Romance. It is not a word that one associates with running. Until this weekend, I didn’t either.
Along with why Roosevelt did not know about Pearl Harbor and why Bush did not know about the 9/11 bombings, it will go down with one of the great historical questions. How could I not have known that my wife was scheming to join me in Miami for the half marathon? After all, she started running a lot more in the weeks leading up to the race. She started asking me questions about a friend who had prepared for a half-marathon and how she had done so. Still, after some non-denial denials on Rochie’s part, I accepted that I would be going to Florida alone. I even wrote an e-mail that in hindsight seems absurd, about how I would be sacrificing by being away from my family. In hindsight, a comped king-size sweet over looking the ocean, along with the first away time we have had since our son was born over 13 years ago was hardly a sacrifice. It was one of the most wonderful weekends of my life. What follows is a combination race recap and thank you note to the love of my life.
I should have suspected something when Rochie suggested that I get a ride to the airport. She is type of person who would drive me to the airport even if it was in Afghanistan. Still, a little disappointed I got a ride. As we got ready to board the plane, I was dumbstruck to see Rochie waiting nearby, trying to hide out. After convincing her that the surprise was not ruined by my detecting her before she got on the plane, we were off. I couldn’t stop smiling. In fact, I still am as I write.
Rochie explained that she had felt that as supportive as she had been one of my running addiction, she felt she was missing a part of my life. She wanted it all. So Friday morning we went to the running expo. There, first hand, I taught Rochie about all the important things. The free gifts that are given out, the excitement of discovering new flavors of running jelly beans and the latest marathon possibilities in Belize. Somehow, she seemed to enjoy it.
Over Shabbos (the Sabbath), she met many of the friends I had made in previous years. Needless to say, they loved the story of her surprise and her willingness to run. We struggled with the fact that we did not need to keep our six children entertained, but somehow we managed. We went for walks, talked about things other than the relative merit of Target diapers versus Pampers, and the like. With 13 years of catching up to do, we managed.
Saturday night, after an uplifting and powerful pasta party/ Chai Lifeline pep rally, I taught her the all important skill of attaching the timing chip to her running shoes and the need to set 3 alarm clocks. Deciding to throw caution to the wind, I decided not get a wakeup call as well.
By Sunday the nerves were there, after all, as secondary as it seemed, I had come to Miami to run a race. Rochie learned the importance of finding the porta-potties before all else, baggage check and lining up in the proper corral. When I had to say goodbye to go to my corral, I started to cry. I didn’t want to split up, even if it was for a few hours. (For those of you who think I am a doofus for not running with her, I offered, several times in fact).
Ryan Hall, the great American Olympic runner started the race. He said he wished he could be out there running with us. I found myself wondering whether he meant it. Is running still fun for him, or is it a job? He said to honor God with each step. I liked that. I admired his ability to talk about God publicly. Then we were off.
Mile 1- Despite one of the pre-race speakers saying that the 70 degree weather was “perfect for running”, I am sweating profusely. I think of Rochie, who is wearing a Chai Lifeline shirt over a long sleeve running shirt and how uncomfortable she will be. I miss her already.
Mile 2- I have already lost the pace setter who I was hoping to stick with until mile 10. It occurs to me that his name is Eric. This makes me think of my brother who was unable to join me this year. I miss him.
Mile 3- Someone shouts “Good Pace”. I think of Rochie who told me that when ever she saw the word “Pace” on the treadmill screen, she thought of me. I realize that all of you who know by my English name Marc and not my Hebrew name Pesach are wondering what the heck Pace has to do with me.
Mile 4- Someone is carrying a sign that says “Go Skip”. I fight the urge to shout out “I want to run not skip”. Apparently running kills brain cells because I think it would have been funny.
Mile 5- There are paper tombstones set up in a local park to memorialize all the American soldiers who have died overseas. It is good to remember that, in the scheme of things, running is not truly heroic.
Mile 6- Someone has a sign with an alliterative message “Run Ron Run”. I think of my dad who I truly miss. Although I am unsure whether he would appreciate my obsession with running, I know he would have loved Rochie’s decision to surprise me. He loved everything about her.
Mile 7- There is a helicopter flying overhead. I think of Jack Bauer and 24. How about a season where Jack has to stop terrorists from attacking a marathon? I find myself wondering whether in the midst of a marathon I would thank him from saving me from a quick and painless death.
Mile 8- I pass the place where last year I realized that I had lost my bib. I note with irony the sign that welcomes me to San Marco Island. I realize that all of you who know by myHebrew name Pesach and not my name Marc are wondering what the heck San Marco has to do with me.
Mile 9- Ouch. No make that ouch, ouch, ouch. The humidity is taking its toll. I realize that breaking 1:40 is out, but that I might still set a PR if I can handle a little more pain.
Mile 10- The fan support is heavy. Boy do I need it. I tell myself that every sign cheering someone whose name starts with a P is really for me. At different moments I become Pedro, Pascual and Penelope. I shout out to every person who is wearing a Chai Lifeline t-shirt.
Mile 12- Almost there. I give it everything I have left. I am digging so deep that my feet hurt.
Mile 13- 1/10 of a mile to go. Damn the Queen of England.
1:42:05. A PR by 56 seconds. Top 5%. Over 45 minutes faster that my first half two years before. I’ll take it.
I get my finisher’s medal. I do not put it on. Bethany, a beautiful young lady who is a camper at Chai Lifeline’s Camp Simcha, and is an honorary runner, is supposed to give our team our medals. No matter how long I have to wait, I will not put in on without her. It takes 15 minutes, but I find her. Her smile makes it worth every second.
My race is not over. I start walking back to find Rochie. Along the way I cheer for every member of our team who is still running, who I pass. I know how much the cheering helps me. I also encourage as many random runners as I can. Their smiles warm my heart.
Finally, I see HER. She looks wiped. She is sweaty and exhausted. In other words, she looks beautiful. She is too tired to make conversation. She has the look of determination on her face that lets me know that she will finish even if she has to crawl there. Of course, she doesn’t have to. She crosses the finish line and can barely stand. For the first time in over 17 years, I find myself supporting her. We take the finishers picture together. I hope it comes out well, but it won’t matter. Either way, I will forever have the memory of this weekend etched on my heart. I am married to my best friend. I love her with all of my heart. What more could I ask for?