I’m not sure who the first runner was to put names or initials on their race flats. I can’t say for sure why they did it or what it meant to them.
But for me I can say that the first time I did it was to honor Dom.
I did it because I wanted him with me on race day, in body, mind and spirit. Partly because I wanted him to be out on that race course, feeling my flats rush down the road, runners around us, battling the course, the weather and our own body as it began to break down and try to ease off the gas.
I wanted him to experience the sensation of “racing” as I knew that he would never get the chance to do so again after he lost his battle with cancer on August 15, 2010.
That fall I lost a good runner-friend of mine in Austin named Scott Birk. He was killed while out for a training run, struck by a motorist. Scott was a tremendous runner and an even better person.
One of the first to congratulate me in the finishing chute after a race, or keep the crowd loose by joking around at the start – Scott was one of a kind.
After the gun fired however, Scott was a fierce competitor and a tremendous athlete. When he was lost to his family and friends, the Austin running community also lost one of its great contributors.
I find comfort looking down and seeing his initials on my shoes in the starting area before the horn sounds. Scott had been there before.
Well at Boston this year I will have two more names on my shoes. A middle and high school friend of mine David Roitman will have his name on my right instep. David who is one of the nicest and truly funniest people you would ever meet, with an infectious energy and zest for life fell ill earlier this winter.
A very strange and sudden illness which robbed David of his strength, ability to walk, talk, or communicate in any way. He has since battled back after relearning all of those skills and continues to make tremendous strides. By late spring or early summer we hope to have David back 100%.
If anyone deserves to hear the roar of the crowd as we make the left turn off of Hereford Street onto Boylston and past the grandstands on the way to the finish line in Boston it is David.
Roitman – you are coming with me.
And of course, my Mom. I haven’t shared a lot about her in this space but her battle with brain cancer at the age of 81 was truly something to marvel at.
Surgery, treatment, medication, rehabilitation and she never, EVER, complained or asked “why me?” which is something I know for a fact I would be wondering.
She moved from step to step in the process, never doubting for a moment that she would beat it – made it to her appointments, listened to her Doctor’s and quite frankly, kicked cancer squarely in the ass.
I’m not sure how often children talk about being “proud” of their parents, but I am here to tell you that I am so very proud of my Mom. Aside from some mild complaining about what the radiation therapy did to her hair, she took it all as it came and never wavered.
So Dom, Scott, David and Mom – ready or not, here we go.
Your names will be the last images I look at just prior to the gun sounding in Hopkinton before I cast my eyes on the race course. When I pull off my flats 26.2 miles and 3 hours later, you will be the first images I see.
Thank you for providing me and many others with the inspiration to keep fighting when things are most difficult. I am most definitely going to need each of you on race day – I hope you all enjoy the tour of Massachusetts and the beat-down we are going to put on the Boston Marathon.
Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.