The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Blessings

Rain bounced off the windshield.  The sun was still sleeping as were most homes I drove by this Christmas Eve morning.  The city streets were considerably quiet; most retailers still closed preparing for a busy day.

I turned down a dark, desolate road and by the glow of my headlights could see the rain bounce off the pavement.  Although the calendar read December 24 the temperature read 41 degrees.  We were going to get wet, but we wouldn't be cold.

Pat was waiting for me.  We wanted to get in a few more miles than the rest of the group and met a little earlier to get them in.  We started our watches and headed down the road.  It was still dark making the navigation around puddles a little more difficult.  Mid-sentence you would often hear us call out, "Puddle" and we'd side-step, jump or swim across the collected rain water.

We finished the miles near the coffee shop we were to meet the group.  Right on cue, there they stood waiting for the run to begin.  There were many of us today, all there to celebrate the blessings of each other this Christmas Eve.

The rain was still falling, yet we didn't seem to notice.  Like a big family gathering, we all talked at once and still heard the conversations had by others.  Running by the ocean, the grey of the rain hid the islands and blended with the ocean water.  A lone blue heron flew overhead.  

People were beginnig to emerge from their homes to get some fresh air before the holiday craziness would settle in.  A few groups of runners would pass us on the trail and we'd all exchange a friendly smile and a "Merry Christmas!".

Reaching the bench, we turned around and headed back to town.  We all admire an evergreen tree on the trail in which people have hung up ornaments; an unexpected dose of Christmas found amidst the trees on the trail.

Each of us wet from our run, we quickly change into clean shirts and coats and head into the coffee shop to celebrate the season with a cup of something hot.  Our group has taken over a corner of the shop, pulling in chairs to crowd a table.  These are my friends, my running family.   We have seen our worst, we have seen our best and we celebrate each of us.  In a season where we celebrate God's greatest Gift, I pause to celebrate the blessing He's given me in these people sitting here around a crowded table in a corner of the coffee shop.  I can't think of a greater way to start my Christmas Celebration.  Merry Christmas to you, my running family.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Morning

The sun shone bright in the cold December sky.  Temps sat at a brisk 35 degrees.  The coldness in the air hits my lungs hard as I walk out from the warmth of my home.  My 10 year old is climbing onto his bike.  While I run, my son Dane will ride next to me; giving us alone time together.  Today's run will be short in hopes the shins behave.

Normally a 5 a.m. runner, it feels good to be running in the daylight. A slight wind makes the temperature seem chillier than it is.  I should have worn gloves.  I look over at Dane who quietly wraps his coat around his hands to protect them from the cold.  He doesn't complain.  I am impressed with him.  He has a marathoner's determination.

Our neighborhood is quiet as the laziness of a Sunday morning is evident.  Frost makes the grass sparkle.  Dane and I are side by side as we make our way down the street lined with homes emitting curls of smoke from chimneys high on rooftops. 

Turning onto the main road, I pull ahead and Dane falls single file behind me.  It's a comfortable silence, neither of us saying much; both lost in thought.  I wonder what a 10 year old thinks about in quiet, reflective moments.   The sun shines on Mount Baker making the snow capped mountain beckon its skiers.  A tractor hums in the distance.

My left shin hurts reminding me of my 52.4 mile adventure the weekend before.  I wonder how long the recovery will be.  We turn toward home, Dane is in no hurry to race home, but rather perfectly content riding next to me.  Very little was said bewteen us as we shared the miles; just mom and son together.  

We turn onto our street and I break the silence, "Thank you Dane for coming with me on my run, I really enjoyed spending the time with you."

"Me too Mom.  Thanks."

Sometimes life's biggest moments are shared in silence on a quiet Sunday morning.   

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Running Legends

Strep throat set in motion my love affair of running.  While at the doctor’s office, to confirm I was suffering from more than just a store throat, I was asked to step on the scale.   Here I discovered the weight I had put on during my last pregnancy did, in fact, come off.  Despite being sick, joy exploded on my face.

To keep the weight off I started to run.  Not far at first, but I ran.   As a busy mom of two boys, in order to find the time to run it would have to be done before they woke.  The darkness of the early mornings worked perfectly as no one could see me.  Afterall, I wasn’t a real runner and this way no one would have to know.

It took over a year before finding the courage to run in a local race with other runners; a race where there were people wearing real running clothes and running with a runner’s stride and running fast.  Never had I felt so out of my league.  Afterall, I was just a mom who ran to take off the baby weight, I wasn’t a real runner.  Except I loved that race, I loved the runners and I loved how incredible that finish line made me feel.

As the years went by, I entered more races and went further distances.  Everything about running I loved.  Runners are some of the most incredible people and I met plenty of them out on race courses.

Not long ago after finishing the Victoria Marathon, my friends and I sat around the table celebrating our race with food and drinks.  Stories were told, memories recalled and I reflected on an incredible year.  In the past 16 months, I had met some of the biggest names in running.

June 2010 Meb Keflezighi sat at a table in an obscure corner of the finish line at the Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon.  This Olympic athlete brought home a marathon medal in 2004, the first America had seen in 28 years.   In 2009 he won the New York marathon, which an American had not won in 27 years; and there he sat being completely unnoticed by all the thousands walking by.  The day before he had been at the expo where the line was extremely long just to meet him.  And now, he sat perched on a stool with only a single person talking to him.  My friend Sharlene and I made our way over to him and I, with complete star struck shyness, got him to sign the only thing I had, my race bib. 

A few short months later my Pastor, and fellow marathoner, told me Ryan Hall would be speaking at our church.  Ryan, an Olympic marathoner and the American record holder of the fastest half marathon, spent the weekend in our town speaking at our church.  Being at a couple of the services, I was given the great opportunity to spend time with Ryan and his wife Sara.  What an incredible night of inspiration.  6 months after meeting Ryan, it was a thrill to watch him in the Boston Marathon and run the fastest marathon ever run by an American. 

May 2011 brought me to the streets of Eugene, Oregon; a city rich with running history.  Here I’d run my 8th marathon and soak up all the history in the fabled streets.  Some of this country’s greatest runners train on the streets of Eugene and on Hayward Field.  My friend Jeff introduced me to the legendary Joe Henderson shortly before the start of the marathon.  A man recognized as one of the world’s authorities on running, he smiled a genuine happy smile.  We spent several minutes talking, and he asking me questions about goals and pace and training.  The evidence of his coaching greatness came out as we talked and I wondered how great it would be to be coached by him.  Crossing the finish line of that race, the first person to greet me was Joe.   He grabbed me, hugged me and said, “Great job today Cheri!”  Joe Henderson not only remembered me, he called me by name!

5 months later in October of 2011 I am afforded an incredible opportunity of meeting 2 great running icons.  Bart Yasso, the Chief Running Officer at Runner’s World magazine and a runner who has run more races than he can remember, ran with several of us the day before the Victoria Marathon.  A truly kind man, who we easily and quickly found ourselves lost in conversation.  The cruelty of Lyme Disease robbed him of his ability to race distance, but it couldn’t steal his joy.  The man who devised the Yasso 800 training plan, touched athletes everywhere and has left his mark on generations to come. 

Later that day, I talked with Kathrine Switzer; the woman who shattered the glass ceiling in the marathon world allowing women to run the distance I love.  In 1967, 2 short years before I was born, she ran the Boston Marathon with an official race number (261) pinned to her shirt.  No woman had ever been given entry into the marathon, nor had it been the intent of the race officials that year either; but she had a number and she ran it.  Her race on that day paved the way for women – for me – to run in the marathon.  Her love of life shows on her face and her desire for all women, in every country, to have the freedom to run if they so wish is contagious.  The barriers she broke that day opened up possibilities for me that I have always known to be.  Her blood, sweat and tears have brought much joy to thousands and thousands of women.

Crossing the finish line of my 26.2 mile journey in Victoria I was first greeted by Kathrine, who giving me a giant hug, told me how proud she was of me.  Right behind her stood Bart.  Giving me a hug he congratulated me telling me of the great job I’d done.  A few minutes later after I’d wandered to where my friends were standing, I was happily surprised to hear Bart call out to us and walk over to carry on our conversation we’d had the day before.   For 10 minutes we talked and laughed and enjoyed each other’s stories before he had to make his way back to the finish line.

Sitting at the table that night, I marveled at it all.  How could it all be possible that I, a small town Mom of two boys, met and spent time with some of the biggest names in running?  Although we all have different running speeds, and different training plans and different distances we like to run, each runner understands the other.  We understand how hard it is to get out and run when we’d rather not, we understand how hard one works to create a new personal best, and we understand how incredible each finish line feels.  And in that, a small town mom is exactly the same as the Olympic athlete.  Running is the road that brings us together.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Seeds of Tradition

Fall presses against my kitchen window as the wind drives the rain.  The sky begins to brighten telling me the rain will stop soon.  My hands are deep in pumpkin innards searching meticulously for the seeds to which I'll roast.

Sunday football plays in the background as the boys and I talk about the masterpieces they are carving.  Creativity abounds while sibling rivalry for the best pumpkin rises.  The carving is getting crazy; I remind them they are playing with knives.

Somehow time had sped up and it wasn't until today, the day before Halloween, did I realize it was in fact the day before Halloween and pumpkins still hadn't been bought and carvings needed to be done.  Could I find the time today for this yearly tradition?  A trip to the store was had.

Watching the boys now, they talk of the past and the creations they made through the years.  And of the pumpkin seeds.  This makes me smile as it is a very simple recipe, one I stumbled on years and years ago, but my boys love it.  Every year the pumpkins are carved, I fish out the seeds and spend some time roasting them. The smell heralds fall and the approaching Thanksgiving season.

This reminds me of the importance of tradition.  Life moves forward and one day my boys will have homes and families of their own.  As they carve pumpkins with their children, my hope is that although they may not remember this particular carving afternoon, they will remember that every year we carved pumpkins and roasted seeds.  Life was never too busy for an afternoon of pumpkins and seeds, creativity was celebrated and traditions created.  No matter where life brings them, the tradition will take them back to their childhood and home.  And they feel warm because of it, even if the rain falls hard against the kitchen window.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Run In The Rain

Darkness was broken by the headlights of my car.  The light illuminated the road ahead revealing rain falling with such force, the drops bounced back up off the pavement.  Fall in Washington State has arrived.

Pulling into a parking spot in downtown Bellingham, I notice Pat and Melissa had already arrived.  Today is Melissa’s Birthday Run.  I grab my things and jump out of the car; I place my key in a plastic bag before tucking it in my pocket.  The eaves of the old brick building provide dryness while we wait for the others.  Steady streams of water cascading off the building edges spill onto the sidewalks and down the street gutters.

With the arrival of Brad and then Kathy, we decide to head out into the warm, but very wet, weather.  No one talks of the rain, there is no reason to bring up the obvious.   Our route leaves downtown as we head to the marina.  Conversation flows, only being broken by someone occasionally yelling, “Puddle!” or “LAKE!” to which we will all dodge, jump or run around.
We head back to where we started and up ahead I see Karen and Amy waiting for us, right on cue.  Runners are always on time.  As we run through the streets, making our way to the South Bay Trail, the vendors are out beginning to set up their wares for the Farmer’s Market.  The rain has stopped, the sun does not shine.
The trail runs above the ocean, eventually winding its way down to the shore.  Below us a train rumbles by, concealed by the thick evergreen trees we are running through.  Only runners are seen on the trail today. 

Gentle rain has started to fall again.  We are now on the ocean edge.  The grey of the rain filled sky melts seamlessly into the grey of the Pacific Ocean.  A blue heron flies bringing a tiny bit of color to the drabness of the landscape.

We climb Taylor Dock and run through the oldest part of town, it’s history speaking loudly in the architecture of the buildings.  Had it been a hundred years prior and we ran these streets, I wonder if we would have been arrested due to the shorts and skirts we wore breaking some Victorian indecent exposure law.  This makes me chuckle.

The Interurban Trail greeted us with a thick canopy of branches providing a tiny relief to the rain falling.   Every square inch of me was wet, and now the mud from the trail kicked up onto my legs and shoes.   And it felt great.   There is something very peaceful about going for a run and getting the dirt from which we came caked onto your legs.  This must be why kids love mud puddles.

Reaching the turn-around point, we run toward downtown once again and the coffee shop that awaits us.  Despite dripping clothes, hats and hair we get our warm drinks and settle into a couple of tables and chairs we’ve pushed together.  Next year’s marathons are discussed; ideas are tossed in and contemplated.  With coffee cups emptied we part ways each looking forward to a hot shower.
And dreams of runs we will run in the new year.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Man Named Bob

The road lay long in front of me.  His bright yellow singlet stood in stark contrast to the mundane grey of the road.  With his shoulders slightly bent, his gait spoke of the years he has lived.  I had to catch up to him and hear his story.

My pace quickened from a walk to a jog.  Despite perfect running weather, a gorgeous marathon course and friends all around, it was not a good race day for me.  My mind was willing and yet my body didn’t respond.  Looking at my watch, realization sunk in and I let race day hopes flutter away.  Alone on the course I was left to my private hell, trying hard to pull myself out of the funk I was in.  I reminded myself it is the distance I love and to enjoy every moment of it.

Once I had caught up to him, I began to walk matching my pace to his.  I turned to him and spoke.

“Excuse me sir, are you Bob?”

His smile spread across his face, and stated, “Why yes I am”.

“It is a real pleasure to meet you.” Shaking his hand I told him my name and that I too was a member of the Marathon Maniacs.  Exchanging pleasantries, we talked of the race and how beautiful the course is.  Bob was walking the entire distance and hoped to finish before the cut off time of 8 hours. 

“I’m not sure that will happen.” He said with a grin.

When asked questions about his longevity running marathons, he quickly turned the conversation from himself and with a sparkle in his eye he told me of all that his wife Lenora does.   Bob spoke of her with the love and admiration.  He made me want to meet her.

Bob continued to speak informing me of the marathons he would be doing next as well as all the work he, and Lenora, contributes to directing the Yakima River Canyon Marathon.   My eyes lit up when he told me that I was sharing in his 492nd marathon.  At 82 years old, it was clear he lived his life not only by it's breadth but also it's depth.  He told me of the plans to celebrate his 500th race at his marathon in Yakima on March 31st next year.  The joy was uncontainable in his smile.

“You are such an inspiration Bob”.  With an unmistaken humbleness in his voice, he softly said, “Thank you”.  We said our farewells and I moved on ahead.  

Not many times in life do we stop to notice the extraordinary in the ordinary.  Walking down the street Bob is an unassuming man, most would never know of all he has done or continues to do.  Yet I, because of a less than great race day, was blessed to meet him and inspiration comes when least expected.  My pace quickened, my attitude adjusted.  I was again falling in love with the distance, and it was due to a man named Bob.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I lay in bed listening to the rain hit the skylight hoping it would pass in time for our run.  Tip-toeing out the door I got into my car and drove into town.  The streets were quiet this Saturday morning, the world must still be sleeping.  Pulling in to the parking lot at the waterfront, I see my running friends milling about preparing themselves for the 22 miles we were gearing up to do.  The misty rain had all but stopped.

After a few encouraging words from Coach Pat, we began our journey amidst the beeping of everyone hitting the start button on their watches.  We are a large group today, everyone anxious about the run that lay ahead of us.

The grey skies brought perfect running conditions, keeping it cool and far from the 85 degree heat we experienced the weekend before.  A handful of miles into our run we found ourselves on the trail connecting downtown to the ocean; a trail usually bustling with people was quiet this morning.  It was a dreary Saturday and people we nestled in their homes, sipping their early morning coffee. 

Running Taylor dock, with the Pacific Ocean beneath our feet, I glance over looking for the seals we sometimes see somersaulting  in the tide.  I see no seal, just a few sea gulls rocking gently on the waves.  I breathe in deeply the salt air.

Karen waits for us offering us water or electrolytes if we need them, we tell her we’re good and make our way onto the next trail.  Sherry and I weave our way down the path talking about this crazy thing called life.  My week had been more than hectic and I was enjoying the mileage we were doing together.   There are times in life when a hot shower or bubble bath can not come close to the cleansing that a good, hard-earned sweat can bring.  In the quiet of the woods, on the trail with friends, I felt what I had been needing.  And it felt great.

Up ahead we could see our friends waiting with water, electrolytes and carbs.  Their laughter sprinkled joy on the trail.  I handed them my water bottle and told them I’d be back after we reached the turn around point.   Without fail, there was Kathy with my water bottle in hand filled to the brim with fresh water.  Snapping it into my belt I headed down the trail back toward town for the final 10 miles. 

Running through my favorite part of the trail, I was lost in the scenery around me.  The trail cuts along the mountain side high above the ocean affording incredible vistas.   Alone on the trail, I fell into a rhythm listening to my foot fall on the path.  Trees formed a perfect canopy as I run under them.  They had dropped their orange, yellow and red leaves bowing to the season of fall and whispering ‘goodbye’ to summer.  The leaves crunched under foot. 

Leaving the trail I made my way back to the water and ran the dock.  Sun had peaked out from the grey clouds and glistened off the ocean.  Sipping their coffees and hot chocolates, Pat, Karen, Kathy and Amy were once again waiting for us to give us what we needed.  A brief stop, handing them my packet of Gu, I was off again and telling them the coffee made me jealous.

Here I began to tire.  This portion of the trail takes the traveler away from the edge of the ocean and up into downtown.  The uphill intensified the struggle but I persisted, determined to run all 22 miles.  With the appearance of the sun, although brief, people had donned their fall clothing and came out of their warm homes to walk the trail.  Runners would pass in the opposite direction, always giving big smiles and a friendly hello.

As I came back into town, I found Kathy waiting for me near the alleyway behind the farmer’s market.  With two and a half miles to go, she joined me for the final push.   It was what I needed.  Knowing she had a race to do later in the day, I asked if she was sure she wanted to run more miles.  Without hesitation she said yes and I was grateful.   Kathy pulled me out of my own head and helped me keep my attention on our conversation.   I would have walked had it not been for her.

Nearing the 22 mile mark, I could see some of my running friends gathered around the water cooler all relishing in the accomplishment of the morning.  My watch chirped for the 22nd time that day and I gratefully hit the stop button.  The run was done.   My watch and I logged 22 successful miles.    High fives and pats on the back were handed out while we all talked of how the run went for each of us.

Heading back to my car, from the corner of my eye I could see a woman running to me with her arms open as to hug me.  Within a split second, I recognized her as a classmate from high school whom I had not seen in 15 years.  Deb reached me and we squealed in delight amidst our hug.  She didn’t care I was drenched in sweat and salt, only that after so many years had passed we had finally run into each other. 

The drive home I reflected on the juxtapositions my morning had.  There was summer mixed with fall, rain amidst the sun, strength and weakness intertwined in the run, but the consistency came among the friendship; new as well as ones from my past.  And in that, I find, I am incredibly blessed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Strangers, Friends and Angels

The weatherman predicted the weekend to be the hottest of the year.  Murphy's Law laughed and said "But of course it is" as this is the weekend in which my friends were to run a marathon.

Karen, Kathy and I, with a truck loaded with ice, water and Gatorade, headed out of town.  Armed with a GPS and course maps we made our way to our first stop on the marathon route; approximately mile 8.  Spirits were high, jokes were plenty and smiles were seen on all.  As soon as our friends had run by, we were back in the truck heading off to our next point.

Mile 12 was also mile 14 as the course was an out-and-back route.  Parking the truck on the side of the country road, Kathy found a good radio station and cranked up the stereo.  Here is where we first noticed runners were getting hot.  We shouted encouragement and clapped loudly.  One by one our three friends ran by and each time we had ice cold water ready as well as sponges for them to wring out over their heads.

Karen made signs for us to hold to give greater encouragement.  One of our favorites, "Way to go complete stranger!" had been a great motivation to us while running the Eugene marathon in the spring and proved to be just as motivational on this day.  Runners smiled and laughed and said, "Thank you" when running by the sign.  As we had now seen many of these runners three times they were no longer strangers, we recognized them coming down the road and also knew where our friends should be in relation to them.   We got several of their names and did our best to seer them into our memory.  Inevitably, as our running family got bigger and bigger, we couldn't remember them all and eventually they earned names like "Cool Shoe Guy" and "50 Stater Guy".

Once our friends had gone by, at paces strong enough to qualify for Boston, we jumped in the truck and navigated our way to the 18 mile mark.  The sun was hot; the farmer's fields dusty.  Parked in a raspberry field, we swung the truck doors open letting the music fill the country roads. 

The runners were hot, the suffering etched on faces.  We offered bottles of ice cold water to any who ran by.  Many runners, upon recognizing us, had dubbed us "The Stranger Ladies" because of our sign, proving that even in pain a sense of humor can prevail.

The eyes told their stories.  The heat pounding on them as they ran on shadeless country roads had taken its toll.  The I-Can't-Do-This Dragon had leeched itself on many of their backs.   Staring straight into their eyes, we shouted "You got this, it's yours".  Heat is nothing to make light of and we paid close attention as each ran by.  All three of us could feel their suffering.

As each of our three friends ran by, their pain became our pain and we did our best to hide our concern.  We gave them ice for their necks and sponges for their heads.  They no longer got the option of "if" they wanted something cold to drink but "which" cold drink they preferred.  Our hearts felt their anguish and exchanging glances between us uttered what our words would not.  The heat was concerning.

Winding our way through the back roads, we came to mile 21 and this is the first time where we felt completely unprepared.  Volunteers directed runners to our truck who were searching for ice.  Would we have enough?  Kathy ran alongside some handing them chunks of ice.  Tears could be seen in others as we offered them water from our ice chest.  And without hesitation runners were offering - and taking - the water bottles from other runners; showing us that the pain of a marathon brings people together in a way that can not be described, only felt.  With unselfish consideration, each runner shared the gift of water with all those around them; all complete strangers just a few hours earlier.

At this mile marker Karen's phone rang.  One of our friends had to make the heartbreaking and extremely difficult decision to drop out of the race.  The heat had stolen every bit of energy he had.  Our hearts broke.   Knowing he was off the course, we got back into the truck to make our way to mile marker 25 to bring our other two friends support.

Here we could see the relief written on many faces.  Armed with the knowledge that the race was only 1.2 miles longer, the faintest smiles could be seen.  Strangers driving by stopped and brought us more water to hand out.  It wasn't long before we could see our friend coming down the road.  With a sponge and water in hand, I ran to meet her.  She asked how our other friend was doing.  The knot in my stomach made me sick, but I had to lie to her and tell her he was doing just fine.  Knowing the truth would have been painful making the last mile that much more difficult.  I'd apologize to her in 1.2 miles.

The finishline was filled with people, runners completely spent as well as family and friends sharing in the joy of it all.  There were tears of joy in some and tears of sadness in others.  We found our one friend sitting on the curb in quiet reflection thinking on the hard decision he'd made to pull himself off the course.  Words not needed, we all felt his pain.

Stopping us were runners who searched us out to thank us for what we did out there.   These strangers thanked us repeatedly, calling us life-savers and angels.  Everywhere we turned, another runner thanked us.  It was here where I became aware of just how many people we touched that day.  We had not set out to do this, it simply happened.  One small gesture had left an impact they would not forget.  What none of them realized, was it was them who gave back to us.  Their smiles paid us back in ways they could never imagine and gratitude could be seen in their eyes.

Long after the day was over, my mind wandered to all that happened out there on that race course, each emotion flooding back.  Sometime after the race, Karen emailed me a piece of a conversation relayed to her that had taken place out there during that 26.2 mile journey; a conversation that brought tears to my eyes.  Shortly after the 18 mile mark, a fellow runner turned to our friend and stated how wonderful it was for him to have friends who would come out and support him like that on the course.  He turned to her and said, "Not friends.  FAMILY."

The marathon.  It gives you the most incredible window inside of yourself and it takes complete strangers and turns them into angels and family.  What a gift.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In A Blink

Buzzing.  The alarm is buzzing.  In a blink I open my eyes to the realization I actually at some point did fall asleep.  Then I remember.  The phone call from the previous night was not a dream.  The sadness in my heart is heavy.  My run will help me feel better.

As soon as my feet start running, I begin my conversation with God looking for comfort and peace. 

I had been making dinner and talking with Mom on the phone.  A simple conversation centered around catching up on day to day activities.  She received another call and we said goodbye.  Somewhere between cooking the taco meat and shredding the cheese she called me back.  Crying.  Dad's cousin Don and his wife Phyllis had been killed in a motorcycle accident while touring through North Dakota.  The tears fell while trying to collect what little details we had.

With each step I was running, I was re-living the night before while trying to ease the hurt.  The details playing over and over in mind.  Mom and Dad's good friends Ed and Carol had been with Don and Phyllis on the vacation and my heart weighed heaviest for them.  What horrors did they witness?  It is at this point where I realize there is sometimes hope in the not knowing.  There is a hardness and coldness found in the reality of the details, one that can make it difficult to overcome the harshness of the accident.  I kept placing one foot in front of the other.

Dad, Don and Ed had been friends for decades.  As life had moved along, wives became part of the friendship circle and then eventually us kids.  Wasn't it just a few short months ago that Ed, Carol, Don and Phyllis sat in my living room laughing and talking over a family dinner?  And now, in a blink, Don and Phyllis are gone.

My footfalls break the silence of the morning.  The sun is beginning to rise.

Standing in the kitchen crying, my son asks me what is wrong.  I tell him the tragic news.  Studying my tears, he asks me if they were believers.  I nod, and tell him, "Yes, they are."  With a spark of joy in his eyes, he looks at me and states, "Then it's all ok Mom.  It's all ok."

Nearing the final leg of my run, I thank God for my son's wise words spoken the night before and the hope God has given us.  We will see Don and Phyllis again.  Looking at the mountains before me, I watch as the sun rises.  Then I notice it.  Wafting gently in the air two feet in front of me a single feather falls.  I look around and find no bird.  I stop and watch the feather, wondering where it had come from.  I smile and look up towards the sky.  Not until I had heard the rustling of an angel's wing, did I continue on my way home.  Home, just like Don and Phyllis are.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An Ordinary Day

The morning is strangely quiet.  It's 5 a.m. and the sun has not yet introduced the day, reminding me summer is leaving soon and fall is close by.  I'm not ready to say goodbye to summer.

My feet fall quickly on the streets bringing a break into the silence.    The clouds hold no rain, for which I am very grateful.  The quietness of dawn gives me a blank canvas in which to paint my conversation with God onto.  He listens, I talk; peace and comfort abound.

The farmer has a new herd of calves in the grassy field close to the barn.  A few of them bellow to the others as to warn them the strange lady running on the road is dangerous.  I smile as it is always the same.  Just as it is with each new calf herd the farmer receives, one calf gets brave and runs toward me, whether to chase me or to see if I bring food I'm never sure.  Curiosity always grabs hold and soon most are running the fence line behind me.  I laugh as to the passerby I must look like a cow's Pied Piper.  Reaching the edge of the fence line, they stop and allow me to go on alone.

Mount Baker stands grand on the horizon, its foothills lush and green before her.   The sun is peaking above the hills bringing its light to the day.  I hear what sounds like softly falling rain, but feel nothing.  I look around me.  Above me the wings of several dozen sparrows flutter; the source of the noise.  The noise grows louder and I met by hundreds, if not thousands, of sparrows.  Flying in large groups and in percise unison toward a large, old oak tree standing solitary in a field. Upon landing in the tree, they all begin to talk to each other, and loudly; sounding like a room full of old Italian women talking with their hands.  This makes me laugh.

I turn towards home, my 6 miles complete.  I tiptoe into the house which holds sleeping boys.  The coffee is on and its smell fills the room.  The day has started just like so many before it, with an early morning run surrounded by nautre.  It's just an ordinary day.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


At my desk eating my lunch, I find myself staring out the window. I sigh. I'm tired. Not a missing-several-hours-of-sleep tired, but a physical tired that comes from pushing yourself athletically beyond your current limits.

My running group and I met at the track last night and did a tough 1600 meter repeat workout. The weather was hot, the workout was tough and it felt great! Drenched in sweat and drinking some water down, we all headed out for an easy paced 2 mile cool down run. Despite my muscles aching from the workout, it felt good to go at a conversational pace and feel the intensity slowly working it's way out and be replaced by a calm knowing you left it all out on the track.

As a busy mom and wife, my alone time to run is at 5 a.m. before the rest of the house awakens; this means my coach prescribed "Easy 5 mile run" on the plan today would have to be run less than 10 hours after finishing my track workout the night before. I had no problem keeping the easy miles easy.

Which brings me back to the present; sitting here at my desk, eating my lunch and staring out the window. My muscles are tired and my body is relaxed; both gifts from pushing myself physically. It's a welcomed kind of a tired, one that brings motivation.

Still, I think I'll treat myself to a latte. After all, it can only help, right?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


As of late, everywhere I look I see inspiration.  And I need it.  Just as my motivation wanes, God places these little sparks of inspiration to get me moving.

Yesterday morning my run had not gone particularly well, it wasn't bad mind you, it was just a struggle.  A few hours later, as I was driving to work, I saw a woman large in stature running down the road I was travelling.  This was not a long and flat road, rather it was extremely hilly.  Determination was etched on her face as she successfully tackled each hill.  I wondered what her story was.  What motivated her to change her lifestyle?  What brought her to the point to lace up a pair of running shoes?  How much weight had she lost already?

Clearly, the run was not easy.  But it didn't stop her.  At some point in her life she realized the pain of regret hurts more than the physical pain of a tough run.  Her strength inspired me and she has no idea.  She was simply running.

Standing in line at Starbucks today, indulging in my standard double tall non-fat latte, a woman with 3 active girls placed her order after me.  Obviously a regular to the baristas at the counter as they greeted her by name.  I was stepping to the side when she exclaimed, "It's been 18 days since my last cigarette!", her smile exploding on her face.  Turning to face her I said, "Congratulations!".

"Thanks!  I feel really good about it!  Really, really good."

"That's a big accomplishment, you should feel good about it."

She then explained to me, a complete stranger, about her struggle and how she has managed to quit the addiction on her own.  I look at the children, acting as children do, around her.  She easily could have used their high energy as an excuse to give herself a break and light up a cigarette.  But she didn't.  She had reached a point that said 'I want better'.

Walking back to my car, I thought of her smile.  There was so much joy in that smile, a joy that can not be called up on demand.  It is a joy that only comes from pride found through personal strength.  Not until she wanted better and started the tough journey of quitting her addiction could she find a strength she didn't know she had.  No one could quit for her; she had to do it.  And with each passing day she got stronger and learned that what she is capable of is greater than what she had known.  She rediscovered herself.

And that, my friends, is contagious.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Stolen Heart

The streets felt good under my feet.  There was an early morning coolness in the air that only a summer’s day could bring as it felt thick with the promise of the sun’s heat.  It had been two months  since I last ran through the city of Eugene, and I was enjoying this run immensely.

With some planning and a few emails back in forth, on my way through town I was fortunate enough to be able to run once again with my friend Jeff, a native of Eugene.   Back in May when I ran the Eugene marathon, Jeff ran by my side, stride for stride the entire race.  Today was no different, he’d mapped out an 18 mile run that would have me weaving in and out of the pathways that connected the city.

Taking me through a few city streets, we soon found ourselves crossing a footbridge over the Willamette River.  The water sparkled in the early morning sun as it meandered over rocks and boulders.  From the footbridge we turn onto a pathway.  Homes with perfectly manicured lawns line a waterway.  Spilling onto the water’s edge are ornamental grasses and flowering phlox creeping along hand laid stone walls reminding me of a land imagined in my youth inhabited by princesses and knights.

Jeff and I talk easily and the conversation centers around races, training and our running groups. Thinking of my friends and their long run, I wonder if they are enjoying blue skies and I wished they could be here running with us.  When you find something good, you want nothing more than to share it with your friends. 

Following the route I had run during the Eugene Marathon a few months prior, Jeff and I ran the path snaking it’s way alongside the river.  Much looked the same, much looked different as this time the hundreds of spectators were not lining the course.   The town was sleepy sans the bikers and runners we encountered along the route, giving proof this town loves physical activity. 

We crossed another footbridge while listening to the peaceful sounds of the moving river.  From here Jeff and I weaved in and out of several parks, each one bright green with life sprouting from grasses, trees and bushes.  This was turning into a gorgeous summer run. 

Turning onto Pre’s Trail, named after the town’s world known track star Steve Prefontaine who died tragically in the prime of his career, Jeff and I had begun the final 4 mile loop of our run.  Here my Achilles tendon began to loudly tell me it was not happy.  Deciding to play it smart and not push it, we cut the run short and not run the final 3 miles.  With sadness in my heart, we turned back to the hotel where I’d call it quits after 15 miles. 

After some ice cold water and a short rest, my family and I followed Jeff and his wife Tonya to one of their favorite splurges, a donut shop a couple miles from our hotel.  Rarely one to eat a donut, I could not resist the opportunity to extend our time, even by just a little, in this great little town. 

Laughter rose over the num-num-num of eating our sugary treats as Jeff and Tonya tell us of growing up here.  We sit outside listening to their stories while admiring the downtown scene.  I smile, my heart is warm.  I have fallen in love with a little town named Eugene.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

To Run or Not to Run

One of the many things I often hear is how much running will ruin my body.  What is extremely ironic this is always explained to me by people who do NOT run.  My friend Dane Rauschenberg came up with this great article listing the most often heard excuses - and his response - to why we shouldn't run.  A great read that I thought you would all enjoy.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sky, Stars and Motivation

At times we all need a little motivation, and I for one, have been lacking in it lately.  It is times like this that I am reminded that I am the one who holds me back.  I set my own limits, hit my own ceilings.

Yet I reflect on this great big world and I realize something.  In daylight I look up and see the sky above me, nothing more.  If I wait until darkness falls, I look up and I see endless stars that go on forever. It's the same space above me but my persepctive changed.

I need to stop seeing the sky and start living in the endless possibilities of reaching for the stars above.

The following reminders will help me: 

"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by SMALL men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it.
Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion.
Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare.
Impossible is potential.
Impossible is temporary.
Impossible is nothing."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon

Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon isn’t just a race. I look around at the masses of people around me and it becomes clear it is a celebration. For me, it is personal. The race has become an annual weekend about friendships.

The corral I am in is alive with activity. This year is the first time I will run this race with friends at my side. Kathy, Karen, Joy and I are talking amongst ourselves and watching the others around us. I see many fellow Marathon Maniacs milling about in their corrals. Through social online networking I have gotten to know, and now meet, several of them. A variety of people, from all over the world, who have come together over their love of running 26.2 miles. Many make their way to this race in Seattle, the home of the Marathon Maniacs. Great friendships have been born in this group.

One by one, the corrals are given their start and shortly our corral finds its way to the front. We wish each other great races, and remind ourselves of our tried and true mantra, “Slay the dragon”. The horn blows and we are off and running. Kathy immediately pulls back as she is running the full marathon and does not want to keep the same pace as Karen, Joy and myself who are running the half.

Within minutes, my friends and I fall into a familiar rhythm. We don’t say much, we are simply running. My mind wanders to my friend Beth; I wonder where she is on the course as she had an earlier corral start than we did. I wonder if my friend Sharlene, who was in a later corral, has begun. Both Beth and Sharlene have gone into this race with training not where they had hoped. Life gets busy and training can suffer but they refused to miss this race. The weekend wasn’t about racing, it was about friendships.

Each mile had a hill climb, tiring us as we stayed on pace. Karen had been battling injury and like the mothers we are, Joy and I would ask Karen regularly how she was doing. Her answer was always, “Good!”. I suspected she was hurting, but her toughness is one of the qualities I admire about her. I’ve seen this woman run a 20 mile training run in summer’s hottest heat, while the rest of us melted into the course. She said she was good, Joy and I respected that.

Mile 5 brought us to the edge of Lake Washington and brought much relief with some flat ground. Our pace picked up some. Karen began to pull back. She yelled the word “Go”. To those around us they heard a simple two letter word, but Joy and I heard much more than that. Karen said ‘go’ and wrapped up in those two letters were the words “You guys are doing great, keep going. I am fine, I promise. I’ve got this one on my own, I don’t want to hold you back, now go”. This wasn’t a race about running, it was about friendships.

Joy and I kept strong and steady. Cruising into mile 8 we ran by signs telling us to “Run to Remember” followed by the signs giving us the names and faces of fallen soldiers. Joy and I spoke no words. After the signs were many people, standing with a military precision distance apart, holding flags. Telling Joy we needed to thank them, we moved to their side of the street. I made eye contact with as many as I could and told them ‘Thank you’. Tears filled my eyes, yet I managed to hold it together, that is until I saw the soldier who looked to be mid 30s, smiling big and offering encouragement to the runners running by. He stood tall, holding the flag with his right hand, while leaning on his cane with his left. My tears fell. I asked Joy how I was to cry and run at the same time. She wanted to know the same thing.

Leaving the water brought us to a short and steep hill into a freeway tunnel. Here is when the heat started to get to me. The tunnel was part of a long uphill section bringing us up and around into downtown Seattle. Joy was feeling strong, I was hot. I told her “Go”, she hesitated a bit and I waved her on. Her pace was strong and I did not want to hold her back. With the pace we’d managed through the first 9 miles, she was well on her way to a personal best and I wanted to see her get it more than I wanted a running partner. This wasn’t a race about running, it was about friendships.

My legs were tiring. The portion of training our coach has us in is designed teach us how to run on tired legs. Our exercises and drills tire our leg muscles, and it works wonderfully. We are able to reap the benefits of longer distances by running lower mileage while on tired legs. What the program isn’t designed for is racing right in the middle of this particular portion. And here I was racing a race on tired legs. My pace slowed and I fought myself to stay on pace. I was tremendously tired and could feel the dragon leeching itself onto my back.

Mile 11 had some downhill and it brought little relief. I was stuck in my own head pushing myself forward. Out of nowhere I heard my name; snapping me back into the moment and out of the dragon territory I had allowed myself to go. My friend Dane had spotted me out of 30,000 runners that day and shouted words of encouragement. Dane is a fellow Marathon Maniac and because we live thousands of miles apart, I thought I’d never see the day we’d be at the same race. He was there to help pace his girlfriend Shannon who was running the full. I look up to see Dane standing on the side of the road, clapping and cheering me on. It is what I needed. Dane’s words helped pull me out of the dark place I’d let my mind go. He didn’t know what I was battling, he simply saw a friend and shared encouragement. This wasn’t a race about running, it was about friendships.

The uphill into downtown lay ahead and I pushed myself forward; fighting the urge to slow my pace. I see a runner being helped to the ground by police. As much as it is a visual reminder that I am not as bad as that poor gentleman, it also brings a little fear into how warm I’d been feeling. I glance at my watch. One more mile. One more mile. One more mile.

The dragon falls off my back. I pick up my pace. Weaving my way through the city streets, I turn into the finisher’s shoot. I see the finish line up ahead. My pace quickens even more as it also does for those around me. My foot crosses the finish line giving me my second fastest half marathon. A medal is handed to me as is a bottle of water. I stop at the finish line knowing that Karen can’t be too far behind me. Very shortly I see her crossing the finish line, her race finally over. She spots me and the look on her face tells me everything, her struggles are shown on her face. I look at her and say, “You did it!”. The battle she fought from mile 7 on spoke of her strength and ability to push through pain. She finished in a great time even though her body fought her. As she recounted the battles she’d fought, I listen. Her strength amazed me and she taught me much about determination. This wasn’t a race about running, it was about friendships.

It didn’t take long for us to find Joy and then Beth. Joy had ran a 5 minute PR to which we all shared in her triumph. Beth felt good that her race had been strong despite the lack of training she’d been able to get in. We made our way to the city street and waited for Sharlene to cross the finish line. We saw her coming down the finisher’s chute, exhaustion clearly etched onto her face. Despite training being nowhere near what it needed to be, she ran hard and finished one of the most difficult races she’d run. Together we waited for Kathy to finish her full marathon. We watched the clock and counted down the minutes. Straining to see as far down the chute as we could, we finally spot her. She was running strong. Realizing how close she was to a personal best, we screamed and hollered our encouragement and watched her cross her finish line.

Meeting up for a celebratory dinner in downtown Seattle, we all met to walk to the restaurant together. Kathy and Karen, with silly grins on their faces, were the last to arrive. Kathy walked right up to me and said, “Today, I qualified for Boston.” I grab her and hug her and squeal in delight. Tears brim my eyes. I glance at Karen and notice her tears too. Sharlene, Beth, Karen and I surround Kathy all talking at once with everything and nothing to say. We are happy, we are elated and we are proud. After all, this wasn’t a race about running, it was about friendships.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mud, Fun & Life

Saturday, June 18th held the promise of fun and dirt.  My friend Joy had signed up with her husband Adam to do the Survivor Mud Run in Carnation, WA.  Due to an injury Adam had to back out leaving her with a spare entry and an invitation to me.  Jumping at the chance to play, I accepted the invitation challenge.

Leaving town at 5:30 a.m. and making the 2 hour drive to the race, I found myself in the car with some of the best people I know.  Joy, Kathy, Karen and I spent the time sharing life and lots of laughs.  It wasn't until the drive back after the race did I realize how much the day's Mud Run correlated to real life. 

Life as well as the Mud Run share some great life lessons.  Here are just a few of the things I learned today.

1.  Surround yourself with those who encourage you.
Kathy and Karen were not participating in the race, but wanted to come along anyway; each sacrificing their Saturdays to watch us in the obstacle course.  These weren't sun shining times, it was a wet and drizzly Northwest morning, yet they were there.  It wasn't a course where they could sit and watch us run by, they plotted and planned which routes to take to ensure they could capture some of our moments on film and shout encouragement along the way.   Being there for us came at a cost, and they chose to be there.  Life is meant to have friends like that.

2.  Count your blessings when you find those who want to go through challenges by your side.
Not many people think running is fun, throw in running while walking on planks, wading through rivers, climbing walls and crawling through mud and the amount gets even smaller.  When you do find those who enjoy the things you do, keep them close and share the journey with them.

3.  Be aware changes are coming.
Life doesn't always give you warnings.  When it does, prepare yourself.  Sometimes you have no idea what is coming, you just know things are going to change.  Accept this and you'll be more prepared.

4.  Teamwork is essential; make yourself part of the team and work together.
One of the obstacles we faced was a long section of bungee cords strung from tree to tree.  There was no running, there was only careful navigation.  Surrounded by others, we quickly learned we could get through the obstacle faster if we worked together.  We talked, telling each other what we were doing; we encouraged others with steps to take; we guided one another the best we could.  And we did it together. 

5.   Life is always better with someone at your side.
Words do not have to be spoken; just knowing someone is there helps you move in a forward direction.  Despite being tired, having Joy at my side kept the running pace strong and we fed off of each other's energy.  Did it change the fact we were tired?  No, but we pushed each other in a way that only someone who knows how you feel can do.

6.  Accept the challenge, despite the fear.
One of the obstacles we faced twice that day was the rope wall.  Climbing up the wall isn't what scares me - it's being at the top and having to get to the other side that does.  I knew Joy was at my side and I knew if I couldn't move, she'd be there to help me.  Swinging my leg over the wall, I was committed.  I would do this.

7.  Celebrate the successes.
Complete joy is how I felt when I realized that I did it.  I had faced my fear and did it; my own strength holding my weight and getting me to the other side.  In that I celebrated.  I threw my hands in the air in jubilation all while hearing Joy, Kathy and Karen give me their screams of encouragement.  They knew my fears, they saw my hard work and they were there to celebrate with me.

8.  There are dark and scary places we must all go, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
It was dark in there, it was full of muck, it was full of mire and the only way to the other side was to go through it.  With trepidation not knowing what was in there, we went in anyway.  We had to, so we did.  We came out dirtier on the other side, but we did come out.

9.  Don't be afraid to get in the mud.
We found ourselves in a log jam crawling under and over fallen logs.  Deep into the muddy waters we knew the only way to get out of it was to do what needed to be done.  Our feet would get stuck and the water was murky and the encouragement never stopped.  The strangers around us even offered helpful words.  In life sometimes the help we get is from those who don't know what life has been for you, but just happen to be near enough to help.

10.  Be flexible.
Being willing to bend where needed will help the challenge become manageable.  When you let go of your idea of easy and accept what needs to be done there is forward progress.  I am still in the mud, there is still a log in my way, but I have now moved forward because I was willing to bend.

11.  Fill your life with laughter.
When the exhaustion sets in and you are tired from the journey sometimes the best thing to do is laugh.

12.  Face your fears.
Climbing the cargo wall terrified me.  Unlike the wooden wall, I could see beneath me.  Each wobbly step onto the rope ladder allowed me to see how high I was going....and just how far I could fall.  Standing at the top of the wall the only option I had was to get down.  Fear would not paralyze me despite my head telling me to stop.  Fear is real and it is my job to harness that fear.  Fear moved me over the cargo net and conquering that fear brought on the biggest sense of joy I'd had.  Without the fear, I never would have felt that joy.

13.  Life, even with it's trials, is great.
When the trials are over, look around, the people you invest your time, energy and love into are standing right next to you.  They know what it took for you to get there and they celebrate and laugh with you, despite your imperfections and all the mud you wear. 


Friday, June 3, 2011

Pat's Story

The air was cool; the weather was warm.  A juxtaposition lending to a perfect race day morning.  The coolness of the October morning would hold due to the overcast skies above.  Pat glances up at the sky and smiles; he'd been training 6 months for this day and the weather seems to promise perfection for a runner.

Standing in a crowd of 8,000 people, Pat took in his surroundings.  Each runner nervously waiting for the gun to go off and trying to calm the jitters inside.  Pat was no different, but he knew the pre-race anxiety would help deliver a strong race.

The gun went off, the crowd surged forward and in that instant the testing of all his hard training had begun.  It was do-or-die time.  Crowds lined the streets of Portland, Oregon cheering them on as they began their 26.2 mile journey.  Japanese Taiko Drummers played in perfect unison letting their powerful beats echo off the downtown buildings.  Pat could feel the drums as he ran by.

Pat's goal was to take the first mile easy and not go out too fast; a mistake often made in the marathon leaving the runner too tired in the final miles.  The last miles were tough enough and there was no reason to add to it.  Mile marker 1 approaches and looking at his watch Pat wonders if he took the first mile too slow.  As planned, he picks up the pace.

The miles came and went and Pat felt strong.  Each water stop he was careful to walk a few seconds and drink what was needed.  Leaving the only out and back section of the race - a industrial park made interesting only by seeing the faces of other runners going in the opposite direction - he made his way toward the Saint John Bridge.  The climb to the top of the bridge would be the biggest hill he would encounter.  He was ready and knew with his quickened pace, he'd gathered a two minute cushion.

Countless hours were spent in hill training, hundreds of miles were run through the hill-side trails of the town in which he lived.  Hills are tough, a hill at mile 18 is cruel; it provides a visual interpretation of the battle beginning inside.  The key is to not let it infiltrate your determination.  With tired legs and breathless lungs, Pat crested that hill.  The view from the bridge over the Willamette River was beautiful and allowed him to take his mind off the hurt that follows cresting a hill.

Pat found himself running through residential streets peppered with homeowners cheering  for each runner.  He drew on their enthusiasm.  Running over some rolling hills tired him.  He was well into Dragon Territory; the land that exists between miles 20 to 26.  A marathoner enters these miles with a dose of intrepidation and incredible amounts of respect.  Race-day demons and dragons lurk in these miles, stalking the runner while looking for signs of weakness.  The legs of the runner are moving, but it is only the sheer determination propelling them.  The mind must stay strong to keep the demons and dragons away.

Mile 24 they attacked.  Pat fought hard at keeping the exhaustion from winning. The mantras he had scrawled on his hand went unread as the energy needed to turn his palm upward to see them seemed too great. He relied solely on the utterings of his heart echoing in his mind, "Finish, finish, finish." 

The dragon leeches onto his back and whispers, "You can walk now, it's ok.  You'll just be happy you finished."  The chatter in his head becomes louder, every ounce of him wanting to stop.  He fights the demons.  His legs feel like concrete.  He fights the dragon.  His body begs him to quit.  His determination the only thread holding onto his race day dream.  The thread is worn and dangerously close to breaking.  Pat chooses to listen only to the rhythmic voice repeating, "Finish, finish, finish."

Closing in on the final stretch, the crowds thicken and their cheers are louder.  His friends are near the finish line screaming his name.  He hears no voices but one, the solitary voice carrying him home with "Finish, finish, finish".  He crosses the finish line, leaving the race behind him.  He stops.  He is now standing in the reality of what he'd done.  The race clock tells no lie.  Pat looks at his watch.  He had fought and won his Boston qualifying time.  Every emotion washed over him and the accumulation of those emotions only seen by others as they tumble softly down his cheek.  There is no fight left and he lets the tears fall.

A person drapes a medal around Pat's neck, bringing him back to reality.  He smiles through his tears and says, "Thank you".  He walks away from the finish line and in a private moment he whispers to himself, "Nice job" and looks to find the friends who are the only ones who will understand.