I stopped running in mid-November. My body just didn't want to go anymore. I told myself it was because it was recovering from the 3-Day, but I so clearly remember the day when after nearly 1/2 a mile on the way to the trail loop, I just couldn't. My legs felt as though they were encased in cement, my chest felt as though it was a thousand pounds, and my mind couldn't wrap itself around the fact that my body was betraying me. I stopped and walked, then tried, a bit later to run some more. I think I made it about 1/4 mile before I had to stop again. I cried most of the way to the trail and tried to remember that I had gotten nearly four good months prior to that point. I really did try to remember...

We started walking after that day. Every morning we walked. We kept hiking until early December when that too, became excruciatingly difficult, both physically and emotionally. They used to call me "Jiffy Jen" and all of a sudden, I couldn't hike for five minutes without having to stop and catch my breath. But still, we walked. And walked. And walked an average of 30+ miles a week well into December. With Greg's knee being tweaky once again, he wasn't able to run anyhow, so we kept walking...

2008 brought new energy, between the lack of chemo, the surgery, and the removal by Lasix and draining of entirely too much fluid that my body been holding on to. Amazing, isn't it? The reason my chest felt so heavy is because... it WAS. But not any more. Still, we walked.

Sometime in early March, I was by myself with the pups, and for some reason I thought I might try to run, just a little. So, I did. I went about 1/2 mile, and then I walked. For that day, it was enough. I found myself jogging a bit up hills on hikes we'd take on the weekends, mostly because I wanted to get the hill behind me more quickly, and if I could speed it up a bit, I did. I also tried running a bit in Tucson, but whether it was the fact that I wasn't mentally ready, or because I wasn't used to running without either Greg or the dogs, or maybe the fact that I didn't get enough sleep, it didn't turn out to be my best effort. So, I walked. And as I walked, I realized, again, that I much preferred walking or hiking with the company of Greg and the dogs to running, alone.

Fast forward to this past Sunday morning. We headed out for a walk on the trail loop, and I noticed that Greg had put on some shorts he used to run in, rather than the hiking shorts he tends to wear, but I didn't think much of it. We got out to the turn-around cactus and he asked me, "do you want to try running back?" Ohhhhhhhhh boy. OK. OK... I can do this. So, we did. As I started, I realized that I was running without my mp3 player, which I used to never do before. My mind took me back to when I started running and I would find a soundtrack in my head and listen to the world around me. I heard the dogs panting, I heard the trees rustling, and I heard Greg's footfalls right behind me. About 1.3 miles later, we got to the trail head and it took all I had not to get choked up. Then we walked the rest of the way home.

Before we fell asleep on Tuesday night, he asked me if I'd like to try another little run the next morning. Ok, I can do this again, right? Amazingly enough, both Greg's knee and my everything else seemed to be holding up. Again, I left the house without my music, somewhat surprised that I did it consciously this time, and aware of the fact that the last small run we took came fairly easily to me although I wasn't sure why, and what the difference was between then, and Tucson. Again, I let my mind wander, and I was brought back to the desert runs we were doing after I had started chemo. I remember feeling so strong and invincible, and on one particular run, being extremely conscious of Greg's presence either behind me, or in front of me, wherever he happened to be on the trail at the time. I remember falling into the rhythm of his stride ahead of me, and thinking how symbolic it seemed to me, that I was looking ahead and keeping up the pace. That there was something, someone in front of me or beside me that I was able to head into the next step of this journey with, and that there would be occasions in the not so distant future that I knew I'd need to follow that lead to get me through the day. There were also the times that I heard his footfalls behind me, and I knew that I'd need that, too. That there would be times when I'd need someone at my back to hold me up, to push me along, and to remind me to keep going. And also, to catch me if I fell. Wednesday morning's path took us about 1.8 miles - they always say to build up gradually - and then we walked the rest of the way home.

This morning we did about three miles. Nearly a 5k. Or something close enough. Again, there was no music in my ears other than the sound of my mental soundtrack, but this time I was aware of the reason I didn't need the headphones and why I was able to keep going. His footfalls.

The footfalls beside me that accompanied me to every single one of the 20 weeks of chemo treatments. The footfalls I heard walking through the post-op hallway toward my bed when I came out of surgery. The barefoot footfalls through the house - our house - and the ones that every now and then, dance with me in the kitchen. The same ones that were clad in dress shoes, walking up the stone path in the Nedra Matteucci sculpture garden eleven months ago from yesterday. The footfalls that give me the strength to run again.

Right now, I don't know if I'll ever do another half-marathon. I'm not sure if my PR times are behind me, and I don't know if I'll run or walk this year's Race for the Cure. Right now? It feels pretty good to give it a shot again. As long as I can still hear his footfalls. I know he'd disagree with me, and tell me that I should keep running with or without him but the thing is, I'm not going to break any tapes or win any medals anytime soon. Silly or not, I'd still rather walk or hike together, if we're not able to run, than go it alone. I'll take the footfalls, no matter how fast or slow they are moving.


    this is quite probably the most beautiful love letter I've ever read.