Since my daughter Leyden passed, I have run the Boston Marathon for her to uphold a promise I made on Marathon Monday 2014 when we were in the hospital, scheduled to go home at the end of the week. I promised her we would cross the finish line together, running for Boston Children's Hospital, the following year. Though she lost her battle, I realized as her mother, it was my privilege and responsibility to keep my word. So in 2015, I ran.
From this, a "Team" started. One that we call "Team Leyden"- a group committed to allowing Leyden's legacy to positively impact others by spreading strength, joy and love and remembering what really matters. During marathon season I send emails to share stories with the Team and this past week's one seemed to have resonated, strongly, with a lot of my teammates. So I figured if it can help some of them, why not put it here to see who else Leyden might positively impact. <3
My marathons have been 3:41, 3:33, 3:32 and 3:31 (I am not elite enough to list the seconds) All were Boston except one Baystate (3:32). But I found that after every race, I had more to give. So, this year I decided to mix up my program and train harder. My goal- 3:27. Change was a risk- and I still am uncertain how it is going to play out as injury struck a few weeks ago. I haven't been able to run and it hasn't been easy to fight regret and second-guessing myself. Below is my note to my teammates on the fear of failure, what Leyden taught me and how I have applied that to my training program:
I talk (sometimes at nauseam) in my yoga classes and leadership meetings about facing the fear of failure. I have been intrigued and inspired by Brett Ledbetter's book, "What Drives Winning" which was introduced to me by friend and mentor, Bob Driscoll, the Athletic Director at Providence College. Here, Brett uses research to examine how our own fears of not being successful can limit our willingness to take a risk, make an error, lose or fail.
While I often think of this in the present and future tense, it was most abundantly clear while Leyden was fighting the darkest parts of her battle. Sometimes I forget how traumatizing it was - and other times, an unexpected reminder presents. This week I was getting acupuncture, hoping to help with my leg. If you have never had it, they basically place these tiny little needles on your body depending on individual treatment goals. It feels like a light scratch (read: painless). Yet I found myself in overwhelming tears. I was immediately launched back to moments holding Leyden while she received shots or had IV's put in. I could see her face pleading at mine. And then my memory flashed to the time I had to be pulled out of the safety I sought in the parent bedspace to go to Leyden's bedside- to be there through the very scary and uncertain process of transitioning her onto dialysis.
The day before they said Leyden wouldn't live when they took her off the Ecmo machine (basically life support that left her requiring 2, 24-hour nurses at her side). This news came in the morning as a complete shock- I was on my way to work. I changed plans. We mourned the loss of our daughter all day. All of our friends and family came to say their goodbyes. Our Reverend came to do a ceremony. And then at the conclusion of the procedure they came back to the waiting room with shocked smiles- Leyden lived. They quickly warned us that being so sick and fragile, getting onto dialysis was the next hurdle. When it was time for this procedure, I truly didn't know if my heart could handle being at her side if something went wrong. Yet, with a gentle reminder of my strength and Leyden's needs, I was able to face the fear of failure, to be completely vulnerable to intense pain, and to be by her side. I can still hear the beeps, see the numbers on the screen going up as we said over and over "Come on Leyden, you got this" and reminded her we would be by her side, always. Leyden transitioned on to dialysis successfully.
The ensuing three weeks of her life were much like that moment- putting aside my own fear of losing my greatest love, to only love her harder and be at her side every moment possible. In a way each moment my heart grew larger I was risking a larger heartache. But I didn't care. Leyden needed me to be fearless. I realized I had the choice to pull away and protect myself or completely dive in. I dove. Headfirst. Without blinking.
We had a family meeting to ask for all the wires to be arranged to maximize access points. I recorded our voices reading book after book so she could listen even in moments we were away from her. I placed my pillowcase next to her every morning and covered the room in photos of when she was healthy so every single caretaker saw her for who she was- which was far more than the sick infant in the CICU. I found space to press my face into hers while I whispered over and over "Come on Leyden, you got this" and sought to grow love at every opportunity. Because I knew no matter what, Leyden deserved that. In the end, one might say that I should have protected myself by not falling so completely in love with someone I could lose- but for me, I find comfort in knowing I truly left it all on the field.
It's not always easy, even in grief. There are days I don't want to be positive, I don't want to run the marathon, I don't want to share lessons and stories Leyden's life brought. I just want her back. Much like that time I was coaxed out of the bedspace, it's my teammates that allow me to be brave in my grief for Leyden- because Leyden deserves that.
This marathon training cycle I find myself, in a much lower stakes environment, facing that same fear or failure. Every marathon so far I have run a negative race (meaning my second half is quicker than my first) and my last two miles have been my quickest. Considering that improved time includes Heartbreak Hill and fatigue, I realized I am holding back and leaving a little too much in the tank. Why? Fear of failure. I am afraid to give too much and not be able to finish. In terms of the marathon, and I suppose in life, it's really finding that balance- finding that point of pushing yourself enough but not overdoing it. So this year, in an attempt to find that sweet spot, I may have overdone it. Injury flared up so I traded in my running sneakers these past few weeks for yoga, spin, strength-training and even swimming (I HATE swimming). I learned a lot about the connectivity of our muscles and ligaments and how to care for them. And I learned a lot about being patient with the process of recovery. I am truly not sure what my 26.2 will look like this year- I received the green light to run the marathon last night and decided I am going to go for it- and push aside that fear of failure. I took a risk in changing my program and I knew that. I dove all in and I have no idea how it will work out. But thanks to Leyden, I am focusing on being proud of being "all in" with the process and letting go of a conditional attachment to outcome
This Team has reminded me that regardless, the marathon is about so much more than a finish time. It's about the experience through it. SO many amazing things continue to transpire from this process. Together we raised money for Boston Children's Hospital and awareness for other families facing challenges. We built friendships, shared love, offered strength and reminded one another what really matters. We have grown in size, supported each other and expanded our comfort zones. And we have helped others, in Leyden's name.
Even if I have to crawl across the finish line, this marathon could not possibly be a failure.
Thank you all so much for your continued support. If you would like to make a donation to my fundraising page, you can do so here: http://fundraise.childrenshospital.org/goto/leyden
And... if you think you might want to run a future marathon for Leyden, start training. My body is reminding me this season that I am getting old.
My heart is full of gratitude for all of you.