Sunday, January 31, 2016

Forrest's 30-30-30 Run

When I looked at my daughter and saw a faint reflection of myself in her face, I almost melted and ran out on the floor like a Popsicle placed before a blazing fire. It was a powerful moment that touched me deeply and continues to capture my soul.

Fast-forward thirty six years. We were back lit by a car's headlights while thick darkness enveloped the world around us. A fierce and bitter headwind beat against our faces as we slowly made our way north on one of the state's most dangerous stretches of asphalt, Money Road. But I was happy because my image in some small way as once more making a faint impression on the world. This time, however, the image was not one of looks but of action, and the imager was not my daughter but my son.
Early in the run. Thanks, Candy.


It was January 23, 2016, and the time was the ungodly hour of 5:00 am. The event was my son's 30-30-30 Run for Diabetes, a combination birthday celebration run and a fundraiser for the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. The original plan was for Forrest to run thirty miles on his birthday and have thirty people donate thirty dollars to our state's premier diabetes charity. Things didn't go as planned, however. After an article in the Greenwood Commonwealth, the donations started pouring in and the $900 goal was quickly surpassed long before the run took place. Nice way for things to go astray.

Candy Hony, a friend and co-worker of my boy's, got up early and drove behind us until the darkness was driven fully away by a rising sun, which remained hidden by clouds depriving us of the glory of a sunrise. It was odd, running in the dark, back lit by a car's headlights, but comforting because normally deserted in the predawn hours, Money Road was busy with traffic. Over and over we were passed by a steady stream of pickup trucks pulling boats, some pulling trailers with off road vehicles, and some pulling nothing. Hunters. I didn't think about the hunters who would also be travelling north and Candy's presence was a real safety enhancement that I was glad we had. Thank you, Candy. 
At the half way point.

When we got to Craigside, I told Forrest I had to make a pit stop. I thought it was a good place since the gravel road to the right gave me the opportunity to get off the highway. I wasn't expecting the mud puddles, however, which I stepped in and got wet feet on a cold morning when getting wet can be dangerous. After doing my business, I caught up with Forrest who shortly later told me he needed to go off road. When he did, I slowed to a walk but kept moving forward. He seemed to be taking a long time, and I wondered what was the problem was. 

Later when another angel came to take care of us, he said, "You haven't lived until you've taken a $h+t on the railroad tracks in the dark." 

Dude, that's hard core. 

The angel answered, "I'm content not to live."

Bu we lived that day. We ran and walked until angel number two, Sherry Smith, drove out for the first time and found us abut 11 miles up the road. Our coolers were in the back of her car. Mine contained ice-cream, my top secret endurance food that I've been promoting for years. Despite me yelling from the housetop, my secret remains intact. 

We made it fifteen miles up the road, and then we stopped and took a selfie. After that, we turned and headed south and hoped the wind would hold. It had been in our face all morning. We weren't long going south before Sherry made her second appearance. Her hatchback Hyunda was perfect for a rolling aide station, and later I thanked her for considering us when we purchased her car.

Our music. God was the DJ.

On the way back (actually it started before) I was having a little difficulty keeping up with Forrest. Since we were doing a run/walk scheme, I would catch up after he started walking. Finally, it got to the point where I wasn't getting to walk at all. The last time we were together I told him to go ahead and not wait on me. "I know the way home," I said, "and I'll get there." So he did. For whatever reason, I didn't run well that day. I should have because I was tapered for the first time in months. But the juice wasn't working even though I had ice-cream in my cooler that Sherry ferried out to us three times.

To make a short story long, Forrest left me in his cold dust while I struggled to get in. When I got near the radio station, Sherry and my wife Penny drove up and asked if I wanted a ride. Although I was barely shuffling along, I said, "No." They seemed genuinely surprised at my answer, but I was coming in on my feet if any way possible.

Forrest finished strong in 6:18:46. I dragged in about thirty minutes later. I think my time was 6:48 and change. I cleared the history on my watch before I wrote the time down. Maybe I just wanted to hide the record, but though it was a tough day for me, I had a glow about having done it. I always do after completing a really long endurance event. 
Angel number two. Thanks, Sherry.


When I made it to Forrest's, Dr. Assini, a local diabetes activist, was there; Bethany Theilman of the DFM was present with her son, Evan; a reporter from the Greenwood Commonwealth sat on the couch and asked questions. Sherry, Penny, Claudia Henson, Paul Brown and maybe a few others finished out the crew. I found a seat after divesting myself of some of the excess clothing I had on because of the cold. Paul had cooked soup and Claudia brought a nice salad. I started with the soup and after a couple of bowls, I attacked the salad.

We didn't stay too long after the meal. When Penny and I got home, I took a bath and went to bed. That's pretty much where I stayed the rest of the day. The Commonwealth ran an article on the run the next day. Again, my heart swelled with pride as I read about my son's activism, the money raised, and the attention awakened to a real problem that we have the ability to positively impact.