This is the third year that Cody has participated in the RFL. The first year he didn't have all his hair back yet because of his chemo and stem cell transplant and he still had the broviac catheter in his chest for administering his meds and food. Up to this year the weather has been a factor. The first year we only attended the opening ceremony but it rained most of the night which made for a miserable night for the walkers. Last year I returned in the early morning to run my shift but not a full marathon. The night before we had very high winds and many of the tents went flying across the football field. Fortunately this year the weather was perfect. Low humidity and warm temps. The wind was virtually nil.
Friday started out with the survivor dinner registration which was to start @ 4:30. I got home from work to pick up Cody to find that he had just laid down for a nap. DW and I agreed that I would go over to the fairgrounds without Cody and she would bring him over later for the actual dinner. "There isn't much for him to do anyway at that point". So I drove over and helped my team put the finishing touches on the setup. My company has been a huge supporter of RFL for many years. The owner is very community oriented and I feel extremely lucky and proud to be a part of it all.
5pm rolls around and DW drops Cody off at our tent. Most of the others have already got their food and sat down to eat. Now for those of you who have never been to this event, the dinner is just for survivors. It's simply not possible to feed all the family members and friends. This becomes a little sticky for new comers as they often get upset about it. One rule they do have is that if someone is there as a care giver or a parent of a small child they can eat also. Since we have been involved, Cody has always been the youngest survivor. He usually draws the most cheers and attention. One thing though, we both get looks from the new people who don't know that Cody is a survivor. They think we are eating for free or something. I'm usually not very successful getting him to eat much because there is just so much going on around him. This year was no exception. I ended up eating most of the food "minus the cake of course". The dinner was perfect for me this year because they had the pre-race dinner of champions, "spaghetti w/meatballs". "I went back for seconds". LOL
So after diner was a raffle of gifts that were donated by local businesses and individuals. This too is only for survivors. They had all the prizes arranged on a table so people could get a look at them. There were only a couple of things that were child oriented and Cody quickly had his eye on a bubble gun with flames on the side of it. This year, there were many more gifts than people to win so Cody had no problem winning the one he wanted. When his number was called there were still previous winners at the table whom hadn't made up their minds yet. So Cody stood patiently waiting for them to get out of the way so he could get to his perfect prize.
7pm, opening ceremonies. Every year they do a ribbon cutting ceremony to begin the event. This year they also had 3 torch bearers. One was the oldest survivor then the survivor who has been in remission the longest and the the youngest survivor "Cody". Before the relay starts they have each survivor say his or hers name and tell what type of cancer they had and how long they have been a survivor. Once again Cody usually gets the loudest cheers. He really does enjoy his time in the spotlight. Once the ribbon is cut the survivors start the Relay by doing the first lap. Cody thought he was a hot shot this year because he got to carry the torch. As we walk around the track the survivors receive an applause from all the people are there to do the Relay. Cody seems to have a real competitive nature. He always wants to be in the lead and this is no exception. I had to keep reminding him that this was no race. LOL I wonder what he is going to want to do when he is older? That is something we are going to have to check into with his doctor. I know he isn't supposed to do any heavy weight lifting type of activities when he gets older. I don't know if running is going to be a problem. So after the first 5 laps the kids have had enough of that. One of the team members brought a pup tent that was in the shape of shark so the kids had something else to keep their attention for a little while. It was getting close to 9pm so this old ape was ready to get home and go to bed. I was planning on starting my run at 5am. This way I could run at a decent pace before the end of the event. I told DW that I was ready to leave and she could stay with the kids for a little while if she wanted to but she was ready to leave also. We went home and everyone got their shower and I went to bed.
I had set my clock for 4:15 but I rarely have to use it. I'm not a very good sleeper especially when I have something to do the next day. So I was up and I jumped in the shower to help myself wakeup. Out the door by 4:20 and at the fair grounds by 4:30. When I get there I find 4 of my team member trying to stay awake and warm. I really don't think it was that cold but when you are sitting the the night air is damp it does get a little chilly. We had two other team members walking around the track. They had been walking since 4am I think. Once at the tent, I was trying to get all my stuff in order and explain to my team members who were staying for the duration everything I would need while running. They were extremely helpful and so motivating. I think they had the hard job. Every time I passed our tent they cheered me on. That would be almost 80 times.
So the clock hit 5am and I was off. As I explained in my "Advice Needed" thread, I really wasn't trained up to my peek for this run but I figured if I kept the pace slow I would be alright. The first mile was actually perfect as far as the feel went but faster than I wanted, 8:56 and my legs were a little tight which I had expected. Miles 2 thru 5 were faster than I had wanted, but I just attributed that to a totally flat course that I'm not accustomed to running. 8:50, 8:56, 8:40 and 8:20. By this time people who were sleeping in their tents had started to pop out and drink their coffee and eat their donuts. I couldn't help to think to myself that many of them should be out here running with me.. Mile 6 would turn out to be my last 9+ mile for quite awhile. It was 9:02 not that I could tell the difference. I really wasn't watching my pace as much as listening for my Garmin to tell me another mile passed. Mile 7 the sun had risen but luckily it was overcast. The temp felt to be in the upper 60s and pretty comfortable but a little humid. I had been drinking about every 2 to 3 miles so to stay well hydrated. By this time I started to get looks and hear whispers as I passed people again and again. Who is that guy? How long has he been running? This is the first year they have held the event at the county fair grounds and I hope they continue to hold it there. They have two tracks, one running inside of the other. Most of the walkers were walking on the inside track which left me alone on the outside track. Miles 8 thru 14 were pretty uneventful. With every pass of our team tent my team gave me a loud cheer and most of the others were enjoying the show. From mile 15 to 20 the laps seemed to blend together. I really did enjoy this run. Seeing the many people celebrating life and pulling together for a great cause made it a very special time. At one point I focused on the reason I was there and I became a little emotional. Not being much of a crying person the tears seemed to run together with the sweat. There was one particular tent that had some ladies that were keeping track of my adventure and around mile 19 they asked me how far I had run. When I told them they all seemed truly moved by the whole concept. As runners, especially distance runners we tend to take what we do for granted. You know the "I only have a 16 mile long run this weekend" mind set. On Friday evening as I was walking the 2nd or 3rd lap with my family a lady from the side had noticed the Louisville mini marathon T-shirt I was wearing and asked if I had run that to which I said "yes". It turns out that she did also. I talked to her later that evening as she was running her laps and told her my plan of running a marathon. She "Kate" said she was going to try to get there in the morning so she could run with me a couple of miles. Well, around mile 19 or so Kate showed up and started to run with me. I found out that she is the head oncology nurse at the local hospital. As we ran I told her Cody's story and my running hobby had begun. She explained to me that she could never be a children's oncology nurse because it was too hard to she children in that state. Most children's oncology nurses do not have children for that reason. I'm not really accustomed to running and talking because I train alone for the most part. Kate had asked me if it was OK for her to run with me and I welcomed it because it made the miles go by quicker. As we were running a lady and guy were taking pictures of me with each lap. They were not using normal personal cameras. It looked like they were photographers. It turns out they were from the local news paper and must have taken 20 pictures of me as I ran by. When I stopped around mile 23 to get my drink of water the lady ran up and started to walk beside me. She had got most of story from my team members but she just wanted to verify everything with me. Part of this story was the fact that I had put up my web page a week earlier and as of Friday I was the 3rd highest fund raiser. With the help of my friends at the RW Masters forum and the great people I work with we raised over $2711. Not too shabby huh. After speaking with this reporter I had started to get a little emotional again but kept it all together and continued my run. Around mile 23 or so one of Kate's friends, a doctor and his son joined in the run. They were both very nice and said they would be honored to run with me. Well, I have to say, I'm use to getting mostly negative attention so this was a change and I didn't really know how to act.. LOL with every lap the cheers became louder and more frequent. At one point my team members had the DJ play that stupid "Hey Mickey" song. Somehow I knew that was coming. People were clapping and asking me how many more laps to go. 24, 25 and 26 were pretty tough. Even though I had tried to hydrate well the run had started to take it's toll on my legs. 10:53, 14:24 and 12:01 were all I could manage. The doctor had asked if he could stay with me because I started to struggle a little and I think he was a little concerned. At mile 25.5 I decided I was going to push it and put a little distance between me and my running group. I know they could've kept up but I think they knew I wanted to be alone at this point so they stayed back and let me finish. When I finished my team members were there with high fives, Hershey Kisses and water. I can't remember any race that I was so thirsty and hungry at the finish. Usually I have to force myself to eat a bagel and banana.
I have to tell you all that this was by far the most enjoyable, gratifying and rewarding 26.2 I have ever run. If I can raise money and awareness by doing my long for the week with an audience I will do it every year.
Please don't forget that you can still give at Relay For Life.