Sunday, December 5, 2010

Making a pact

The last time I ran in a race was the Turkey Trot, 13 months ago. I didn't think I missed racing; I've rather enjoyed just running for the sake of running.

But on Sunday, reading about the Dallas White Rock Marathon; watching it on TV in my dad's rehab room while he was in physical therapy; pondering the route to take my son to Sunday school to avoid marathon traffic, I found myself feeling a bit sentimental.

The day was glorious, sunny and cool and perfect. Plus my dear friend Laura was running the anchor leg of her relay team. What better reasons to head to Swiss Avenue to look for Laura and cheer her (and anyone else) on. I asked my son if he'd go with me. He didn't hesitate.

"Sure," he said.

I have run one marathon: Austin in 2007. I remember it in snippets: The sun rising as the starting gun went off. Walking through water stops and reluctantly resuming running. Crossing the finish line and eating chicken-noodle soup ladled out by kind volunteers.

I remember the training as grueling, particularly runs on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve: twice around White Rock Lake in the windy sleet. So when I saw the runners on Sunday, I yelled and cheered because I knew what they were going through, and how hard they worked to get there. I knew that the three miles they had left to run probably seemed at times like 300, though during training, three became little more than the snap of a finger.

During my marathon, I was so appreciative of the bands that played, of the people who rang cowbells, of the spectators who looked at my racing bib and called me by name. With each of those memories, I could feel my smile getting bigger, my cheering more crazed, my tears closer to the surface than I would have imagined.

At first, Charlie just followed me -- not cheering; looking shyly at the runners -- as we made our way down Swiss Avenue, scanning the street for Laura. After a few minutes, when I'd turn to look at him, he smiled his big smile and looked me in the eye.

"I want to do this," he said.

Laura told me later that she heard Charlie's voice before she saw me. After she passed us, he and I headed up Swiss toward the side street where our car was parked. He was yelling by then, telling runners to stay strong, to stay focused. We didn't leave right away; instead, we stood on a corner, straining through sunlight to see names on bibs.

"I really want to do this," he said again.

"OK," I said. "Next year. Should we do the full or the half?"

"The full," he said. "Maybe we can each run half of it. Do you want to go first or last?"

"First," I said. "I get jittery anyway; I'd be a wreck if I had to wait for you to finish before I could start."

"I'm not sure when I can train though," he said, thinking about volleyball practice, P.E., track.

"We'll figure it out," I said. "Let's do this. Let's make a pact."

"OK," he said.

"Remember this, Charlie," I said. "Remember this minute, right now. Remember how good it feels, how much we want to do this."

We didn't hook pinkies or spit on the ground or sign a contract. I just put my arm through his as we walked  to the car.