Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sheena, The First Marathoner I Knew

"If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." --Matthew 5:41 (New International Version)

Sheena was the first marathoner I ever knew. Way back when I had no idea what distance that actually was. Not something that mere mortals do.

Maybe ten years ago, I met her through a mutual close friend at a March of Dimes event. Proud I'd raised over $1,000, I was particularly excited to take part. Sheena was going the thirteen mile route, and I'd only planned to go the three or five or whatever it was. Years before I would call myself a runner. It was hard to turn down a challenge, and as she talked me into the longer distance, we bonded and were friends ever since.

Sheena was like that. Larger than life. And just a couple of years older than I. Witty, powerful, colorful, full-blooded Irish, never afraid to say what she was thinking. When she walked into a room, it was suddenly illuminated with her energy. I remember her telling me, "The day I can't go out and run 5 miles, I will kill myself," in typical Sheena nonchalant fashion. She'd run Boston before, but I didn't know what that meant. And I really couldn't imagine running 5 miles anyway. (It took me over a week to recover from the 13 mile walk.)

When she was diagnosed with colon cancer (how can that happen to a 40-year old, strong, healthy woman?), she met it head on. She joked about wanting IV's of alcohol with her chemotherapy, just so she could enjoy it. It spread to her liver, her spine, her brain. When I talked to her I couldn't believe her bravery. She continued to embrace life to its fullest, and her voice was full of energy every time we spoke. Just this year, she went to Europe. She didn't stop dreaming. She was the bravest woman I've ever met.

A few hours ago, she passed away quietly. It was the first time Sheena did anything quietly. And I am just in awe. I can't believe that someone with such a vibrant spirit is gone. And believe me, when I run Boston... I will be thinking of her with every step. The girl who made me go the extra mile, and first spoke the word "marathon." Thank you, and good-bye, Sheena.

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