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.
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! |
|The finisher's Metal! Via|
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.