A Kevin kind of Day
On Sunday, November 1, 2015 I had the honor of participating in the TCS New York City Marathon as part of TEAM KEVIN to benefit the Elixir Fund; a charity that, as the founder and executive director, is obviously near and dear to my heart. In the back of my mind a marathon seemed like a great, but unachievable goal. My incredibly inspiring and determined friend Shelly Moore wanted to run just 1 marathon and hopefully in 2015. I told her that if she signed up, I would too. I had no idea what I was in for.
Leading up to the race I went through a range of emotions. Training, at first, went really well. I started out confident, meeting my training goals ahead of schedule. Somewhere after reaching the 15-mile training run mark I hit a wall and for weeks just could not break through it. On the rainy trip home from a half marathon that was a little more difficult than anticipated, I searched high and low for a rainbow (a significant symbol to my family that represents both Kevin and his friend Keith). I haven’t seen a rainbow in years, and suddenly I saw one, a giant one, that was visible for about 20 minutes as we drove up the NJ Turnpike. Then I saw another one when we were just about home and I swore that this one was landing in New York. I took it as a sign that all would be well.
Shortly after, I had an epiphany that race day would be here before I knew it and that if I wasn’t careful, I would suffer through the race rather than soak it all in. I feared I would miss all the incredible things that so many people had told me about the New York Marathon. I started practicing meditation regularly, and threw all goals, other than finishing, out the window. A switch was flipped and I was back on track.
A few weeks before the marathon I got a little choked up knowing that if Kevin were alive, he would be so excited for me. In all likelihood, he would be flying to NY to cheer me on and take part in the day. However, it also occurred to me that if he were alive, I might not even be working towards this goal. I took comfort knowing that he would most definitely be with me in spirit.
By the time the actual marathon rolled around I was looking at it as just a Sunday jogging tour of New York; a once in a lifetime experience that I had better be present for and appreciate, because who knows if I would sign up for it again. As Kurt and I walked our way up to the start line, I was nervous and then over the loud speakers I heard a song I love and I started dancing. As is typical, Kurt shook his head and laughed at my antics.
The marathon begins with runners crowded together working their way across the Verrazano Bridge. Kurt and I ran together for the first two miles. He is a much faster runner and often graciously slows down to run with me, but for this length of a race, we decided to go at our respective paces. We said good luck and goodbye at the base of the bridge and I started to settle in for what would be a long journey. Then, I rounded the corner to people of all ages cheering and holding out their hands greeting me with high fives.
We had been told to wear our names on our shirts because the spectators would call it out. My shirt said “TEAM KEVIN.” I am tearing up now remembering it just as I did then when the first shouts of “Go TEAM KEVIN” rang out. Kevin loved people; he loved getting to know people; and he particularly liked small powerful interactions. The cheering crowds and the high fives and the “Go TEAM KEVIN” were so him. I can see his face lighting up at the thought of it. The cheers would continue on and off through most of the day and they certainly carried me through the race. Conveniently, later in the race there was a “Megan” just behind me so I shared in her cheers as well.
I kept my phone off until about Mile 15 and suddenly at Mile 20 the messages starting coming in. First was my cousin, who ran in 2003 as one of the first fundraisers for the Elixir Fund, asking how the race had gone? “I am still in it at Mile 20,” I replied. My brother Doug, who has accomplished more physically and is mentally way more “zen” then I am, was tracking me on the marathon app and sent a message “You have now run farther than I ever have.” That certainly inspired and challenged me to keep going and to finish.
Doug kept my mom up-to-date on my progress so that we would be sure to catch each other at mile 24. She was a blessed sight and we greeted each other with a teary hug. My brother Chris from London texting at mile 25 “Go Fleeeeaaaa” (my family nickname). I would find out afterwards that there was a group text going among my family giving updates and cheering me on as I finally reached the finish line. They then bombarded me with congratulatory texts and messages.
I got my medal, and slowly wound my way out of the park to find Kurt, who had finished an hour before me and waited patiently outside the park to greet me before he had to get on a train to a conference. I then went back to cheer on Shelly & Jeanine who were finishing up their race. It was thrilling to see them coming in.
Every bit of this experience was so very Kevin and it was so wonderful to experience a day with him again.