Tuesday, February 17, 2015

5 Hundred More

It seemed unbelievable as I was picking up my packet that it had been exactly 5 years since I ran my first marathon on the Austin course when I went to pick up my packet with my family. I thought crossing that finish line would be a one time event, check it off the bucket list, move on. It was tough and painful but I was proud of it. But the next year there I was again putting off brain cancer surgery to qualify for Boston and thinking it was my last just believing that there would no longer be physical capacity after they sliced up my brain. Then the next two years each of them would be my second fastest marathon and the winner of the cancer survivor division. Surely there was no way left to step up my game... but then last year, the first year it conflicted with a weekend with my daughter, I showed who was Paramount to me and while we got to go across the same finish line, there was something very cool about doing it next to my daughter on her first 5k and again letting a happy but ignorant thought slip through my mind that man this finish line can't get any better than this, can it?

But it had been an unexpected week in many ways... there had been the unpleasant surprise of having damaged my calf exactly one week before the race. It was the first time I'd had a sports injury that got in the way of non sporting activities and I couldn't support my own weight. Someone from church had offered me a cane to be able to keep up with Kiana for a few days. They did not mention it was a pink one with flowers which got me some good heckling when I was using it. I am not sure whether Kiana enjoyed the flower print or impersonating me more with it. Still in her last two track workouts, I had limped with it while she had run.

But while a doctor's appointments, a rub down and a verdict proving that my grandfather may be right that tape can fix anything, I was ready to try it either way. But my parents decided to sign up for their second 5k together on Valentine's weekend. I often tell that too much truth in humor joke that my first marathon was on Valentine's day and we didn't train together, run together or do anything except high five at the end and thus it's no wonder we broke up. I was glad to see my parents doing their second 5k together in only three weeks. Since it was only their first 5k three weeks before on a much easier course everyone had Pr'ed that day on a flatter route with less turns, I told them to take it easier on the course since my mom had started running less than three years ago when she turned 60, I mean 29 and my dad had started this year just a few months shy of 70, I mean 29. And yet here we were ready to do the same 5k, as a "fours of nature." Not only do so but do it with the finish line that meant so much to me. And just to put icing on the cake, it was being done when the Paramount Theater was celebrating 100 years! 

But I may be too far ahead of the story, before we'd ever gotten to this starting line, it had already been a good weekend. Friday night had been filled by the annual Ship of Fools dinner where drinks were told, stories were drank, and great people were appreciated one to one and from the front. There were shout outs to people who had won races, gotten their fastest times, done ridiculous new running feats, done the simple things that keep us going like putting out water along the routes, designing the routes, the schedules. We may be a ship of fools because of how hard we train no matter what the condition but that ship is build so solid I can't imagine it ever sinking.
Saturday morning had been the Livestrong brunch. I spoke briefly alongside Sean Maguire and Bart Yasso about the approach we have taken to cancer, life and running on a Livestrong team aptly called "Choose Joy." We each shared stories with self deprecation and appreciation for both the wonder and the frailness of life and how running may not be a cure for anything or maybe it's the cure for everything. There would be people there from an organization that was there for me and my daughter since the beginning of cancer in many ways. There would be new friends who would share sadness with laughter and laughter with sadness... perhaps the lesson I learned best about how to deal with cancer while living strong. There was a young lady there preparing for her first marathon who offered to be my date for Valentine's as long as I called her a mountain lion instead of a cougar. 

When race morning started, we were off and it occurred to me that this course had far more turns and elevation change. Kiana was gunning trying to get another 5k PR and realizing that it's a little tougher on hilly courses. When she'd held a similar speed too early three weeks before I questioned whether or not she could hold it, not it was her questioning it. Near the finish line I encouraged her to smile for the photographer and with a quick breath, she said no. I smiled and would explain to her that's why she's usually the one smiling and not me on the races where she's being pushed along. Still, it made her day to have PR'ed by almost 25 seconds at 31:51. After she caught her breather we sat and smiled and waited for Abuelos. My parents have been run walking but on a tougher course, they decided to run more and get it over with. In three weeks took they almost 5 minutes off! All three taken more time off their 5k in one year than I have off my marathon time... a little embarrassing. Still, the course had gotten a little more special with all three of them having gotten their PR's together. The austin marathon has a bell you can ring if you get a PR and both my mother and daughter rang it with conviction!
We'd stick around to catch friends some who got PR's because it was their first time finishing the distance, others who were disappointed they hadn't quite gotten the time they hoped for, a local getting the half marathon win for the 3rd time as he tries to get ready for an olympic trial. There would be friends who'd qualify for Boston for the first time. But showing exactly why it takes so much guts and gusto to run a marathon the woman who had led for most of the race and then was in second place woman literally collapsed but crawled herself to third place.

This year's logo for the Austin events was make it happen. I've watched them and thousand of participants do it for 5 years. The Paramount theater we ran with has made art happen for a hundred. And from first place elite finishers to third place crawling elites to fantastic "final" finishers in each course division. With each medal, each stride, each walk, I'm thinking I'll never again imagine the Austin finish as it's best day behind it or behind me and I'll bet it that marathon, that half and even our 5k have at least 100 more. 

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