It’s 7:00am. I wake up, take a bath… because I like bathes, and it was my routine before a race when I ran cross-country and track. I always had to have a shower/bath before I raced. It helped me relax and loosen up. This time, though, I’m thinking about my old man, and how I wanted this race to go…
…before I know it, it’s 8:45am, fifteen minutes before race time. I have been having problems with my feet lately, so I sadly forego the wearing of my dad’s shoes during the race. They just don’t have the support… and they are also two sizes too big for me. That doesn’t mean they aren’t coming with me though.
The horn goes off at 9:00am on the Campus Rec track of Binghamton University and 120 runners begin the 5K Heart Run. Yours truly is one of them. I’m in my red shirt with “One Time For Tim!” puffy-painted on the back. I have on Under Armour, and my red headband as well. I’m pretty red & black at this moment. The most important accessory though is being carried like a pair of footballs, one under each arm. Tim’s shoes and I are doing this race together.
The course itself was pretty flat, yet surprisingly difficult because it was on a constant incline for the first mile and a half. There I am, plodding along, passing people and trying to figure out my rhythm. I never really feel like I get my pace right though. I’m still doing alright, and I’m feeling pretty good. The course doubles back over itself, so when I make the turn to go back around the halfway point, I can now see the other runners. We cheer each other on, and encourage each other to keep pushing. Lots of younger folks, lots of older ones too.
So now I’m close to the end. I’ve been shamelessly following a 14 year-old and using him as a pace car to keep myself going. He’s got time and youth on his side, so I figure I’d tag him as my goal. He pulls away, not surprising, and leaves me playing catch-me-if-you-can. His “kick” is little faster than mine, but I make it respectable. We are almost to the finish, and I put whatever I have left out there and move as fast as I can. I cross the finish line just after my pacer… 23:03 is my time.
I check the board after the race to see how I did. 9th overall, and 3rd in my age division! Not bad! However, I can’t claim 9th place. I’m calling it 10th….
…I held my dad’s shoes in front of me before I finished. He finished 9th. Tim was going to finish before me… and not wearing his shoes during the race turned out to be the best idea I had.
After some breakfast, it was time to visit the Heart Walk Festivities. According to the event organizers, over 1,500 attended the event. There were people of all walks of life, enjoying the activities. There were heart-healthy food booths, informational kiosks, and even a section where you could get screened for your health. I’m just taking it all in at this point. Lots of people with sponsored shirts, homemade signs, just about everything you can imagine to show support.
At 12:30pm, we all go outside to start the walk. We hear from a speaker who himself survived heart disease. Get tested, he says, because you never know when it’s all over. Very true. They call up all of the heart disease/heart attack/stroke survivors. Slowly, people leave the giant crowd and make their way up front. A lot of older folks, but also some folks my age, maybe even younger make their way to the grandstand. A giant round of applause… well-deserved. We stand at attention for the national anthem, and then… with a “ready, set, go!” … we walk. Tim’s shoes are on my feet. I’m going to walk a literal mile in his shoes…. I ended up doing two.
The walk is a loop around campus, roughly one mile. It was amazing to see this stream of humanity as far as the eye could see making their way around the campus. At strategically placed points were signs giving statistics about heart disease and stroke… a grim reminder of why we are doing this walk. My dad is in my thoughts for the entire walk. Lots of my old memories just come to me… most are the ones I’ve been blogging about over the past couple of months. The sun is shining, the air is springtime cool, and it was a glorious day.
We make it back and they wrap up the walk. They announce that thus far, we have raised over $200,000! What a great accomplishment! We applaud and congratulate each other on a job well done.
As I am leaving, a woman from one of the health care sponsors asks to take a picture of my dad’s shoes. I oblige and pose for the pictures. I tell her there is a story behind them. She snaps a picture and asks about it. I tell her they are my dad’s and that he passed away 15 years ago. I was here for him. She gave me a very sad smile and some great words of encouragement.
After all of that activity, it was time to go home. Once I got back, I fell asleep for a bit, and now… here I am… writing the last post in this blog.
This idea started on a whim all the way back in November of 2011. I wanted to commemorate my dad’s passing some how, seeing as it has been 15 years since he lost to heart disease. I wanted to do something so special and beneficial to not only his memory, but to everyone I came in contact with as well.
When I set the goal of $5,000… I personally thought it was a great pipe dream to aim for… after all… if you shoot for the moon and miss, you at least land among the stars… so the saying goes. Needless to say, I feel like the Neil Armstrong of charities right about now. We not only landed on the moon, we planted a flag and swung a couple of golf clubs while we were here.
I don’t share a lot of stories about my dad because I never figured anyone would be interested in them. That may or may not be true, but the response I got from this blog was also amazing. Over 2,000 views of the past 80-some days. It means that some of you cared enough to see what my old man was about during his shortened life on this planet. I truly hoped you enjoyed some of these stories and thoughts about my dad. My only regret is that some of you never got a chance to meet him face-to-face. I’m sure he would not have disappointed you, and would have lived up to the antics portrayed.
One Time For Tim! was born out of the idea that no one should EVER lose someone they love so early in life to a treatable and screenable disease. Heart disease is THE #1 killer in the US. It is detectable and preventable with pro-activity. Know y0ur cholesterol numbers, know your BP, know your health status. Go out and be active… jog, walk, sports, fitness classes, ANYTHING to get you moving. Be wary of what you eat, take the time to examine your intake and portions. The last thing I want anyone to experience is this kind of loss. Let’s not have any more memorials or blogs about loved ones who left us too early.
To all of you who have lost someone too early in life: I know your pain. It gets easier each passing day, but it never fully goes away. There will be moments that you wonder “I wonder what _______ would say/do if they were here now?” We live them, and it hurts sometimes. Know that you are loved and supported by friends, family, and others who have experienced this themselves. I still have trouble doing this, but it has been easier with time. You don’t need to fight alone.
FINAL BLOG TOTAL
Thanks to the efforts you have taken for this endeavor, we ended with:
Since we can fundraise until the end of May, we are not out of the woods yet. We are in first place as a family/friends team, and I want us to stay that way! If you still feel the need to donate, click on the link below!
Finally, THANK YOU to every single person out there who donated, supported, re-posted, spread the word, cheered, followed along, and loved us and this endeavor. To say this is a dream come true is an understatement. The outpouring of care from everyone has been staggering. Without you, this is nothing. Thanks for taking this to a level never thought possible by me. I hope you are all as proud as I am of this event, you have earned it.
Tonight, I will be looking toward the sky at a very starry night. I’ll probably see Orion… one of my favorite constellations. It will remind me of the wintry nights back in my childhood… looking up at the pitch black sky and seeing that familiar belt of his. I’ll shut my eyes, and I will be transported back to our little house outside of New Philadelphia, Ohio. I’ll imagine my dad standing next to me… pointing out some of the stars, like he would every once in a while. I’ll open my eyes, and Orion will be there, just like he was so many years ago. Another memory, another night… one of many I always hope my friends and family have with their loved ones. Y’know, the little moments that have such a big impact on your life.
Tonight… there will be a message for all the stars though. From all of us…. straight out to the infinite cosmos and beyond. A message that has special meaning to me and the ones who knew and loved him. It’s a message that will lift so much heaviness… 15 years worth… from my heart and soul, and replace it with a piece of mind and joy for us all. A message that will signify the end of this fantastic adventure.
Hey… dad… we did it. One time. For you.
“I love my father as the stars – he’s a bright shining example and a happy twinkling in my heart.” – Terri Guillemets