We all run for different reasons, but what motivates us to keep at it? To stay in shape? A great escape? Or to help out a cause?
As part of our “Why I Get My Rear in Gear” series we caught up with avid runner and writer, David Goodman, to find out what running and colon cancer means to him and how he’s helping to raise awareness.
Get Your Rear in Gear: When did you start running?
David Goodman: My dad loved to run. As I was growing up, I would always see him go for jogs. In high school, I would join him on those runs, and I began to run in local races on Long Island. In later life, my dad contracted multiple sclerosis and could no longer run. But when he would see me, he would always ask: “What are you doing for exercise?” It was as if he wanted me to continue with the exercise he could no longer do. Thanks to him, running has always been part of my routine.
If I’ve had my fix of being outside and breathing hard, everything in life goes much better.
GYRIG: With a background as a writer, where does running fit in? Is it an escape?
GOODMAN: Writing requires me to concentrate and shut out distractions. That’s often difficult to do, with the phone ringing and emails coming and going. When I run, there is just me and the rhythm of my feet hitting the ground. Running clears my mind and enables me to focus. Another reason I run is just to be outside. I’ve never joined a gym — I would much rather be running along dirt roads admiring the scenery and breathing the air. If I’ve had my fix of being outside and breathing hard, everything in life goes much better.
GYRIG: How did running help you when your mom developed cancer?
GOODMAN: My mom, Dorrie Goodman, learned that she had cancer in late August 2009. She was a very vigorous and young-at-heart 79 year old woman, and had been busy traveling the world, taking adult ed courses, visiting her kids and grandkids, and was active in her community. She had never experienced being seriously ill. She told me that her diagnosis (she was initially told she had ovarian cancer) “knocked me off my feet.” She entered Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City in early September for what she thought was a few days of tests; she died there a month later. The doctors had been unable to pinpoint the source of her aggressive cancer while she was there. We only learned after her death that she had advanced colon cancer.
During the month that I and my siblings spent alongside my mother in the hospital, time stood still. I would barely notice that day turned to night and back into day. It was intense, exhausting and very moving to be there with her and for her. After the first week in the hospital, I began trying to take a daily run in Central Park, which was across the street. When I would leave Mt. Sinai and enter the park, I felt as if I was emerging from underground. Suddenly there was light, noise, kids running around and people going about their normal routines. That was comforting. Running was not easy for me — I was shocked at how little energy I had to do anything besides tend to my mom — but I would just will myself to put one foot in front of the other and keep going, just as my mom was struggling to do. Somehow, that daily trot outside recharged me so that I could keep going and be there for my mom. When I would return, she would always ask how my run was. I would fill her in on the goings on in the outside world, so that she felt she was alongside me. She was too sick to go outside at that point, so it was my way of taking her for a walk in the park.
In part two of our interview we’ll talk to David about training for a marathon and the next steps on his journey to raise awareness for colon cancer.
Interview by Amy Wenzel, Get Your Rear in Gear Communications Intern