The Longest Mile

We’re only a couple of days a way from the first big race of my season, the Shamrock Marathon.  I probably should write something about that.  To tell the truth, however, I haven’t given it a lot of thought.  And I’m feeling more than a little guilty about that.  After only 2 marathons have I become blasé, deluding myself into believing that I have this whole marathon thing down?  Isn’t such an apparently cavalier attitude a slap in the face of those of my friends and team mates for whom this will be their first marathon (or half-marathon)?

The marathon seems to have been shunted aside by so many other things going on at the moment.  Guiding all my students through the proposal phase of their research.  Two major writing projects that I’ve been wrapping up.  Presenting a paper at the biggest professional writing teacher conference of the year (from whence this post originates: greetings from Louisville, y’all!).

Most of all, however, I’m just having a damn hard time at the moment getting past the fact that my dog is dying.

That isn’t going to make much sense to people who aren’t pet owners (and may not make any sense to some who are).  Dylan’s cancer diagnosis at least gave us a reasonable window (three to six months) but he’s taken a decided turn for the worse over the last couple of days.  Throwing up in all kinds of colors I’ve never seen before, and diagnosed by the vet as being extremely anaemic (and none of the possible causes of that are good).

I’m going to go a long way out on a limb here, one that I can already feel threatening to break under the weight of public scorn, and say that having a pet die slowly is much, much worse than watching a person slowly waste away.

Because dogs have absolutely no idea what is happening to them.

You can’t sit down with them and have a conversation about what is causing what they are feeling, what they can expect, how things are going to be managed, what you are going to try to do for them and the ways that what you do probably won’t work out.  They are aware, of course, that something isn’t right.  Dylan still thumps his tail when you approach and wants to get up and be patted, but he can’t.  He wants to run around the yard after all those amazing scents but he doesn’t have the energy.  And unlike a person he doesn’t get to rail against the injustice of all that, he just has to accept it.  He doesn’t have the choice not to go gentle into that good night.  He just has to.  And sooner or later, probably sooner, we are going to have to help him go there.

When our German Shepherd Sayla died it was at least sudden, which is its own kind of wrenching.  But this. . .this is much worse.

I don’t honestly know if dogs suffer or not.  Part of me thinks that to suffer (as opposed to just experiencing pain) requires awareness.  But I do know that if an animal for whom you are responsible is experiencing pain, and if you are at all sensitive to that, your own suffering is increased.  Humans, unfortunately in this case, have awareness to spare.

So it has been difficult to put all of that out of my mind and make some room for the race.  Mental prep is usually one of my strong points when it comes to racing, but this time it just isn’t happening.  I have a general pace plan in mind for the race, but it isn’t solidly ingrained enough to be really stuck in my head in a way that is useful.  I’d like to think that on a flat course I could run faster than my Marine Corps time of 4:19, but I’m also fully aware that because the winter training has been less than ideal, and because of all this other stuff over the last few weeks, that may not happen.  I’m OK with that.  It will be great being down there with the team, and my goal is going to be just to have a good time and support everyone else.

Yes, I realize running a marathon might not fit everyone’s definition of “having a good time” but I have to say that I’ll take the marathon suffering over this other kind.

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