I've really enjoyed connecting with fellow runners in virtual events this year. From werrunners
's Twitter Charity Run
to I Run Because
's Twitter Road Race
, the cameraderie of the online running community always warms my heart and makes me feel that I'm running with friends even when Zooey and I are alone on the canal.
So of course I was looking forward to participating in (and dare I say winning a fabulous prize from?) The Boring Runner
's Sweat Your Thorns Off 5K
, another virtual run that takes the Arizona heat in stride. Because did I mention that Adam lives here in the Arizona as well? So that makes him cool as well as hilariously boring (or boringly hilarious?). Bonus - 3.1 miles worked in well to my plan for half marathon training, so it was basically a win-win situation in a race that wasn't a race so I'd win that, too.
And then I learned about the Buddy Run 5K
Buddy Hopkins was on a run when he was killed in a hit and run accident. He was a devoted husband and father, and he leaves behind a wife and four beautiful children. In the five weeks since Buddy was killed, his community in the Dallas-Fort Worth area came together to plan a 5K to honor his memory and raise money to support his family and the causes he loved.
Buddy's sister Cassie is my friend and co-worker, and when I heard about what happened to Buddy, my heart just broke for the family. I mean, what can you say in that situation? "I'm sorry"? That's what HRH says when she gets caught doing something she's not supposed to be doing; it's not what you say to someone whose baby brother was suddenly snatched away from his loved ones.
The absolute least I could do was participate in the event organized to support the family, and I told Cassie that I would run with her as part of the virtual 5K that was offered to Buddy's Run participants.
So, this past Saturday morning, I got up bright and early, donned my new crimson technical shirt, and left a crushed Zooey behind (it was going to be too hot for my black and tan girl) to head out to San Tan Valley in order to run a 5K with Buddy's Arizona family.
Cassie is one of the group of ladies who participated in the 2011 London's Run
with me, and she's been running off and on since then. As you might imagine, her training this summer has been interrupted, and she told me that she'd probably be walking a good deal of the 5K while I would probably leave her "in the dust."
Well, yeah, I can run a 5K easily at this point in my running career, so I likely could
have left Cassie in that proverbial dust.
But that wasn't why I participated in this 5K.
If I had wanted to do speed work or try to get my fastest mile ever in, I could have stayed home and run my familiar canal route.
I ran and walked with Cassie and asked her to share her favorite stories about Buddy, which she gladly did. It was one of the most fulfilling 5Ks I've ever completed, even though it was also one of my slowest at 48:26 (15:32 average pace). We probably walked more than either of intended to, but we were both so engrossed in our conversation and the stories Cassie was telling that we didn't want to shorten the experience. Truth be told, I could happily have walked the entire thing in order to have the time to hear one more story before our finish line, and I will be forever grateful to the Hopkins family for allowing me to be a part of their morning and sharing Buddy with me.
Of everything we talked about, one story she told me is one that I don't think I'll ever be able to forget.
Buddy was a runner; having recently completed the Dallas Rock and Roll Half Marathon, he was training for the Dallas Marathon (held in December) when he was struck. He also ran with his 9-year-old daughter, so he'd often tell people that when he began running, he ran "at the pace of an 8-year-old girl."
I love his sense of humor.
That Buddy was a runner made this 5K all the more meaningful; losing a member of this community I have come to hold dear tears me apart. But he wasn't just your average "I think I'll run a half marathon before I'm 40" runner.
You see, Buddy was born with club feet. He required a great deal of therapy and treatment as he grew up in order to walk comfortably, and until the day he died, you could probably tell that walking was still somewhat difficult.
While he was training for his half marathon, his wife, Heather, decided to go for a run with him. As they got ready, he told her that he had to walk a little bit to be able to run. His feet and ankles weren't flexible; walking helped him get to a point that he could run.
At first, Heather thought nothing of it, thinking that they'd walk to the end of the block or something. After all, lots of people walk to warm up before they actually start running.
Buddy had to walk for about 9 minutes before his feet were at that point. Only then was he able to begin running. Heather asked him if he did that every time.
His response: "If I want to run, I do."
So, 9 extra minutes each day
he ran that Buddy had to budget in to get his body to cooperate with him in order to do what he wanted it to do - run. And yet he did. He got up and ran despite the fact that it didn't come easily, and it very well may have been a little painful each and every time.
Walking there with Cassie, I was humbled by this man I will never have the opportunity to meet. While I often speak of how blessed I am to be able to run, I still tend to take rolling out of bed and heading right out the door for granted. I'm not the fastest runner out there, but I run with relative ease and am able to get out of the gate without much more preparation than lacing up my shoes. And to this aspect I have given little - if any - thought.
But you can bet your compression socks that tomorrow morning - and every morning I run - that I'll be thinking of Buddy as I lace up those same shoes and hook Zooey into her leash. I am thankful for EVERYTHING about running. That I can run. That I can run with ease. That I can run without pain. That I can budget 30 minutes - and not 40 - when I plan a 30-minute run.
|The Arizona virtual run participants after we finished -|
the crimson technical shirts were a sweet nod to Buddy's favorite team,
the Alabama Crimson Tide.
I would be remiss if I didn't note a few things about the accident. The police told Buddy's family that, as a runner, he was doing everything right
. He was running against traffic, and he was off to the side of the road. There was nothing more that he could have run to prevent what happened.
Those of us who run along streets and/or during the early morning or evening hours when it's dark know full well that we take a risk every time we go out on the road. The best thing we can do is be prepared - by having identification, reflective gear, and (especially for women) self-defense measures. Sometimes we might get caught up in making sure we have our water, gels, and playlists that we forget that these essentials aren't the only essentials; hopefully Buddy's story will ground me every morning to take all the precautions I can.
But at the end of the day, tomorrow is never promised, so the important thing is that I tell The Husband and HRH that I love them before I leave the house so that there is never any doubt. No one doubts that Buddy loved his family, and through that, he'll always be there.
Do you ever give a moment of thanks (silent or aloud) for being able to do the things you love?
What measures do you take to stay safe when you're out on a run/ride/hike?
Have you ever participated in an event to remember someone? What made the event special?