I’ve found a way to make running, or at least the act of starting, more enjoyable– I pick a person to run for. If I have something or someone to dedicate my runs to, then the runs becomes more meaningful– not just a 30 to 60 minute exercise. During the run I reflect on my chosen person, evaluating– with each stride and breath– how he or she has influenced my life. I think about the challenges the person has endured and reflecting on that gives me more motivation to keep going, especially on long runs like 5-7 miles.
In the past, I’ve dedicated runs to different people. Like my dad from whom I’ve inherited my love of long distance running, or my Grandfather Geronimo, who taught me about hard work and not giving up easily, or my Grandmother Constatine who put of a tough fight before dying from Cancer. Recently, this past week I ran in honor of my friend Faye, who would have been 34 years old this week, but unfortunately, passed away late August. Her life, one that she lived uniquely, influenced many of the creative things I do today.
Faye committed suicide last summer. It was a shock to me as anyone else who knew Faye , we would have never guessed that she carried suicidal thoughts. She lived on an ’embracing life’ platform– expressing herself candidly and openly through cooking, writing– and even running—she was training for a marathon before she committed suicide. I first met her at a mutual friend’s party and she was wearing a short black dress with heals and heavy winged eyeliner with metallic eyeshadow. She poured a double shot of Jameson and she talked about her feelings about the recent Oakland shootings. I knew right away that we were going to be great friends.
A picture of when we first met
A few months after meeting her, she shared with me that she was moving to New York City. We celebrated a lot before she left. A Halloween party at 111 Minna. Soul Slam at the Mezzanine. A birthday party at Mercury Lounge. Mixtape Wednesday at Skylark. She was even there when I kissed Mel on stage at Mezzanine.
In three months, it will be her one-year death anniversary. Her death is still a shock to me today as it was the day I found out. The final days and the events surrounding her suicide are still a mystery to me. It seemed like the more people I talked to or the more information I read, the more I became confused. On my runs, I tried to connect the dots, piece the puzzle together, look for clues explaining her suicide, but like most cases and articles I’ve read, no one really knows the reasons behind suicide. They happen with very little explanation and a lot of questions left unanswered.
On a recent 5 mile run, I thought about Faye. On this particular jog, I was unusually tired– I hadn’t slept much that week and I’ve had a case of writer’s block the last month. By mile 3, usually when my legs and breath are working simultaneously, I was out of breath and convinced myself to stop. Then in a twist of faith, a familiar song came on in my ear bud– “Drops of Jupiter” by Train. Immediately, I began to sprint and my breathing became controlled. It was if a hand was pushing me up the San Pablo incline.
“Drops of Jupiter” was a song Faye referenced to a lot in her blog, and her family played it during her funeral. As the song played, white balloons were released in the clear blue sky of South San Francisco. On the green lawn, with Train playing through the speakers and as white balloons flew above us, we all commemorated Faye. In that instance, Faye was everywhere. It was a beautiful and emotional moment, one that will stay with me forever.
On my runs, I’ve learned to not focus on the mysteries behind her death. I’ve learned to accept that Faye’s enigmatic personality was simply yearning to be at a better, more heavenly, place.
Still, it would’ve been nice to make a few more memories with her. I would have liked to see her face telling her that I’m now engaged to that same boy I kissed on stage, or hear her breath next to me during a run when I visited Central Park, or smell the plate of noddles she would have cooked for her birthday. But I try not to let my mind take me to these extremities. I’m dedicated to making my runs a positive experience and to commemorate and focus on the memories I was fortunate enough to have had with her.
In July I’m scheduled to run my first ½ marathon, something I know Faye would have been proud of. I’m not looking forward to the physical exertion I’m going to endure on race day, but I am looking forward to reflecting about the sources of inspiration in my life—like my father’s will to run, my grandfather’s unyielding strength, my grandmother’s tenacious battle. And when my legs are weak and my breath is labored, I can count on the memories I had with Faye to push and yield me through the last miles. And for those final minutes of the race, I can sing the words loudly and proudly to “Drops of Jupiter” with Faye motivating and inspiring me through the finish line.
Happy belated birthday Faye. Thanks for running by my side.
On the day of Faye’s funeral, a historical moment happened in SF/ Bay area….the new Bay Bridge finally opened. Faye loved SF– so much so she got a tattoo of SF skyscraper tattooed on her inner wrist. After her funeral, I had to pick up my brother that day at SFO. On our way back, we honored our first trip together on the new Bay Bay Bridge to Faye. I downloaded her song on my brother’s phone and played it through my car speaker while my brother used my camera to record the trip.