Monday, November 04, 2013

Coming full circle at Run Because You Can

It's been about two weeks give or take a few days and I still can't find my other running shoe. I've come up with some really good theories (some involving aliens, the other involving the same monster that steals one sock but leaves you the other) about where Larry the lefty had gone, but the shoe itself? No dice. Larry has just disappeared, no ransom note, no suicide letter, nothing. Just poof it was gone. I asked Ralphy, his partner of 2 and half years if he'd like me to file a missing shoeson's report, but Ralphy politely demurred.

Larry the Lefty's disappearance, while it hadn't surprised me per say (like nobody's lost half of a pair or shoes before. Come on, that happens to everybody, doesn't it? Doesn't it?), it had me more than a little frazzled because at the time of Larry's disappearance, Run Because You Can was only a week away.

The Runnin' for Rhett Foundation's Run Because You Can was my first 5k race last year, and it still stands out as my favorite. I've done a handful since, and this one it by far the best organized, most well laid out race, and the most fun I've had. And all the proceeds go to benefit a scholarship fund and youth fitness outreach program. Plus, the organizers of the event had a very similar story to my own.

The had a son with Cerebral Palsy who couldn't walk who passed away far too soon. We had a son with Cerebral Palsy who couldn't walk who passed away far too soon. Their story and what they've done after he passed are completely inspirational to me, and I told myself after the first race that there was no way I was missing this one.

So, there we were at Crocker Park, a year later, a cold and blustery November morning, me in my understudy pumas that I'd have to make due with in terms of footwear (RIP Larry), my husband in shorts he clearly hadn't thought through, having driven the hour and a half from Livermore to Sacramento, waiting in the 5k start line when I had a little moment.

Before I explain this little moment, note that there's usually no shortage of driving forces and things to motivate me at Runnin' for Rhett's Run Because You Can. They have a Bagpiper on the course for crying out loud. A Bagpiper in full dress, kilt and all, that this year, looked like he was freezing his you-know-whats off but a Bagpiper nonetheless. That bagpiper fills me with glee ya'll. It makes me happy and keeps me running. And there was a Marching band! And a Glee Club performing on the side! There was no shortage of entertainment to be had on the course.

And there's usually all sorts of inspiration that Runnin' for Rhett provides off the course as well. Just watch this video of Aiden, a kid with Cerebral Palsy, finishing his first 5k, or watch this other one with Dawson, who's not allowed to do a lot of strenuous activity because of a heart condition, complete the race with his dad carrying him on his back. I keep those guys in my head every time I run because if they can do it, so can I.

But my little moment before the race was a bit different. A mom and her son were standing next to us. The son had a neon yellow t-shirt on, which had been hand decorated. On the front it said Runnin' for Rhett Survivor and it had a ribbon pin painted on it. On the back it said "Kids get Strokes too" "Survivor".
I desperately wanted to know his story and to tell him how proud I was of him to be running. But things progressed too quickly and I couldn't.

Randy Seevers, his wife  Beth, a TV anchor and the woman getting the scholarship fund took to a raised platform at the starter's gate. Randy mentioned all the great work the charity was doing, his wife talked about their son and how we were all running because he couldn't, the scholarship got handed off and the National Anthem got sung. Before we knew it, the starter pistol had been fired and we were off.

It was mayhem the first half mile. One of the awesome things this race does is promote running and staying active in elementary schools and all of the district's schools had racers. The year before, all the schools started after the 5k and 10k racers, but this year, somebody didn't do a good job of separating the kids in the schools from the rest of the racers, so not only did we have to navigate our way through the other racers, but we also had to navigate around throngs of kids as well.

It wasn't a huge issue, and it was something I was well aware of. Last year an eleven-year-old paced me, then stopped, then paced me again, three separate times, the little rapscallion, but this year it was a little bit more unwieldy, and I hope they do a better job about separating out the youth running from the 5k and 10k race in the future.

About a mile and half I felt myself wanting to back way off. It wasn't a wall per say. It was the blerch. It was that little thing in the back of my head telling me I could stop and eat cake and watch a marathon of Game of Thrones episodes or do anything else than run. Then I looked ahead of me and about a quarter mile ahead was the kid in the yellow shirt, and he and his mom were booking. That was the motivation I needed and I started booking too. Then, with about a half mile to go, we hit a hill, and a head wind, and I took a moment and stopped, much to my husband's chagrin, but then I spotted it again, further ahead and about to turn the corner to the finish line, that little yellow shirt.

He made me happy to be racing, he was one of the reasons I was racing after all, for him, for Rhett, for Aiden, for Dawson, for Ukiah, for Ukiah most of all I think, for my daughter, but also for me.

That woman with a look of death in her eyes? It's me!
Found Via

I rounded the corner and tried to give it more gas. I spotted Randy Seevers sitting on the curb right by the finish line and I beamed. He had to have been the busiest man there. The only person busier is the Runnin' for Rhett Gorilla (they have a gorilla mascot that runs the race, cheering people on. It doesn't top the bagpiper in terms of sheer mirth making, but it gets close). I saw him do everything he could for that race that day, talking to the racers, shaking hands, at the start line, at the finish line. It was incredible.

The finisher's Metal! Via
Once we got across the finish line, we were given finishing metals, which were really awesome and beautiful. My husband said he looked up at the time clock and he said we came in at 31:13. My jaw dropped. When I run by myself, I think the best time I've clocked is 33:34, if I'm lucky.  This time I set down was a testament to my husband and to that little kid in the yellow shirt who I wanted to see again.

As soon as we were done, we grabbed water and some fruit from the line. My father-in-law had come with us to watch my boisterous 2-year-old daughter and so my husband had me stay close to the food booth (Let's be honest, he parked me by the garbage can) while he went in search of them.

While he was gone, parked right in front of me were the kid in the yellow shirt, his mom, and a throng of supporters. I wanted to tell him everything, how I wanted to hear his story, how I was so proud of him for running, and running faster than me, how he was my motivation a big portion of the race. But there wasn't time for that. Instead, I went up to him, told him he did a great job and gave him a thumbs up. To him, I'm probably some weird lady who was just on the course. But to me, he was everything that day.

And that's why I love this race. Among the many things it does, it gives kids like him a platform to say they are more than just a diagnosis, that they are strong and amazing. Any nitpicks I have about the race are hearsay when giving kids with special needs a voice happens to be that race's legacy. Run Because You Can and never stop. And you know, try not to lose a running shoe a week before the race.

ETA: The Mom of the amazing kid I spotted at Run Because You Can found me and wrote to me in the comments. Her entire family sounds incredible but that boy even more so. He suffers from Bow Hunter's Syndrome which causes pediatric strokes in children. He's had an uphill battle to fight. The doctors said he might never walk again, and he ran that race and beat my time by a lot! He's my hero and so is his family.


Kara Smith said...

We feel the same way about that little boy in the yellow shirt. You see, that little boy in the yellow shirt is our son.

A little over a year ago we took him to the hospital because he was feeling ill. Extensive testing found trauma to his brain but no cause. After a week in the hospital we prepared for his release the next morning. Then it happened, a sound and vision my wife will never be able to erase from our memory, our little boy, the center of our world had a massive stroke in front of our very eyes.
It had not yet been diagnosed as a stroke yet because none of the doctors had seen pediatric strokes in their careers. He was fading fast.
After discovering the blood clot in his brain we prepared for an extraction surgery. We were told he had less than 5% chance to survive the procedure. We were told to tell him goodbye.
He survived, and when he was stable enough he was transported to UCSF where they are experts in pediatric strokes.
His coma lasted for a week. He was hooked up to more machines than you could could. We continued to pray and believe.
We were told at best he may live but would only be a quadriplegic with questionable brain function. We continued to pray and believe.
More tests confirmed he has a very rare condition that causes pediatric strokes - Bow Hunters Syndrome. If he woke up he would need surgery.
We continued to pray and believe.

He woke up. We rejoiced and continued to pray and believe.

"Progress will be slow" they said. "He may be here up to a year"

We continued to pray and believe.

he moved his limbs, all of them, within a few days of waking up.

Days turned to weeks and weeks to months but he progressed with his rehab, worked incredibly hard, and he believed in himself.

A year later he celebrated by running his 3rd 5k with his teacher.

He runs because he can, he inspires because it's who he is.

Mom and I couldn't be prouder of thst charming little boy in the hand painted shirt, who runs like the dickens. ;)

The Bloody Munchkin said...

Thank you so much for finding this blog and sharing his utterly incredible story. I don't know if you'll ever check this again, but I'm very touched by story and I'm so glad I got to see him run.

And I'm so glad I know what a special young man he was. Tell him I love him and I'm so incredibly touched by his story and his ability to keep going.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm in tears after reading that, that's how much his story has touched me. Thank you!

Randy Seevers said...

BECAUSE WE CAN! Like I tell the kids at each school I visit: Don't take for granted the ability to walk or run, as there are so many that would love to, but can't.

I'm so proud to share Rhett (and his story) with everyone. I'm already looking forward to next year's race.


Chuck Jamison said...

Thanks for nice words for the piper. Like your husband, I wasn't really ready for the cold wind and found an old jacket under the seat of my van.
It's an honor to support the work of this organization.