He did it.
My husband, Dave, along with 45,000 others, ran the Chicago Marathon Sunday. He finished somewhere in the middle of the pack, well behind the speedy wheelchair racers and the first-placing Kenyan runner—who broke the Chicago Marathon record and nearly broke the world one—and well ahead of those persevering souls who finished after marathon officials took down the barricades along the roads and picked up the timing mats at the finish line. (To read about the final finisher, Maickel Melamed, who took 17 hours to complete the course, follow this link: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-final-marathon-finish-20131015,0,3488441.story.)
The kids and I, along with some friends, took the blue line down to mile 17 on the course and camped out at the spot where I’d told Dave we would be. We were ahead of schedule, but that didn’t keep us from scanning the crowd for his orange-and-white World Vision jersey. We cheered for every other World Vision runner we saw as well as those who ran for Ronald McDonald and A Cure for Cancer and Leukemia and Autism Awareness and…
Our boys got tired of holding the “Go Dad” and “Go Undy” signs we’d made, so I told them to stand on the curb and hold out their hands. As soon as they did, runners began veering by them to slap their palms.
PJ turned to me. “Why do they do that?” he asked.
“For one second they know they will be thinking about the joy of connecting with a little boy—of putting a smile on your face—and in that moment, they won’t be thinking about their feet or their legs or all the other parts of them that hurt.”
“I can do that for them?”
“Yes, you can.”
When we saw runners who’d printed their names on their shirts, we personalized our cheering. “Nice work, Carlos!” If they wore anything distinctive, we referenced that as well. “You rock, Superman!” “You can do this, Lady with a Tiara!”
People smiled, gave thumbs-up, got a little perk in their step, made it round the corner a little easier.
It was fun.
But the entire time, we were looking for Dave.
Somehow I missed him until he was almost upon us. I had the camera perched on my left palm and was scanning the crowd to the right, wondering if he hadn’t received the text that told him which side of the road we would be on. Then, suddenly, he was there, just a couple steps in front of me. I jerked my camera up and fired off a couple fuzzy shots, but I failed to capture the brilliant smile that jumped onto his face when he first caught sight of us.
He came around the barrier and joined us for a minute, telling us he was feeling “good, just sore in one calf.” We gave him a hard candy to suck on and handed him the roller massage tool to work on his calf, and then he was off to finish the final nine miles.
We waited for a break in the flow of runners, hopscotched our way across the street, and cut straight across to the finish line. We stopped for ice cream, knowing that several blocks south of us, runners were slogging it out, and we still made it in time to find a shady waiting spot beneath a tree at the reunite area.
I got a text from the Chicago Marathon telling me that Dave’s microchip had crossed the finish line (presumably with him attached to it), and then another shiny smile when he came down the steps (oh, the cruelty of having marathon finishers walk DOWN steps) and saw us.
So many great memories from the day! Emily, our 13-year-old, gave me one when she said, “Mom, it’s really cool watching people push themselves to accomplish something really hard. It’s inspiring.”
One man, running for cancer research, gave me another when I looked at his back and saw he’d pinned a couple dozen ribbons on his back, each one in memory of a person.
But I have to say the best ones have to do with my husband. The moments of seeing him at mile 17 and just after the finish are memories that sparkle.
Great job, Babe! You did it!
You can still donate to World Vision on Dave’s personal page. Proceeds fund clean water initiatives. Here’s the link: http://team.worldvision.org/site/TR/TeamWorldVision/TeamWorldVision?px=1375760&pg=personal&fr_id=2120
Thanks for reading!