I hope each and everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Just wanted to update you on our recent race experience and "Miles with Melinda" (MWM).
As many of you know, this was our first run as a family in support of the MWM cause. Having not run the Atlanta Half Marathon before, I thought I would make the experience a memorable one for all of us. The girls and I went to pick up our race packet on Tuesday before the race. The pick-up was at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta. The girls had never been to the hotel before, and I was excited to take them because it's a hotel that Melinda and I often toured. I explained to the girls how Mommy and Daddy used to go on dates in high school and walk around the city. We would usually make a stop and go in the Marriott Marquis to look around and ride the elevators. Melinda loved the inside of the hotel.
When we arrived in Atlanta I was able to park in the lot Melinda and I had always parked in. I took the girls through the same entrance and we headed up towards the main floor of the hotel. Many of the memories of our dates suddenly returned, making it a bitter sweet moment. As we rode the escalator up to the main floor I intently watched the girl's faces as the interior of the hotel came into view. As expected, it was much the same reaction Melinda always had when we arrived in the main lobby. The girls eyes were as wide as saucers with mouths agape. What a delight to see their expression. For those of you that have not been to the Marriott Marquis, it is a nearly 50 story hotel that tapers to the top. Looking up as you enter the main lobby, you can see all the way to the top of the building. Quite a sight, especially for two young girls seeing it for the first time! Next it was on to the packet pick-up, and as we made our way there the girls noticed the glass elevators speeding up and down. Rachel Rose, fearless as usual, quickly shouted "can we ride the elevators"! Caroline was a bit more apprehensive, but seemed willing. We grabbed our race gear and headed towards the elevators. We stepped in and rode all the way to the top floor. I must say it was a bit emotional to find myself back in those elevators without Melinda, and now with our two children. Who could have imagined all those years ago that I would be back riding the same elevators with my two precious girls. They enjoyed the ride and looking down from far above. Next, we headed out for dinner just as Melinda and I would have done many years before. We ended up just a couple of blocks away at Hard Rock Cafe. We had an enjoyable meal as I shared memories of Mommy and Daddy's dates, and we also discussed the upcoming race. The girls really seemed to enjoy the trip downtown.
With race day approaching quickly, we were getting excited. The girls and I made sure we had all of our gear and clothes (especially our MWM T-shirts) ready for the race. With the race on Thursday morning, we changed our routine a bit and decided to cook the Turkey Wednesday evening. The girls and I were going to cook the Turkey, make gravy, and Rachel Rose was going to make a "special" desert. We had some fun in the kitchen and Rachel Rose's desert turned out to be quite interesting. A key lime pie with special marshmallow and chocolate accents. Yes, it was "special" and quite interesting. Caroline helped with the gravy and we seemed to have our contribution ready. Mimi and Aunt Jan were preparing all the other dishes and the girls were getting excited for the next day's meal. However, that would have to be put on the back burner as our focus now turned to the race. Just as we were cleaning up the kitchen, the door bell rang. A special delivery I was expecting had arrived! I had the girls open it with me and they were excited as they realized what it was.
Months before, the girls had asked me why and how long I would wear my wedding ring. I explained to them that I was not ready to take it off, but would let them know before I decided to do anything about it. After some thought and looking at some possibilities, I sat the girls down and told them my idea. I suggested that I would wear the ring up until our anniversary and then have our two wedding rings made into a cross. Melinda loved cross necklaces and I thought it would be appropriate. The girls loved the idea so I decided to go ahead with it. I reached out to a good friend, Matt Schroeders, who owned and operated the Highlands Gem Shop near where I worked. He eagerly agreed to take on the task of making the cross. Well, as you may have guessed, the package that arrived contained the cross. It turned out magnificently (see pic), and I would now be able to wear it during the race! Thank you Matt!
Since we had never run the race before, we had planned to leave the house quite early so as not to be late. However, getting the girls up and out the door didn't quite go as planned and we were running a little behind our intended schedule. The race began at Turner Field and I was scheduled to start at 7:40am. We were making pretty good time and arrived just a few miles from the stadium around 6:50am. However, traffic came to a complete stop and we then began inching our way there. As the moments ticked away the anxiety level rose as we certainly did not want to miss the race. Turns out there was an accident and there was nothing we could do. We patiently worked our way forward and hoped for the best. Suddenly, I looked at the clock and saw that it was 7:25! I noticed several other people jumping out of their cars and running toward the stadium. Fortunately, Aunt Jan was with us and she offered to drive so I could jump out and head to the start line. Unfortunately, however, we were still a mile from the stadium. With no other choice, I began running. Darting through and around traffic, I arrived at the stadium some ten minutes later. I could see a large crowd of racers lined up ready to go and felt a sense of relief. I stretched a minute or two and then jumped in line. I had made it! ......or did I?
As I stood in line for a couple of minutes, I became curious as to why it wasn't moving. I could see the huge ATLANTA HALF MARATHON banner a the start line, but why wasn't it moving? Upon further inspection of the banner, underneath the heading was 5K RACE! I was in the WRONG LINE! I quick jumped out of the crowd and asked someone where the start of the Half Marathon was. A nice man pointed me up the street and around the corner and then said, "but you better hurry there about to take it up". I sprinted up and around the corner and the volunteers were yelling to hurry. They had to take up the start line to make room for the 5K race. I sped up the hill and made it across the start line just in time!
Nothing has ever seemed to come easy for Melinda or I, but that makes the blessings we have received that much more rewarding. I felt as if I had already run a race and here I was just crossing the start line. I did, however, settle down fairly quickly and found a nice rhythm in my running. I had to weave through the crowd throughout the majority of the race but was ultimately enjoying every step of the way. I reached my mini goal of finishing under 2:00 hours, but more importantly I was honored to run it with Melinda and know that together we were potentially going to make a difference in other peoples lives.
Following my race, I headed over to see the girls run in the "Mash Potato Mile". By the time I made it over there, Caroline had just started and Rachel Rose was heading to the start line. I wished Rachel Rose good luck, saw her start, and then made my way over to the finish line. A few boys came across first then a saw one girl. Next were a few more boys and then here came Caroline! We believe she was the first 11 year old girl across the line and about 10th overall. She ran the mile in 6:30! Rachel Rose completed her mile in just under 9 minutes and did very well amongst the 8 year olds. I am so very proud of both of them!
We would like to thank many of you that have been so encouraging and supportive. We are comforted to know that some recently diagnosed cancer patience will receive important items and prayers from the goodness and care within you! Together we can and will make a difference!
Overall we had an amazingly rewarding and unforgettable experience! We just hope we can continue to spread Melinda's message of hope and encouragement, while potentially adding a little support along the way. We will continue to run and champion the cause with many races in the future. Thank you all!