Thursday, November 22, 2012

Be Thankful and I am going to Nationals!

With the craziness that Super storm Sandy created for many people in the Northeast, we have plenty to thank. The little inconvenience of no power or hot water that we dealt with for two weeks does not compare to those who lost their entire home, vehicles and a few lost loved ones. Well last week, I got some great news, a friend was able to donate his kidney to his brother. We are very lucky and have a lot to be thankful for!

Almost two weeks after Sandy hit our shores of Long Island, I looked forward for a sense of normalcy at the AAU Regional Cross Country Qualifier for Nationals. However I wasn’t expecting something so great this day.

As I drove up, my eyes squinted and as I approached one of the cross country parents whose hands were flailing around guiding me so that my truck would be perfectly position in the empty spot next to the minivan. Eventually, the thumbs came out signaling me to slide my SUV closer to the vehicle to my right. Finally, all of the fingers were shown and my truck came to a stop on the grassy field located in St. James, NY. Funny I thought I was getting to close enough to get the single finger, not the thumbs up kind.

As the family filed out of the truck, the 100 cars that surrounded my SUV appeared to be organized in an orderly fashion. They did a great job, I thought to myself and I was quickly recruited to marshal part of the course. Having never done it before, part of my job was to make sure the racers would stay on the course. In Cross Country, the course sometimes crisscrosses back and forth across a field which can be confusing for the runner. I wasn’t running and I was confused. (Open for comments now!) Having given that short definition, I believe my career as a course marshal will be short lived. Suffice it to say, this part of the story warrants an extended entry. Just know that eating a snack during a race is not a good idea! No matter how hungry you are!

All the groups ran their races under blue skies and perfect temps for running. Both boys ran along side with about 50-75 kids in their appropriate age group event. Elijah looked happy and relaxed as a Primary. Zachary was slower than usual running on a sore right leg as a Bantam. I hope his tender calf will be ready for Nationals in South Carolina.

Eventually, the Midget group of children ranging in ages between 11 and 12 lined up for their race. Midget seems kind of derogatory, however that is the label given to that age group. With a pop from the starting gun, a few runners made it to the front, while many were swallowed up in the mass as they made the first left turn of the race. A few minutes later the lead pack rushed by my patrol area.

A few more minutes ticked past and a young lady, named Kate, donning a huge Smile came near. It was the kind of Smile that out shined the sun. That amazing Smile had no clue of the illness that she had to struggle with a few months ago leaving her with temporarily with thinned hair. That incredible Smile would have been a frown for many stroke victims, but not her. Well that Smile made my hand raise up to wipe my eyes that welled up with tears.

I felt overwhelmingly proud to be part of her “comeback.” I know so many who give up so easy, make excuses, or don’t believe they can do anything even with a tenth of her challenges. As she past, my thoughts turned to my kids. What if my kids were struck with a sickness that would render them powerless or if something happened to me, what would have been my last words said to them. It better be, “I love you.” Most likely it will be a stupid joke that we made and couldn’t stop laughing. Hopefully, the last words will never come from anger. So I am reminded to be very thankful for every opportunity with them, because you never know. I am truly blessed!

Kate was determined to finish the race, and her legs pushed her towards the back tree line of the 3000 meter course. She rounded the last 1000 meters, and I could hear father scream in the megaphone amplifier, “Runner on the course, clear the course!”

As her final 150 meters drew near, she had a gathering running with her. The scene reminded me the famous running scene in the movie, “Forrest Gump” as the group ran past my post. In fact, that was the scene that got me off my butt to do the 2008 NYC Marathon! Her 50 kid entourage ran along side of her and cheered her on to the finish. It was an amazing sight to behold.

The day was coming to a conclusion and we readied ourselves for the final races. I waited by Coach Joe and Kate walked back to my section of the course. Her Smile stretched ear to ear, as she gave him a high five and said, “Coach Joe, I’m going to Nationals!”

I have a lot to be thankful for and I wish you an awesome Thanksgiving as you take time to reflect on the important people in your life.