I signed up for the Quad Cities Marathon because my brother Dean did. It doesn’t take much to convince me to turn over my hard earned dollars to pound the pavement seven hours from home, when I can do it for free any day of the week right here. He was planning to run it with his girlfriend Christi. It would be his fourth marathon and her second. My husband even signed up for the half marathon. This turned into the makings of a family reunion as I knew our parents would love to come watch us and be a part of the fun. All it took was a nudge and my my aunt and uncle from Kansas, were on board to come join the party and surprise my mom for her 70th birthday. This is the same aunt and uncle that came to see my brother and I at his first marathon not that long ago. The cat nearly escaped from the bag a bunch of times while planning this event. My mom and dad were totally surprised, happy but amazed we were able to keep their mini family reunion a secret.
Race day arrived and the weatherman must have been beat upon the head with a bag of sticks. He predicted an all day rain and moderate temperatures. I spent the first 2 miles of the race running with Dean and Christi. I soon realized that with the heat, humidity and a few hills, I was going to have to take it easier. I wished them well as they charged on and I faded back. I knew I was going to have to take it easier so I decided to focus on the amazing bridges we got to cross and the stellar views. I have always enjoyed running near the water, but running along the Mississippi River is almost overwhelming.
I knew the approximate area to look for my parents and aunt, they were there waiting, smiling and cheering. My dad was thrilled and gave me a big hug. It was so fun to see them. I rarely have the opportunity to see my family at my races so this was a highlight and something I will remember forever. I know it may seem small to other people to have your parents on the sidelines, but this was huge for me. It has only happened a handful of times and I will treasure it. This is something parents do when their child is playing a sport in high school, not when the child is now an adult. It made it all that more meaningful.
A mile or so later I met up with a fellow that had a shirt on said something like “Cancer won’t win.” I ran with him for a few miles and he told me he had recently been diagnosed and that he wasn’t able to start his treatments yet. It humbled me and made me even more thankful for all I have in my life. He said all he wanted is to see his kids graduate high school. I didn’t have the words to tell him how much running with him for a few miles felt. That he made an impact on me and made me appreciate my life fuller in just a few moments. He was doing the half marathon and I was doing the full, so we had to part ways as our courses went in different directions. I gave him a hug and wished him well and said I would say a prayer for him and his family. I’m not always the praying kind, but this young man deserved my thoughts and some kindness from up above.
As I turned the corner I saw Dean and Christi on their way back in from a slight out and back spot on the course. I was happy to see them and know they were doing well. It was several miles later that I caught up with them. We were running on the Rock Island Arsenal, the largest government owned weapon manufacturing arsenal in the United States. It’s a National Historic Landmark, yet it had reminders of places like Annapolis with the beautiful homes that the military rank must live in. There was also sections that were so park like you forgot where you actually where. We ran along a path that was bordered by the Mississippi River. I told Dean and Christi that they were doing great and to keep pressing on, but I was going to go ahead for a bit. Signage on the path told me that this was where the military personal did their running section of their physical fitness test. This hit home to me as my time in the Army Reserve helped shape me into the runner I am today. My mind was brought back to present times by speed boats on the river with their occupants cheering us on as giant pelicans watched without amusement.
Around mile 17, I passed a young guy that was walking. He jogged up to me and asked if he could run with me for a bit. I told him that would be wonderful, but that I planned to walk and run intervals and he was welcome to join me. I learned his name was Rick and he was a graphic designer for a sporting goods company in Iowa and that this was his first marathon. After a few miles of running and walking we had a good time talking and I told him he was welcome to stay with me as long as he wanted. He ebbed and flowed over the miles, having trouble then doing well. I told him he could say if he wanted to run on his own but he said he’d gladly stay with me. I joked that he would have a great story to tell his friends about how this crazy lady told him when to walk and when to run at his marathon and how she talked his ear off. He laughed that off but stuck with me. I said, “Let’s run from this telephone pole to the next.” He would do it and then we would walk some and start up again. I said he of course did not need to do what I was doing that I wasn’t his coach or
It was a long straight stretch as we ran and walked in the heat and humidity after the rain stopped. I told Rick stories about my adventures in running races all over the country and how I have succeeded and failed at my events. I think I could have been reading him a grocery list a this point and he would have been entertained. But he stuck with me. When I ran, he ran. When I walked, he walked. He was amazing. We came within eyesight of the finish line and I told him I was going to leave him as I knew he was going to make it from there. I really only did it so he would have a photo of himself crossing the finish line without me in it. I passed one other runner and said a word of encouragement along the way. After I crossed the finish line I turned and waited. It took a minute longer than I expected for Rick to cross the line. When he finished he gave me a hug and a high five and told me it took him a moment longer because he wanted to give the other guy he was passing some encouragement. My heart filled with pride that he was finishing his race and thinking of someone else who may have needed support.
Rick’s mother approached me and with nearly teary eyes and she thanked me for taking care of her son out there. I told her it was my pleasure to help him achieve his goal. Not long after Dean and Christi crossed the finish line. A text from my husband said that he did great at his half marathon too. It was great for us to all be a part of this amazing adventure, even if we did them individually. I told my mom later about my race experience and how I was able to help Rick. She asked me if I would write a blog post about it because she thought it was a great story.
So mom, this is for you. Happy birthday. You taught me that at your mother sees and hears everything, that giving is always better than receiving and that a kind word goes a long way, miles in this case.