After you cross mile 2, you make a right hand turn and start ascending a long sloping hill. After another right and a little more elevation, a magnificent view of the City of Buffalo was before me. Dad owned a commercial real estate company with his business partner Jim. He never retired, he was 81 when he died.
Through a small crack between two buildings I caught a glimpse of his. I smiled even bigger than I was already smiling. I felt him everywhere. This was his city.
I am a little embarrassed to admit that I was nervous to pin on a bib number ever again. I am 48 years old and I have never in my life have I even run so much as a 5K without a pre race pep talk. Not a dance recital, swim meet, nothing. I know that seems bananas. I am an adult! But he loved being coach and mentor for my sister and I throughout our lives. While he was an avid tennis player he mentored us as we stayed athletes after college. He loved it.
Dad always knew that I needed to remain an athlete, because I likely would travel down a bad road. He taught us that the lessons we learned on the field would always help us with life. And vice versa. He’s helped me navigate the highs and lows of a multisport career and even helped me establish the coaching business I opened in 2004.
He taught me how to be gracious on the race course, but at the same time he taught me how to handle the unsportsmanlike competitors we inevitably come across. He taught me how to stay close to the ones who feel like sunshine, and I have built a whole world around them.
When he was alive I knew I was lucky, and three months after he has passed, I remain the luckiest daughter in the world. I never took it for granted and I never will. What a gift. What luck. I had something so special and I still do.
From the moment that gun went off on Saturday I smiled. I ran better than I have in years. I felt strong and in control and like I could have run forever. I felt him in the sun. I felt him in that view of Buffalo that appeared. I felt him everywhere.
A few minutes earlier I realized that my son Luc and I were running together. I looked over at him and felt so happy and grateful that we were doing this together. There is no one else I would rather take this first step with than Luc.
As I came across the finish line I touched the pendant that I now wear. It’s his signature, engraved. There are days where I feel like I am going to be okay, and there are days I can’t understand how I will never see him again. Today was a day I felt I was going to be ok.
Actually… I am going to be ok. Even if I don’t always feel like it. He prepared me for this. We got to have every conversation you hope to have with someone you love. Even though his death was sudden, we had said everything that needed to be said. He gave me the strength that I need to move forward.
It felt so good to have a strong season opener. It’s been a long time since I have felt like that. Grief has given me the gift of putting in the work this season, it’s how I am moving through it. My plan is to get on as many starting lines as I possibly can. Running, paddling, triathlon, doesn’t matter. And summit as many mountains as I can too.
Movement can help us in ways we don’t even realize. Some days it numbs the pain. Some days we can go hard enough to almost touch the pain. It allows me to feel. To remember. To grow. To breathe deep and feel the sun on my face. To run alongside people I may never see again but I will never forget. To laugh and share race stories with people I love dearly and who help me in ways they will never know.
Its how I touch bliss itself.