“Jon’s at the Starbucks in Brier Creek. He’s as bad as Gordy!”
“Why would we all want to ride in one vehicle?”
“I can’t wear a hat anyway. I have chia hair. I had it in a braid this morning and it exploded.”
“There is a SWORD as a prize? No one told me there was a sword.”
“For some reason I thought my #200 bib number meant I had to start first with 199 runners behind me trying to catch me.”
“Check out that pond, Mom. It looks very froggish.”
[Why won’t this guy pass me?] “Heh heh…hey Steph.” “OMG, if you want to catch Steve you better hurry up. He passed us ages ago.”
“This is the farthest I’ve ever run!” “WOOHOO! THIS IS THE FARTHEST HE’S EVER RUN!” “Mom! Be QUIET!”
“And the 50th runner, the final winner of a coveted hat…from Raleigh, Jon Armstrong!”
“Hey Steph, your hat looks a lot like mine…only yours doesn’t have a number. Ha HA!”
“And so it begins.”
“That was awesome. Who’s in for next year?” “I know at least two…me and Steve.”
“Actually? I don’t think I want to see Dad in a tutu. Now Mr. Steve…well, that’s different.”
“This will be a great running joke. Get it–running–what Jon wasn’t doing this morning. Bwahahahaa!”
It felt good to laugh on Saturday.
It’s been a rough week. Bombs going off at the finish line of the Boston marathon shook our faith in humanity. Add the drama and heartbreak at the TX fertilizer plant explosion, plus the bizarre ricin terrorism scare, and I felt like crawling under my bed and hiding there until the week was over.
At our pre-race dinner and social at Milton’s on Friday night, forty-plus Peeps came together for fun and fellowship. Although conversation was lively, it was hard to feel celebratory as the drama of the bombers’ capture in Boston unfolded on TVs above our heads, while sheets of rain buffeted the windows. I was relieved to see an end to the chaos, but the bewildering question of why a malicious few would cause so much heartache and loss remained.
Saturday morning came early in our house. Andrew left quietly to join 20+ Peeps in Chapel Hill for the Tar Heel 10 Miler. And Stephen and I dropped Simon off at fellow Peep Will’s house at an o-dark-thirty hour so we could catch the carpool for the Medoc Spring Race.
It was a perfectly beautiful morning, calm and chilly after the storm the night before. I was excited to see Stephen tackle his longest-ever race, a trail run, no less, which was 7.4 miles. He was excited, too, but a little apprehensive about the distance.
We met Becky, Mimi, Kellie, Steve, and Jon at Starbucks and piled into Becky’s minivan to head to Medoc. I’d never been there before. We arrived and headed to packet pickup. On our way back, we found our other peeps, Shellie and Debbie. Caught a group pre-race photo, shivered a little, and headed to the start for the pre-race meeting.
Medoc, I’d heard, is just a little bit different. And when I’d interviewed the race director, Michael Forrester, for an online write-up for Trail Runner magazine, it was easy to catch his enthusiasm as he described his vision for this new race. Basically, the race was modeled on the famous Dipsea Race, where the playing field is leveled by staging runners by age and gender at the start. The top 50 finishers receive hats with their finish number and have the chance to choose a prize from the prize table. Among the free race entries and gift certificates were a luxury toilet and a sword. I said it was quirky, didn’t I?
There were many personal touches that made this race special. One volunteer had spent hours making Boston ribbons for runners to wear, using blue, yellow, and black ribbon. There were several runners wearing Boston jackets, some of whom had run on Monday. The race director’s daughter sang the national anthem, and there was a moment of silence to honor those who had been affected by the week’s events.
Stephen started a minute ahead of me, and I caught up with him and we ran together. Stephen is keenly attuned to the natural world—so we scoped out likely spots for salamanders and pointed out wildflowers as we ran along.
Because of the format, there was a lot more passing than usual, as we caught some runners, while others flew by us. The competition was stiff—among the competitors was the guy who’d posted the fastest race time at Dipsea four years running, the women’s Umstead marathon winner and course record holder, and last year’s US 10K Trail Champion. It was going to be fast and furious race once all those runners hit the slightly wet and muddy course.
The encouragement and goodwill out on the trail was outstanding. Faster runners called out “way to go!” and “great job!” as they passed, especially to Stephen. He got into the spirit as well, cheering those he passed and those who passed him. Our friends came by and we high-fived each other. Runners are a great group, and trail runners are even closer-knit, with smaller venues and familiar faces at every race. Lots of laughter and jokes along the way, and the course was beautiful.
Stephen did great, holding a strong, steady pace of sub-11 minute miles for nearly seven and a half miles. He had enough kick for us to sprint across the field toward the finish, high-fiving his buddy Steve along the way. He was thrilled and I was thrilled with him. It was cool to see the mix of ages and genders who placed in the top 50 (equally interesting was that the sword was the second prize chosen and the toilet third). Our friends Kellie, Steve, and Jon had all placed in the top-50, and we were a happy, silly, smack-talking crew when we hit the road for home.
For me, the Medoc Spring Races illustrated how runners come together form a strong, solid, and supportive community. One that draws together in sympathy during tough times, one that cheers each other on, one that celebrates accomplishments big and small. The running community is like a big family, one that has the power to restore hope and overcome tragedy.
I’m proud to call this running family my own.