None of us are promised a tomorrow. None of us are even given a guarantee to make it through the current day, so why do we live our lives like we have endless amounts of time on our side?
I recently spent some time with four kids that brought those thoughts back to the forefront of my mind. While running 165 miles in 4 days from La Crosse to Neenah, I had some time to reflect on my own life and why I choose to run long distances to bring attention to a cause like childhood cancer.
Sometime during the first day of running, I started thinking about my childhood. I remember waking up super early before my parents and watching Saturday morning cartoons, then running outside like a madman at the first hint that one of my friends were outside. I would then run around with endless energy playing pickle, football, basketball…the list goes on. I don’t remember taking a break to even eat or drink! I realized I have so many fond memories of my childhood. I had an older brother who I looked up to and always tried to emulate and I had two amazing parents that were always supporting us no matter where our interests turned to.
Around mile 17 on day 1, we stopped for a little food/hydration break. I watched my Dad, now in his sixties, climb out of the vehicle to help us get our nutritional needs. I made him a peanut butter sandwich and thanked him for being our support driver. My mind was racing. Here is my Dad, once again supporting my dream, sacrificing his time to make our event run smoothly, always there to lean on. I texted my wife and told her I loved her. I was in a deep groove already and knew day one would be easy.
As we continued, Sam, Josh and I shared some great laughs. I was truly myself that day, cracking jokes, poking fun at myself and my friends. It was one of the most enjoyable runs I have ever had. I felt like a kid again and despite being 38 years old, I had endless energy and no concerns. I had my Dad with me, my wife’s support at home with our children, and two of my best friends running with me.
I began thinking to myself, tomorrow is never promised to you Brian. Enjoy the day. Be in the moment. Then I started thinking about Gavin, the young boy we were running for that day. At such a young age, he was battling leukemia. Sure, I had been through a divorce, being a single Dad for five years, numerous surgeries with one of my children…but I never had to stand directly in front of something as ominous as cancer. Gavin, his brother Owen, and their parents were not even guaranteed to make it through the rest of the day…
I called my wife that night and had a really nice conversation with her. She said to me, ‘birthdays are important to all of us, but especially important to the kids we run for’. She was right. I thought about how I don’t look forward to my next birthday because I am getting older. I am almost 40!! But after listening to Laura talk about how special a birthday is to these kids and their families, I realized how selfish my own thoughts were. I should relish every day I have this earth. I should tell my wife every day how much she means to me. I should hug and kiss each of my children and tell them how much they mean to me because you never know when those moments will cease to exist. Becoming a year older is a blessing – period.
I always find it interesting how a child can bring an adult back to reality. My thoughts of my own childhood on day 1 were telling me that it’s ok to let go. Remove all those mental barriers you have put in place over the course of your adulthood. When I was a kid, none of those existed. I was invincible. On day 1, I was a kid again. I enjoyed the sights and smells of nature, the company of friends, the watchful eye of my father, and the joy of knowing that with each stride, I was making a difference in some child’s life. I realized that my life is pretty damn amazing. From a loving wife and kids to an amazing running community to an incredible group of Snowdrop Friends…I have it all…but I am dreaming of a day when kids like Gavin can stare down cancer and know that tomorrow WILL come because there is a CURE. A day when Gavin’s parents can hold onto today, tomorrow, and the rest of Gavin’s childhood because all of us have done everything we can to find a cure for him…and millions of other kids just like him.
Thanks to all of the Snowdrop Foundation Wisconsin supporters for making our first year a true success. Together, we raised over $25,000!