Sunday, October 31, 2010

There's only one first one. Part Two

If reading from here first...scroll down and read the bottom (Part One) first.


As Forest Gump said "I just kept runnnnnningggg..."

Over parts of the way I had spotted this tiny little girl running in a witch costume.  Even early on I had seen her (when I felt good) and said “Isn’t this fun?” and she enthusiastically squealed YEAHHH! 

By mile #2, at the top of the reservoir, I was left running in a pack that stayed steady including the cute little witch, a 52 year old grandmother, a jailbird in black and white pinstripes and a fairy. 

The little half pint was running all by herself, no parent beside her.
It was probably a miraculous distraction because I began to worry about her, sidetracking me from my own perilous fears about my spiking heart-rate.

We asked the cute little witch if this was her first 5k.
 “OH NO” she said proudly, “I’m seven and I started my racing when I was 6.”
.My sister grabbed this shot later on on her run.
I just cut up.  We were all laughing as I took my glimpse at the beautiful autumn Rochester city skyline from the high vantage point.   

Suddenly a masked Spiderman came running up from the opposite direction up the hill toward us and outstretched his arms.

“Daddy” squealed the little witch.
Having, taken her under our wing, we (the jailbird, fairy and I) made sure the masked man indeed was her daddy. I thought he would scoop her up because her little legs looked as tired as mine but he grabbed her hand. The father told us he had just taken a top runner prize, but had come back to run along side his very confident yet weary little racer.

As father and daughter loped nearby I began to feel the wind come up.
“USE YOUR DOWNHILL” a volunteer called out. I was not far now. I really was going to do this. The hardest part was over.

When I rounded the last turn, I heard the music and cheering before I saw the 3 Mile sign. My face was chapped and wet with tears. I thought of Chad and Amber who I had lost this week…and I thought of the guy whose racing dreams I carried inside my sneakers and whose name was on my shirt. I began to run faster---knowing I wanted to finish strong. I passed a couple people as my speed picked up. I didn’t even know I had it left in me.
I heard an announcer call out 38 minutes and something, something. I began to smile through the waterworks. Knowing my limitations, I had set my goal at finishing under 40 minutes and despite all my slowdowns along the way I was going to meet it.  

This was not going to be the time a hotshot would be proud of, but for me, with a pretty battlescarred lung and lots of hardwiring complications, it was something I could live with.

I hopped up from the road to the soft grass and caught sight of the big blue inflatable finish line and the familiar voices of my loved ones filled my ears. I ran through the finish with absolute joy.

After being assured that my tears were not from being hurt or in danger…hugs came from everywhere. I did it. Is this what it feels like? Is this why you keep at this whole running thing?

Then Zach’s parents hugged me. I can’t imagine their mixed emotions. They’d been there at the finish line for so many races. It's been almost two years since their iron-willed racer left us. If my chest felt full at that moment, it was surely not exertion, it was remembrance as I watched them. Zach's dad rolled the video camera and his mom snapped pictures..making sure to get a good shot of their son's name on my t-shirt.

My cheering section. Yes, Peter they got me my chocolate cake!

We all went out to breakfast afterward at Jines, ten of us in all.  After our table was a smattering of empty plates Zach’s dad handed over a box to me. Inside were some of Zach’s things. “We’ve been meaning to give these to you,” Zach’s mom said. I saw the Captain Caveman action figure I’d given him for Christmas,  a pile of photocopied articles about his racing, and inside meticulously kept and still in its box was his very high end triathlon level heart rate monitor. I didn’t want to cry again after all this, but I just had to hug them. 
“He would be so proud of you,” Zach’s mom said.

As I prepare with a very heavy heart to say goodbye to Amber today at her funeral with all of our TLC crew…I am reminded that no one really leaves this earth without a trace.  Love and remembrance are our way to hold on to the ones we love. As much as we miss them…we hold on tight to that which is ours to keep….forever.


Anonymous said...

Leah - such a special day for so many and the role you played so well brought it all together. Many will benefit from the funds you raised and that just keeps moving it forward. Way to go, girl!

WendeeB said...

you are freakin awesome! thank you so much for sharing this.