It's good to be back in Ashland after a week in “the land of a million dreams” (if my math is correct, that's about a half a dream per person that was at Disney ;>). I've done several marathons, but Disney was more exhausting than any of them. But the smiles on my kids' faces made it all worthwhile. I have to say, Disney was one of the most friendly and cleanest places I've ever visited. Just about every park worker had a “trash-picker-upper-thing”. I thought it would be nice to have those for Dave's Pick-up 150 project.
I did manage to get in a few runs during my time in Florida. The first few days, we stayed near my sister on Bradenton Beach. It was cold (50's and 60's) and windy most of the time we were there, not great beach weather. I did a 4 miler on Saturday on a really nice bike path they had on the Island. On my way back with the wind at my back, I was feeling pretty good, & was keeping up with an old couple riding their bikes. The lady looked over at me after a few hundred yards and said “nice running”.
On Monday, I started out for another run, thinking I might go 5 miles. The wind was really strong & coming from the North, so I headed up the beach into the wind. There were a lot of people out for such a cold & windy morning (not like my beach in NC which I'm sure would have been almost deserted on such a day). I noticed a few runners were out. As I got a couple of miles into the run and I could see the point where the Gulf of Mexico met Tampa Bay. Something told me I should keep running to the point, which looked like it was a couple more miles. As I made it to the point, fighting the wind gusts and blowing sand, looking out at the Gulf I noticed the waves breaking in two directions, against the shore and against the bay, it was kinda neat to see. Just before I made the turn-around to head back, I noticed a runner headed the other way. He looked to be going about the same pace, so after I made the turn, I decided to pick-up the pace a little to try to catch up with him. As I pulled up beside him, I said “a lot easier running this direction”. As we ran, we talked a little. I found out Steve was from Green Bay, and was down on vacation with friends. He was training for Grandma's Marathon, and had run about 15 previous marathons. He was an avid racquetball player, and we talked about the risk of injury when doing other sports while training for a marathon. We talked about our running groups at home, and what a great group of people they are. I learned like me, he had two daughters but both of his were grown, with his youngest in college.
We were having such a good conversation, Steve asked if it would be okay to keep running with me past where he was staying on the beach (he thought he might be slowing me down), I said that would be great. Then Steve told me that last year, he had surgery to remove a kidney that was cancerous. My dad had that same surgery about 15 years ago, and I remember how much we worried about him. Here was a guy that had the big “C” less than a year ago, and was now training for a marathon, and he wasn't just jogging. We were running along a pretty good pace. After running together for about 3 miles, Steve said he was turning back, as he had friends waiting on him. He asked if I would be running on the beach anymore that week, but I told him, we were headed to Disney the next morning. We shook hands (while still running) and he turned back up the beach.
For the next mile I thought about Steve. About how frightened he and his family must have been when they found out he had cancer. About what a tremendous recovery he had made. Sometimes I think, God must look out for runners. He must figure, we put ourselves through so much voluntarily, He'll give us a break from time to time.
Anyway, I was glad I met Steve. I had been bumming about having such lousy weather in Florida, and he completely changed my attitude. I was happy to be running. I was happy to be on vacation with my family. I was happy to see my sister, Sherry and her husband Ray, their daughter Jennifer and her two kids, CJ and Tori. I was happy that I got to spend some quality time with my parents, who rode with us on our 14 hour drive down (& the 14 hour drive back). I was even happy to go to “the land of a million plus people”. I probably wouldn't recognize Steve again if I saw him, but I will always remember running with him.
See ya on the streets,