish fear and doubt, and to hold on to hope as we chase after our big dreams. He showed me what it looks like to believe and trust in a God who will give us all the strength and provision to pursue bigger things than we ever imagined possible.
So thank you, my Ultrarunning Love, for showing me how to believe.
As always, a huge thanks to Mile90 Photography for capturing these incredible moments for us!