The chip on my shoulder

It’s been a year. 365 days ever since my grandma died. She was a true super hero and in my heart she will always be just that, the hero I want to live up to. As we get closer to Christmas, the heartache gets bigger. Part of me is hurt, because of all the promises she didn’t keep but the bigger part of me carries her legacy on my face every time I have to face challenges. And even more do I feel her close to me when good things happen. She always said, that she is not worried about me, that she knows that I will still be standing strong come wind and high water. It doesn’t get easier, it probably will never get easier. But it doesn’t get harder either.

I remember the last time we talked together like it was yesterday, I still remember her face and how she used to look at me, those blue eyes. Darting through my soul. I remember how her laundry always smelled grandma-like and how it always felt uber soft. I remember her standing and cooking lunches and dinners and coffees, oh how I long for these coffees. Most of all I long for her voice though, the love that came from one single word of hers… She was in no way perfect, in fact she had many flaws but that’s okay, we all do and I chose to accept them and moved on.

I think the worst part for me was, that she couldn’t walk anymore. It made me so mad, that her legs couldn’t carry her anymore. I was angry with the world for the things that happened to her, but it wasn’t the world’s fault, I always knew that but seeing her not being able to walk made me want to walk for her. I wanted to carry her and show her all the things that she otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see. When we talked I tried to make the world seem even more colorful than it actually was, so she would want to come with me, walk with me, see things with me. But when we went for breakfast one day and I realized that a 15-minute-walk was going to turn into a 90-minute-torture, I realized that there was no way she would be able to come and be with me in Norway or in any other part of the world.

So I started walking for her, in her memory, for her legacy, to carry out her words, her love, her face, I wanted her to see the world with me, through my eyes, even if she wasn’t here anymore. I did just that, walking. And then I started running, further than I ever ran in my life before. I ran so much, that eventually I was ready to run my first half-marathon for her, with her, in her memory – for me.

I woke up around 7.30 on Saturday, December 1st 2012 in Bergen, Norway. I took a long hot shower and thought about the challenge I yet had to overcome. 21 kilometers. I have never run that far before. 13 maybe 14 kilometers max, but never more than that. Around 9 we made our way to the bus-stop; I was anxious and eager and excited and scared but most of all I was happy. We got to the stadium, where the race was supposed to start, around 10.30. The start was at 12.00 but my dad said, that it would be better to get there early just to make sure we would get our starting numbers and chips and what not. I got the number 1456 and he had 1457. A took several pictures of us wearing our numbers, we went for a short run on the track and then we waited. And waited. And waited.

An hour and a half can seem like an eternity when all you want to do is run. We all were anxious but we paced ourselves and hoped for the time to pass quickly. The weather was kind to us, sunny, no snow, no rain, no ice, actually the perfect day for a run, if it wouldn’t have been for the cold wind. 12.00 o’clock ever so slowly crept up on us and we finally stood at the starting line. We decided to let everyone run in front of us, just so we wouldn’t hold up anyone. About 200 runners showed up, 3/4 of them doing the half and the last 1/4 doing the full marathon. 7/8 males and 1/8 females, if that. Most of the runners where well into their 50ies and 60ies, a few girls in their 20ies and 30ies and me. Of course.

And then there was a shot. A small one, barely noticeable but it was our starting sign. And slowly we started to run. My dad had a goal of running the 21k in about 2 hours and 15 minutes, I opted for 3 hours, knowing myself all too well, after all, my only goal was to finish, everything else was secondary. The first 2 kilometers seemed endlessly long. And lonely. Everyone else was far ahead and I felt like the last person on earth, but like I said, winning wasn’t the goal, getting to the end was. I knew I was not going to be the first one, I accepted that long before I started. So instead of worrying about when I would finish I tried to enjoy myself. My dad tried to push me to my limits. He succeeded but much to his dismay this didn’t make me faster at all.

the beginning of the halfmarathon

There was an old guy, he was the last one to cross the starting line, but he slowly got ahead of us and I swore to myself, I will not let an old guy pass me like this. He might be 60 years older than me and have a replaced hip, so his running is after all admirable but I will beat the crap out of his running career and finish at least 2 steps ahead of him. This I thought by kilometer 5. By kilometer 8 I was already exhausted and wanted to be home. I felt every muscle in my legs and I was longing so badly for a hot shower and a warm cup of tea. By then most of the more experienced runners were already on their way back to the stadium, while I was not even anywhere close to the halfway-turn-around.

Eventually, after a lot of convincing myself that I can do this, we made it halfway, it only took us about 80 minutes and I stocked up on cold tea, bananas and caramel-chocolate. The thought of wanting to stop and just walk home crossed my mind several times, but here’s the thing, one way or another I would have to walk back home. There were no cars, no transportation system, nothing of help other than my legs, which carried me up- and downhill. After what seemed like an eternity and probably was, kilometer 15 came around, kilometer 16, 17, 18 and 19, eventually 20. With every kilometer my dad got more and more impressed. He made sure that I was aware of the fact, that we were always done and that we have come so far. He told me that I could do it, that I will be home soon, he told me, we will finish together. And I ran, not stopping once, I just ran… Not fast but I ran.

I know that my dad, if it wouldn’t have been for me (and apparently my ridiculously slow running), would have finished the marathon in under two hours, I am well aware of this fact. But that wasn’t the idea. The idea was to finish together, to run together. At the last kilometer, my dad ran behind me (we were running uphill) and I felt my muscles give in, but he he placed his hand on my shoulder and pushed me forwards. Just like he did, when I was a little child and about to go on stage, just like he did when I graduated high-school, just as he did, when I left for the US. Just like he did, whenever it was necessary. He then reached for my hand and told me, we were almost there, to just pull through. And we ran together into the stadium, for our very last round. I ran as fast as I could and somehow found the energy in me to do a last quick sprint and then, finally, after 2 hours and 52 minutes…

…we made it across the finish line. Together. For him and for me. And for my grandma.

The long awaited and epic ending of the halfmarathon

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