Monday, August 6, 2012

Sweating My Thorns Off - for Buddy

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?


  1. Thanks Allison. In this difficult time, it is great to have support from friends like you.

    My dad was the only son in his family, and my brother was his only son. Although Buddy did have one son, this son is autistic and will not likely marry. We were always sad that the Hopkins family name would likely not be passed on to future generations. But now, my families name will live forever thanks to the wonderful community in Texas that has set up this annual run and who continues to plan for other events (I believe the next is a golf tournament). Many of our names are forgotten when we pass, but his name will live on.

    Thank you for helping my family throught this difficult time and helping others to know our story.

    1. Cassie, I truly received a gift on Saturday; thank you for being willing to share Buddy's stories. That is such a blessing. Hugs!

  2. Allison...what a beautiful recap of your participation in the Buddy 5K virtual run. My name is Julie. Heather is one of my dearest friends and we loved Buddy so very much! I had the complete privilege to meet Cassie years ago when she visited Buddy & Heather in New Mexico (we lived there at the time too). We now live in Prescott.

    You described Buddy so well! I would have never know that you didn't know him. We thank God each day that we had the honor of knowing him. He truly was a wonderful man, and he leaves behind quite the legacy!

    Our little family of 4 will be doing our own Buddy run when my husband returns from his military assignment later this month (and every year from now on!)

    Blessings to you!!!

    1. Julie, you do me an honor with your kind words. I hope that our actions this weekend - and our continued love, thoughts, and prayers - helps bring everyone some peace.
      I just love Prescott - I know that your run will be full of happy memories as well as beautiful views. You are truly fortunate to have known Buddy.

  3. This brought tears to my eyes. It's a simply written, but powerful & moving blog posting. Thanks from another Hopkins family member (Buddy's aunt), who did the virtual run in Cleveland, for supporting the family in AZ.

    1. Hi, Nancy. Thank you so much. WIthout support of friends and family, we would surely crumble, and I think I gained a great deal on this run that I will continue to take with me - truly a legacy that Buddy leaves. Sending my hugs and prayers to San Tan Valley, Prescott, and Cleveland!

  4. Allison, thank you so much for writing such a beautiful, and heartfelt piece about the love of my life. I can add a few more details. Because of the club feet that Buddy suffered from, his toes overlapped each other on the bottom of his feet. Many, many days, Buddy ran with 3 or 4 blisters on the toes of EACH foot. His ankles would swell so much, they would literally be the size of softballs. He would come home and by that night, he would be in so much pain it was unbearable for me to watch. And yet, at 5:00 the next morning, his alarm sounded and off he went. He was my hero. He was indeed the love of my life. I miss him every single second of every day. He is never not in my thoughts. He was nothing short of amazing. Many times, when we lose those we love, we tend to put them on a pedestal and make them out to be people they really weren't. That is not the case with my husband. He really was that great! It was and always be an honor to tell people that I was married to him. Thank you for joining our family in the 5K! I know he was smiling from above!

    1. Heather, I wish my arms were long enough to reach all the way over to Texas and give you a great big hug and then sit down with you to hear all of your wonderful stories as well; I hope you know how many prayers and positive thoughts and love is being sent your way! I feel like I got to know Buddy this weekend, and I am grateful that he was able to touch so many lives in so many places across the country. In this bittersweet weekend, I was actually filled with a kind of joy that can only have come from someone like Buddy; he was there with us all. Thank you, thank you for sharing your blessings.

  5. Amazing! I will miss Buddy, Thanks for Honoring him here. I will miss the many games of 21, HORSE, and lightning we played outside mine and his house (he was my neighbor in High School). Now I'm feeling even more inspired to start running :)

    1. Alan, if you do decide to start running, I hope that you love it as much as Buddy did. I began running in memory of my dad (who, truth be told, wouldn't even run if the cops were chasing him), and it's been incredibly healing. May your memories of Buddy always shine brightly.