A year ago, I walked the Turkey Trot and was thankful that I had a ticket for the Ham Breakfast afterward. This year, I ran the Turkey Trot and was thankful that I was able to share the experience with family and friends.
As part of my Healthy U journey this year, I have participated in four 5K events and the Firecracker Mile on July 4. Before being selected for the inaugural Healthy U class in January, the last time I ran longer than 25 yards or so was in the early 1990s, when I would join co-workers a couple of times a week for full-court lunch-hour basketball games (boy, do I miss those). So covering a 3.12-mile course without using a vehicle has been a pretty big accomplishment.
When I went to County Distributing on Wednesday to pick up my race packet, Susan Mergen, development director for the Center for Human Services, pointed out a photo she had taken of me at the conclusion of last year’s Trot. She insisted it was to serve as motivation for me for this year’s event, although she might have been trying to see how much green fleece she could fit into a single photo frame. Like a bloated Thanksgiving turkey, that green pullover I was wearing was stuffed.
On Thursday morning, a warehouse at County Distributing served as the pre-race gathering point. There were lots of handshakes and hugs as friends and acquaintances bid one another a happy Thanksgiving. I gathered up my Healthy U buddies — Sarah Nail, chair of the Healthy Living Action group; Megan Webb, nutrition and health education specialist for the University of Missouri Extension Center; and fellow Healthy U students Amy Schneider and Trish Ballance — for a group photo. Then it was time to run.
The course was fairly challenging and the steady wind added to the difficulty factor. As I completed the first mile, a boy who might have been 5 years old would sprint about 20 yards ahead of me and stop, then take off again as I approached him. It was as if he was saying, “Try to keep up, dude. And why is your face so red?”
As we made our way out Cherry Tree Lane to the “double back” point, I saw a lot of familiar faces. Gage Harden, a 2012 Smith-Cotton graduate, offered up some encouragement as he jetted past me in the opposite direction (his “attaboys” for me in these races have been greatly appreciated). Sarah did the same as she passed me, and I shouted, “Keep going, run your race,” to my son, Chaz, 13, who was determined to beat his old man this time.
After the turn I saw Amy and Trish, both working hard and keeping steady paces. Later, my wife, Melany; our friend, Cheryl Giles; and our pastor, Kim Knowle-Zeller, and her husband, Stephen Zeller were within sight — which of course prompted me to run a little more upright and with a little better pace.
As we made our way back to ProEnergy Boulevard, I tanked. My goal had been to run the entire course, but I got to a point where my legs said, “Wait a minute,” and I broke down to a walk for about 12 paces. I picked it up again, but was disappointed in myself nonetheless.
As I came back to Eagle View Drive, the runners who had finished earlier were shouting encouragement to those of us still making our way. I hit the incline and decided I was going to finish with an empty tank, so I kicked in the best attempt at a sprint I could muster and finished strong. Kinda. I failed to beat my goal time, but logged a personal best by four seconds.
Chaz was waiting and gave me a high five. A couple of minutes later, Amy crossed the line to complete her first 5K on a road course — and in personal best time. Shortly thereafter, Trish finished strong as well.
On a day of giving thanks, here is what I was thankful for: Seeing the pride on my son’s face for not only beating his dad, but for achieving something he didn’t know he could do, finishing in just more than 32 minutes. Amy’s tears of joy at completing the run. Trish’s confident smile as she crossed the finish line. Sarah and Megan offering support to their students. And Melany having the opportunity to share a long walk with good friends.
I’m also thankful for the encouragements people have offered to all of us on our Healthy U journey. Your words are fuel that keep us striding toward our goals.