I’m not sure if I can get my head around what happened today. To be truly honest, I didn’t know if I really wanted to participate in the Relay For Life. My entire community was going; my best friends, tons of kids and local faces. I wasn’t staying home because I didn’t care, it was because knowing the way Patti was, the last thing she would have ever wanted was an event designed to put her in the spotlight. So I thought, we’ll stay home, I’ll wear her special necklace and remember her in our own way.
But for some reason, we just ended up at the fairgrounds. As they say, events like these aren’t really for those who were lost, but for those who remain, those who beat cancer and those who need to remember. The kids said they wanted to run rather than do the customary walk. I gave them little instruction but to go have fun on their run.
At 4pm, the two started to run just after the cancer survivors would march their deserved victory lap. It wasn't like a typical race where everyone shoots out of a starting line. The survivors linked arms, some tearfully and walked forward. In the misty rain, the kids ran the perimeter around the set inner loop. 6 pm came and went and my Go Far duo continued to run as the mist became more of a steady rain. I stood in the middle of the fair grounds catching a glimpse of them here and there as they circled the event. With a steady pace, they continued together while our small community encouraged them along.
Neither of the kids had run further than 13 miles prior to today and the discussion of a full marathon had always been in the distant future. But, as the sun dropped, it became clear to me, that they were running a marathon. They were running unbridled with their emotions flowing raw down their sweaty shoulders. They spun around me like the arms of a clock and with the time that ticked by, so did the miles. There were no mile markers or a real defined course for that matter. While Chris and I have done our best to teach the kids the meaning of how to Go Far over the years, it is still a personal journey that one needs to breath in and exhale on his or her own. I just didnt expect that it would be today; or together. In a defining moment of their sister/brotherhood, they ran step by step together. They looped the fairgrounds over and over, and I became overcome with emotions. As the rain fell into the darkness, luminaries were lit, creating a somber reminder of light and lives lost. I became more and more choked up thinking of my own sister in law. But as the heavy tears streamed down on my rain soaked cheeks, I felt an incredible lightness and joy in seeing Peter running with his friends along side him as he finished his very first marathon. In classic Pete style, he was grinning ear to ear, soaking in the experience.
As the crowd silently traveled around the luminaries, Kate approached the group, closing the gap of her own 26.2 mile journey. It was raining hard now, she was crying but somehow she continued to run. The many struggles she had met over her previous running season had all but vanished as she fully embraced the pain. My worry for her was real, not for her pain, but for the very real thought that she may not be able to get through the insurmountable task she had set for herself. She turned to me and said Patti was helping her, she had to finish this for her. My reluctant runner, the one who at one time said that she that would never do a marathon, was putting one foot in front of another, defying her own odds.
A little girl that Kate had mentored during the Go Far Go Fast race a few weeks back had been cheering Kate along all day. At Go Far, the kids learn to support each other's goals starting in first grade. In a telling moment, I realized that everything that I had worked so hard at in creating this Go Far philosophy among our youth, had worked. They were there for each other. She reached up to Kate and handed her a yellow glow stick; a medal of sorts to memorialize the day. Under an imaginary finish line in the pouring rain, both girls hugged as her mother and I watched in tears as this incredible scene unfolded in front of us.
Wet, hungry and shocked at what they had just done, the siblings walked together, linked arm around waist, holding each other up. It was a scene I have witnessed so many times standing alongside Chris at the end of a long marathon day. I walked behind them, speechless.
Perhaps, the unplanned aspect of what unfolded today is what makes it so special. Maybe it’s the fact, that both kids reached this incredible milestone together, encouraging each other every step of the way. Then again, the beauty of today was in laying witness to so many in our community, standing together under the umbrella of cancer and holding each other up. In a era of shiny marathon medals and races with much fanfare, somehow this humbling experience would be their perfect introduction to the marathon and their defining moment of who they really are; we had stumbled upon the true spirit of Go Far. Somehow, they had been preparing for this day for years, but I hadn't realized it. In the end, I know Patti was so ever so present for my kids, I could virtually see her in the misty rain. While she is with me always, my kids had her fully in their hearts today.
Thank you to The Sokol Family and our wonderful community for facilitating and nurturing this wonderful event, which would end up being the most unexpected and unforgettable moments in in my children’s lives and one I’ll truly cherish for a lifetime.