Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Running a 5K

Dear Family and Friends,

As promised, I am deviating from baseball for just one article to include the results from my 5K. I have to admit that this was one of the harder things that I have physically done in a long time, certainly since my knee surgery. For those who do not know the landscape of the city of Ithaca, it is at the tip of Appalachia, which means hills and lots of them. In the picture above, I was off to a burning quick start, in third place of over 200 runners after the first quarter-mile. It was a great feeling. I was thinking in my head that all of the treadmill work I had done in the past two months really had worked. Then, of course, reality set in as I reached the base of a 30 degree hill that quickly felt like from the top, I would be able to see several states away. The effect of this hill was the same as attaching a fifty pound anvil to my waist for the rest of my run. Despite miserable cramps, tired and sore legs and the cold rain falling on me, I managed to finish the first half of the race in 11:50, which put me on pace to finish well ahead of my goal of 24 minutes. Though, lap two presented the same challenge as lap one, that damn hill! As I climbed again, it completely took the air from my sails. I was through and pulled into the grass and walked while trying to stretch the cramps that had engulfed my entire torso into quiet submission.

It was at this point of weakness that I became thoroughly convinced that Uncle Bill was with me on this morning because it was at this time I started to think about the reasons why I decided to torture my body on the hills of Ithaca, New York. I thought that my Uncle Bill was not a quitter and walking my way towards the finish line would just not suffice. He stood for hard-work and constant effort in my eyes and there was absolutely no way that I could allow myself to stay limp in the grass. With the memorable guitar solo from "Free Bird" resounding in my ears through the headphones to my iPod, my legs began to move faster, catching up with Skynard's fingers. I reached the downhill portion of the course and had noticed that I was starting to pass people, rather than the reverse effect. With Uncle Bill pushing, I reached full stride again as the stopwatch hung around my neck ticked to 23:00. The cramps did not dissipate, but somehow they didn't matter. The only thing that did was to accomplish my goal, to beat the 24:00 mark. With the finish line in sight and a supportive crowd cheering me on (probably because I looked as though I was about to pass out), I turned off my music and enjoyed my moment with Uncle Bill. We crossed the finish line 72nd overall at 23:55 and with love and pride in our hearts.

Not long after the race was over, I got back to my car to notice that I received a message from a special friend, who had managed to skip out on a very important meeting just to root me on at the start and take a few photos. She wished me luck and told me how proud my uncle would have been of me. With tears in my eyes, I looked down at my number and it dawned on me -- I was wearing number 75 on my chest, the same as the age of my Uncle Bill.

There is no doubt in my mind that something special happened to me that morning and I have learned from this experience. No goal is large enough when you live like my Uncle Bill did. Through constant perseverance, loving what I do and the people around me, and never letting in anything is possible. All I have done throughout my time without Uncle Bill is try to take from these qualities and become a bit more like him. That day, I realized that thanks to Uncle Bill, I have the strength, ambition and love in my heart to do anything I want in life because I admired those things about him and have made them my own throughout the years of knowing him.

Doing this race was an eye opening experience to receive the amount of support and love from people in my family or close friends. Whether the support was meant to be for me or for Bill, it was appropriately sent because we both were together once more on a rainy morning in Ithaca, New York. Thank you very much to all of those who contributed to my effort to raise funds for cancer awareness and honor my Uncle Bill.

Love,

Dan

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