Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Great Full Loop

"If you really are thankful, what do you do? You share"
      W. Clement Stone
I long ago gave up on counting my blessings... I am just not good enough at math to count that high. But I say thank you every tangible opportunity I can find. Please is a polite way to request something but to thank I hope is a proper way the receiver and the giver bring the loop back around. 
Before I had brain cancer, I had done the Thundercloud Turkey Trot for the first time 10 years ago with a couple of friends from Ultimate. It was fun, if nothing else it justified eating a few more of the calories that I would take in later that day. Seven years ago, I did it as my first race after getting out of the hospital, after the biopsy, after the news that there was a malignant brain tumor. The medications and steroids were too new so it didn't go that well in time but somehow it would become the starting point that running was, no matter what else was coming, would stay in in the future. But once again, I'd go home and get that turkey and pie and stuffed myself with stuffing with family after running alone. 
By the next year the solitary approach got gotten it to where I'd become a single father. I had started running with a stroller and I would learn this race had a stroller division! It would be Kiana's first kid's k which she shared with her friend Mae, a girl she had become closer friends with because she had been babysat here often while her mom was going through chemo during a cancer bout. As it would be the first time that either of them would be running in the streets, little notes had been pinned to them of who to call etc, I mean obviously Turkey Trots are a dangerous place. While before the end of the race they were gunning for each other, they did most of the first half holding hands. They were 4 years old, hadn't even started kindergarten.
We'd take 2nd place in the stroller division and it would start a few years of stroller races up to marathons. Yet the Turkey Trot was special, the more meaningful it became, the more thankful I became, the more I wanted to share it. My mom and dad would join us for it. I would start putting together a team from the Austin Runners Club so my friends could join us. And they showed up along with several thousand other people. It was the first race we would do in the rain, the only race that to this day is the only distance I have a faster time with a stroller than without it. Two years ago, almost a year after we had really stopped running in the stroller Kiana wanted one more trip on that stroller and we went out having won the stroller division 4 years in a row before the ride came to it's end.  It has enough of an emotional connection I've actually only missed it once since getting cancer (and I'd say leaving the country to go to Egypt to be a groomsman in a wedding is a valid excuse).  Somehow each time it seemed so magical, so mystical, so meaningful I honestly couldn't figure out how it could get any better. I may not be that imaginative but the universe is, perhaps especially so when you share it's blessings. 
The race reached out to me about telling the story in a web interview and some local tv promotions and in a race I was so thankful for what could I do but share? So this year, we once again put together a team. For the first time ever, my girlfriend-recently-turned-fiancee ran it and captained the team. And Kiana was signed up to do her first 5 mile race ever. This was a hillier course than her most recent 5k a couple of months ago so I told her to pace herself a little slower trying to keep a 7:45-ish pace and she started that way. I was hoping she'd come in a little under 39 minutes. 
I started telling her (or was it telling me) memories from the stroller days since for the first time ever, I was the one doing the cheerleading while on that course. I remembered the hills were taking the stroller down the thoughts directed at it were please don't get away from me and up please don't run back over me. I remembered each hill, I remembered the song that was playing on that one one year as she was belting out Frozen's Let It Go or the Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha. Somehow those memories put more humidity in the air than the little there was because was absorbing in my eyes or maybe some had splashed from the water stop... Anyway he weather was perfect and she started to take advantage of it and I realized before half way that wow, she just might break 38.  She would keep speeding up and speeding up and ended up astounding by finishing in about 36:30, with her last mile being faster than any she's ever done in a 5k or in a stand alone mile.  
There were many times we stayed for the awards of the stroller division. I liked the Turkey Trophy to put on the shelf, Kiana liked the Thundercloud gift certificates that we always split since as I told her for those few years, we'd earned them together. This time I actually got to help in announcing the awards which were overall winners and then by age group. So the 4th name I got to call out after the women's top winners was the girls 10 and under and it was Kiana Leon. Those gift certificates this year were all hers to use up till they were done and I'd buy my own meal when we went.
A week before the race, in the preparation, Kiana and I went on a 5 mile neighborhood route she'd never done before. It was one I used to do when I was new to the neighborhood but I'd abandoned it for ones with more hills and less turns with spatial orientation being gone since the stroller having become the norm back then. Kiana asked if this new route was a loop or an out and back. I told her that it was a loop. After a few turns she asked, dad, how it was a loop with so many turns since it wasn't a circle. I explained that loops don't have to be a circle, they just have to get you around a bit before you get back to where you started and in our case, a route that gives you some good perspectives along the way. 
After the race, we headed over to Mae's house to do Thanksgiving once again where our contribution to the meal was a pecan pie and tamales that Kiana had made from scratch with. We reminisced about that 1st Turkey Trot and times in between and how then we were worried because we might lost them on the run but since then we're amazed at how it's been 6 years. I worry about blinking because these last few years have gone so fast and if she keeps speeding up this way I may lose her on the blink. I'm exactly two weeks from an MRI, about where I'm always around Thanksgiving. Who knows how that will go, life it turns out is unpredictable and whether that unpredictable comes in good or bad or surprises, I think if keep sharing the things that are good, you keep finding more to say thank you for. 7 years after I did it alone, 6 years after I did it in a stroller and Kiana did her first kid's k, this Thanksgiving is something I am grateful for because through all the running around, despite many turns, me and the people I love managed to get back where we started which is surprisingly an improved home. And that for at least this sharing Thanksgiving day is a great full loop. 

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