Today marks the 19th anniversary of my mom's death. On this day in 2006, I ran with Team-in-Training at the Arizona Rock-N-Roll marathon in her memory. I raised over $5000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. My dad was there to cheer me on at mile 17. He wanted to see if I would have a smile on my face by then. He always has said that 'runners never smile'. By mile 16, I started to hit the wall, but I knew that I must have that smile on my face when I saw my dad. I would have to run the next mile with one plastered on because I wasn't sure which corner he might be at. From this point on, it was a total head game to get to the finish line. One more mile and then ONLY 9 MORE to go!!! My dad was where he said he would be, at exactly the 17th mile marker. I veered over to give him a hug and showed him the smile that had become a permanent fixture for the last mile. The smile continued after that. A little human contact can help to bring out positive energy for a while longer. My watch is what kept me going from then on out. If I was to meet my goal of under 4 hours, I must keep clipping along at the pace I was running. I had to beat the clock! And as I crossed the finish line and clicked my watch to a stop, my smile was there - bigger than ever. Later that day I found out that my official time was 3:58:59. My mom was 58 years old when she died of Leukemia. She had been smiling down at me the whole 26.2 miles.
Over the past 10 years I completed five full marathons, and many half marathons, 10 mile, 10k and 5k runs. The grand finale for my marathon career was NYC 2011 at the age of 50. I made a promise to my dad while training for this one, that it would be my last. Now I have to keep that promise to him as he has gone to watch over me from above. He died last March from cancer at the age of 77 . He had been concerned that if I kept running that many miles, I wouldn't be able to walk by the time I'm 60. I had numerous injuries over the years, but kept pushing through them. All through the training for NYC, I suffered with plantar fasciitis. With weekly visits to the chiropractor, I finally got through it with a shot of cortisone to the heel. So glad it wasn't 2012 that I decided to run my final marathon in NYC. I feel bad for those who put in all the long hours of training and then were not able to participate. I was glad it wasn't me, but I do feel that they made the right decision for not holding the marathon in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Since I had to retire from full marathons, last summer my oldest son and I decided to run the 1/2 marathon in my home town in memory of my dad. Other members of the family wanted to join in too, but did not want to run a full or half marathon, so we put together a marathon relay team. My husband, younger son, sister-in-law, niece and her husband made up the team. I had running shirts made with a running smiley face on the front that said "Keep Smiling". My husband was the last leg of the relay team. The whole team and both the 1/2 marathoners all joined him to cross the finish line together with GREAT BIG SMILES! Other family members, sporting the same shirts, were there to cheer us on. (Don't ask about the flamingo hats - that's another story)
Crossing the finish line.