This past weekend several of my family members came to Fulton to participate in a 5k for the Super Sam Foundation. It was founded by my next-door neighbor who lost their
six-year-old son to cancer. Sam’s mom, dad, and twin sister have worked hard to honor Sam’s wishes of taking care of all the children. Their foundation funds childhood cancer research and comfort packs delivered to children in the hospital and also to their families.
This 5k had been postponed from April due to inclement weather because part of the route was flooded. Now it was time for this delayed event to occur, and the night before, we had a tremendous thunderstorm. Once again, the route was flooded and was unsafe for the 5k. It was cancelled, but our family donned our “Super Sam” Shirts, and walked
3.1 miles in the neighborhood. There was no fanfare, no people cheering on the sidelines, but a great family walk that was topped off when Sam’s mom came driving down the street and saw us. She was amazed and encouraged that we walked anyway.
I had only participated in one other race. It was 2011, and I was going through my training as a life coach. Our training involved coaching in a group setting as we learned the skills to help others move forward in their lives. That day in the session, the trainer asked if there was anything someone wanted to be coached on that they were struggling with. I mentioned that I was really having a tough time being consistent in going outside and walking. As I was being coached in front the other 25 or so coaching students, I blurted out that in my head I’m an athlete—I want to run, not walk. Where did that come from? I think I really wanted to experience that and to at least give it a try.
As a result of that coaching session, at the age of 61, I started self-training to run in a 5k. A couple months later I posted on Facebook that I was looking for a 5k and I had frequent flyer miles. Did anyone have any suggestions of where I could participate. My cousin’s daughter in Phoenix, Arizona, responded and said there was the Pat Tillman Run coming up, and if I wanted to come to Phoenix, I was invited to stay at her home and she would also run with me. Offer accepted. On April 16, 2011, I participated in the Pat Tillman Run. It was such an amazing experience for me that when I returned to Michelle’s home after the run, I sat down and wrote what that day was like. Here is that writing from that day.
What is it like to run my first race? It got a bit intimidating last night. What did I do? Sign up for a race and it’s not even a 5k (3.1 miles), it’s 4.2 miles. I did sleep fairly well, but when the alarm went off at 5:00 a.m., it was snooze button time! Finally, at 5:10 a.m. I pulled myself out of bed., cleaned up, and put on my running clothes. Do I look silly?
No, but I was extremely intimidated by it. By 6:00 a.m., my cousin’s daughter, sweet, lovely, beautiful Michelle and I were in the car and on our way to Arizona State University. We parked at a shopping center a mile from the starting corrals. I liked that. I felt like the walk would help loosen me up. But the nerves were getting to me. Could I really do this? We walked through a massive crowd of humanity. We found the corral we where we were to start. There were over 22,000 registered runners and walkers.
We stood around for a few minutes. I put my iPhone in my arm band ready to listen to music I had downloaded. My old rock stars from the 60’s and 70’s were going to run with me today. I told Michelle not to run with me, but to do her personal best. We would find each other in the stadium. As we went past the starting line, she was ahead of me and I was fine in the mass of humanity. Old and young all moving along forward with the same goal: run, walk, run, whatever–go 4.2 miles and end inside Sun Devil Stadium at the 42nd yard line.
Pace yourself, Andrea, you don’t have to run fast. People are going all speeds from a slow walk to a fast run. It doesn’t matter–I just needed to do what worked for me. I began a
nice slow run. I was not prepared for the dry desert air. My tongue was literally stuck to the roof of my mouth. Where is the water? I rounded the curve and saw a big sign saying “1 Mile” and people were handing cups of water. Grab a cup and hydrate.
The hard part came at the long steady incline. What should I do? It’s early in the run. I am hot and dry and I don’t want to push too hard but I want to accomplish this run. Okay, walk. I reminded myself of those days walking at 4 mph on the treadmill. So, if I am going to walk, it will be at that pace. Don’t slow down too much. Now start running again. So, there I am in the crowd running again. People with their children running, people with their dogs. Everyone in their Pat Tillman shirts. A group of military runs past doing their chanting in cadence, people following behind in their rhythm.
Water, where is water? Tongue stuck. Can’t get any moisture in my mouth. Suddenly I need to move. Someone is down. There are people around him. I turn to see, thinking they will be giving him water or wrapping his leg. No, as I look, to my shock, they are doing chest compressions. Yes, CPR, is occurring as I run past. That really threw me. Slow down, Andrea, your mind is back there. Walk fast, but more important, pray for that man lying on the ground. Pray that my God who resurrected from the dead will bring this man back to life. So, I prayed and ran and walked. And I prayed some more.
I am turning the corner to the stadium. Someone is yelling, “Congratulations, only 1/2 mile to go.” Really, I made it that far? I am dry again. I can run, but it is hard because I need water. So, run and walk and run. My goal is to run into the stadium, right to the 42nd yard line where the race ends. As I run into the Sun Devil Stadium, Die Symphony is playing through my earbuds. For those of you who do not know, Die Symphony was the band my boys were in. So now I am thinking of my children as I am running into the stadium to the 42nd yard line.
Honoring Pat Tillman, who gave his life to his country, who was #42 on the Arizona State University football team, and #40 on the Phoenix Cardinals football team. After 9/11, he walked away from his football career to serve his country and died serving. Wow, what an honor to him. Who would have known his life now impacts many lives giving much needed scholarships to deserving military families.
I enter the stadium. I am running. I have made all 4.2 miles. I find Michelle and we hug. Thousands are still running in. And I was one of them. I wasn’t the fastest, but I also wasn’t the slowest. I accomplished something that I never thought I would be capable of doing.
What have you always wanted to do? Did you tell yourself you are too old or too young or whatever to chase your dreams? My granddaughter asked me while I was training for this run, “Grandma, what if you cannot run a 5k?” I replied to her, “You are right, maybe something will happen that I cannot run a race, but at least I can say I tried. What would it be if I could and had not tried?”
What do you want to do, but have not tried? Why not give it a try? It’s not in the doing, it’s in the trying. You might surprise yourself of what you can really do!