It wasn’t until last November that I realized how much Technology has made an impact on my life. Previously I’d joined a group on Facebook called the Pathetic Runners Group (PRG). In that group I met Tiffany Ferguson, a novice runner and soon to be friend. You can read some previous posts on this if you’d like. Simply put, we weren’t best friends but we’d shared goals and some stories. Enough that her death in November made a huge impact on my life, in some ways that I can’t even share on here. Part of what we talked about was her half, the Lighthouse half. I wanted to be up and meet her at the finish line, but the morning of the half I overslept due to a migraine and missed out. At that time, I sent her a note and I said “next time”, but that next time would never come.
I was never very good at leaving things unfinished. Once I heard that they would have a series of races in her name I was in, but once I heard there was a half I decided that I was running this half for the “next time” that never came for her and I. I don’t think I shared my motivation with my family or my friends, I simply told them “I was doing it”. As the time came, life happened and I became asthmatic as well as suddenly facing a divorce. Between kids and health, living took precedence over training. Running a half in the spring for me is always a sketchy endeavor, but this half in particular follows nearly a year of me spending more time sick than well. In the 2 months prior to the half I was asthmatic and barely able to walk much less run, so training wasn’t able to happen. So I knew I was facing 13.1 miles with next to no training. And still, I wasn’t going to give it up.
On top of that, after telling my son Tiffany’s story, which today hits home more than anyone can imagine, and showing him the news. He decided he was doing it with me. Previously we’d run 5Ks but that was over a year ago at this point. So he trained by running around my uncle’s house in the UP and he too was signed up for the half. In the meantime, my friend Preston, who suddenly became an integral part of our household fixing things around the house and trying to keep my cars running, got sucked into trying a half too. He didn’t get any training in either as he was drawn into the projects around my house. This was also his first running race!
So, as the date approached I worried I wouldn’t be able to run. My friends tried to talk me into backing out or doing a different run, but there was NO WAY. I was doing the half or going to pass out trying. Plus I had my 11 year old son by my side so how would it look if mama withdrew. Nope. This was road we would travel together. We met Friday before the race at the Mackinac Bridge and stayed in Kalkaska.
My friends have come to Kalkaska with me. The night before we met our fellow PRGers, people that previously were only names and pictures on Facebook posts. We share conversation, spaghetti, wine, and the hotel hot tub. The time is bitter sweet because the person who brought us together in her absence was also oddly what we were running for. I tend to be quieter in groups and observe, but it is so nice to have a chance to interact with everyone. Heather puts on a fabulous pasta dinner, cake, AND these spectacular shirts. In fact the shirts were a bit of an argument between Preston and Billy because I only got 2 and suddenly there were 3 of us running!
The Morning of the Run (Pre Race)
Waking up the Saturday of the race, it’s just before 7 a.m. and of course it is raining and chilly. Luckily it isn’t as cold as I thought it would be, but with 2 sick people in our party and myself who has issues running in the cold and breathing the prospect of 13.1 miles in this weather is bleak. With both Billy and Preston sick, the first conversation of the morning as we looked at the downpour is “so are you in?”. Both decide they are, but Billy being just 11, I worry he’s not thought this through. I stress that if he chooses to NOT finish that I will NOT stop with him and he will have to be picked up alone because I don’t intend to stop. He agrees that he is feeling good enough to do this and he “Will do it”!
As we prepare to go out, we take inventory of our long sleeve shirts Sadly we are lacking, but luckily John just pulled in from Army training and we divvy up his somewhat used gear. Used gear is better than being cold. I take the jacket, Billy takes the sweatshirt, and Preston takes my fleece. A mismatch of clothing and items we look like a rag tag band of misfits and we are off to the lobby to meet our group and head over for the run.
Together our PRG group parades toward the High School. A little after 7 a.m. at the Kalkaska Highschool the PRGers get together for a picture. We share stories again, complain about the rain, laugh, offer to drag each other over the finish, and just generally smile. Spirits are high even in the face of the rain. At the start line, Heidi gives my son her plastic bag / rain cover, it is long on him, but it helps and in the end he uses it for the entire race. Despite stepping on it, sliding out of it, and generally wrestling with it through the entire run he still refuses to take it off! I can’t thank Heidi enough because in addition to keeping him somewhat warmer as people see him in it they call him batman with his cape and I think that brings up his morale up each time it starts to dip. What was a simple contractor bag to Heidi was a symbol, motivation, and strength to my son. Which just goes to show that you never know the importance of something you give someone because what might seem simple to you could be the one thing that keeps them running when they truly want to stop.
During the Race
We start lining up according to speed. There is a surprising amount of us there. All the events started at the same time so there were 5Kers, 10Kers and halfers all at the start line. Running tips are thrown about and people show off their new gear to their friends. Suddenly the line starts moving, it is time. As we each pass over the start point the excitement grows.
Mile 1 through 6
They are the easy miles for us and shared with the 5K & 10K groups. By the end of the first mile Preston pulls ahead, leaving Billy and I. Billy runs steadily by my side and at mile 4 begings to lag behind. He wants to walk, but I have issues walking and we agree no walking for me until about mile 6. With increasing issues we come up with a system he runs ahead while I run at my pace and he rests until I catch up with him. The method works fabulously and we easily knock off 6 miles.
By mile 7 we take a walking break together and eat our Hammer Gel as we drink our water. We are strong and it isn’t too bad. We even encounter another child, she is a 10 year old girl and her mom. For much of the half we are near each other, which is good for the kids too. I think seeing he wasn’t the only one in the half really helps him focus that he can do it! We sort of frog leap back and forth with this mom and her young daughter one minute we are ahead and the next they are.
The spectators and volunteers yell, cheer, call him Batman, and give him extra kudos. Each time he hears the extra cheering he begins to run fueled with their calls with the contractor bag, I mean cape, billowing behind him. The extra way to go’s really help him through some of the tougher points. I’m not the kid glove mom so his encouragement speech from me is simply “you said you’re going to do this and you will do this. You have X miles down and now that means we only have X miles left.” He’s also a very financial minded child so I told him when he said he wanted to do the half with me that if he backed out or quit he’d owe me $100. Sometimes I think the largest part of his determination is that he is NOT GOING TO PAY ME $100 because he repeated that A LOT!
Mile 8 and on!
Some where after mile 7 we entered this two track. It had sand and this HUGE hill. I swear the hill was easily a 98 degree climb completely vertically. We struggle up the hill, I tweak my knee and we end up resting. As we enter mile 8 with me injured and him rapidly tiring, his spirit takes a dive. We round the next water tent and while he takes a moment we meet up with more PRGers that were running behind us. Our pace is slowing significantly. Behind us is Heather and GC. GC looks injured, but I don’t ask because at this point you just want to focus on finishing and NOT on your injuries. As they pull ahead of us in the last 4 miles, you can see them working together and we encourage one another. Ultimately, we will all finish this and there will be no PRGer left behind.
Billy and I text Preston at Mile 10 to see where he is and he’s already finished! We, of course are jealous, and keep pressing on. At mile 11, Billy is rough so walking is difficult and he admits that unless he is holding my hand he falls behind. So we begin to walk hand in hand. He jokes that he needs someone else to hold his other hand. Heather has pulled ahead and I encourage him to keep up.
“Mom,” he says “Go on without me.”
“No, Billy, I won’t. If this was mile 2 I likely would because I’m not going for the whole 13.1 walking. But you made it to this point and we are going to finish this together. I am NOT leaving you here so lets go. Right now we have less than a 5K left.” He looks at me and smiles, walking on. We try to call Uncle Tom, but he’s not home and Billy leaves him a message that he’s at Mile 11!
Billy and I talk about why this run exists and who it is benefitting. He asks me, “can I meet her children, mom?” He’s lost a lot of people in his life, especially recently, so even though he has me I know he is internally identifying with the loss the kids likely feel. I tell him likely not, but that his efforts here and this race will help the kids get things they need. We discuss what those needs could be and soon we are at mile 12.
The Final Stretch
Preston texts us “where are you?” and I reply “we are on the last mile and Billy is rough. He could use a cheerleader.” Little did I expect, Preston after completing his own 13.1 walks back and meets us with a 1/2 mile left to go. He grabs Billy’s other hand and the pace is picked up as we work on the final half mile. Heather pulls ahead, promising GC she will be back for her and leaves us behind as well. She is running strong and I’m excited for her.
Preston tells us about his finish. It turns out our group was there for each other and John even threw himself into the fray at the end for Preston running the last few miles with him as his pacer. The two of them ran neck in neck until the very last when I’m not sure if it was the excitement of being nearly done or a little bit of competitive bad assery that encouraged Preston to sprint past John and over the finish.
Preston begins to tell Billy how close we are and what to expect as we get closer. Once we get to the track, Preston leaves us across the grass. I encourage Billy to run around the track and finish his race by running over that finish line. I watch in amazement as he picks up the pace, cape billowing once again behind him, and runs to the finish. 3.5 miles previously he was telling me that there was no way he’d be able to run at the finish, but here I am watching him sprint with vigor toward the finish line.
Purposely I stay back so that his moment is HIS well earned moment. At the end I tell him how bad ass he really is, but all he is concerned about is food and getting to the car. I want to stay and hang out with the rest of my group but this kid has reached deep in himself and pulled out more miles than I’d ever thought he could do at once, so to the car we go waving goodbye to David and Jennifer.
Running for Tiffany is a beautiful idea. Running was something she loved and I like how the run encourages people who knew her to get out and be physically active. Although I think it would have been fulfilling to run it alone, running it with my son and seeing him accomplish more than I think either of us dreamed he could was more than any mom could ask for. He realized his strength and determination during the race and in tackling the miles together our relationship changed. Suddenly for him a 5K or 10K didn’t seem too bad and I think as he approaches life with his eye issues and his ADHD, that he will always be able to draw on the fact that he was one of two kids that finished this 13.1 mile run. And in some way although the proceeds from the run will benefit Tiffany’s family, her run has also given my son a gift because he knows now that he is strong and can accomplish anything. That’s a huge lesson to have the opportunity to reap at such a young age. And in reality, its not just MY son but everyone who was there Saturday and accomplished something they never thought possible until they actually did it!!! Whether your race was a 5K, 10K or half you were all rock stars!!!!!
Thank you Tiffany. Even in your absence your light shines on.
The 3 close up finishing pictures were taken from Facebook, please check the link out for more images from race day.
Check on the race details at: RunFree4Tiffany.com
Also other posts related to this run and Tiffany’s Story: