I wrote this report a few days after the event and hesitated to post it because it was a bit emotional for me. But I decided to anyway because this is how I really felt about the race. This isn’t my typical race report. Here’s goes:
This report is a little different than my normal race reports as for this event I was the race director not the athlete. I wasn’t nearly as nervous and because this is the fourth year of this event and I have put on many events before I felt pretty confident I had done all I could to make it go smoothly. Race directing is no easy task and it takes many months and hours and hours of preparation to make the event go well. One thing you never know about is the weather but I am happy to report the weather was great! It may even have been a little on the warm side for runners, but it was certainly perfect for their supporting fans. The morning started early for me at 4:30 a.m. with finishing route markings and setting out the first aide station and posting signs to make sure all participants stay on route.
My first priority when I got back to the venue was to make sure sprinklers were not on and the bathrooms were unlocked. Fortunately the sprinklers were not on but sadly the bathrooms were locked. NOT GOOD when you have 300-350 runners/walkers that will need to use it! A phone call or two later, things were taken care of (thanks Judy!) and before you knew it they were unlocked and everything else was moving along. Great volunteers helped to finish unloading all the pre-registration bags my family put together – all 350 of them! Whew! The refreshments, volunteer/ vendor supplies, shirts and posted signs and maps were being put in place meanwhile the timers and DJ set up their supplies. Soon athletes started arriving. It is amazing how quickly time fly’s when you are crazy busy. A quick check-in by the photographer and then I was thrilled to introduce the Zumba duo to the DJ. Soon people were getting their groove on with warm-up dancing. It was at this time that I tried to pause for a few minutes and soak it all in. The fun music, the neat posters, all the people including many friends and family members! It was magicial!
As I read all the names on people backs tears welled up in my eyes (glad my sun glasses were on) – they had come to honor their loved ones! I thought to myself how happy I was to keep my promise to my Samantha – that she would never be forgotten. She only lived five hours but she is indeed part of our family and for one day we will stop to remember her along with all those others that miss someone. Read Her Story
It was very touching but I couldn’t get too carried away in the moment and had to bring myself to the task at hand. Making this the most positive experience I could for other people. I doubled checked that finish medals were in place and made sure everything else was in order. All volunteers accounted for and ready at their stations. What a relief to have amazing volunteers to help! I am so greatful for my team (Team Blonde Runner – TBR – triathlon) for all of their support and efforts to help others at this event. I am so proud to be their coach!
In a flash I was having the DJ announce it was time to head over to the starting line and after a few simple remarks in my megaphone the 10K/5K race was started, the 2 mile walkers soon after.
After the race was started I headed back to make sure all was ready to accept runners and refreshment preparations were underway. I glanced over the posters again, trying to remember all the names that were to be honored today on this Memorial Day. Everything seemed to be in order and for a moment time stood still. All those months and hours of preparation were coming together. Race day was here! Soon I found myself cheering the first runner in!
Then another; and another. With the addition of the 5K this year we had a steady stream of runners throughout the event. As always, I couldn’t help to cheer extra loud for my TBR team athletes and other clients I am coaching as well as many former athletes, friends and family members. What a thrill it was to join together to honor our loved ones!
It reminded me of a conversation I overheard when my children were asking their friends who they were going to walk/run for. It was music to my ears to hear “I am running for my sister Samantha” and fun to be the fly-on-the-wall as the other children talked about who they could walk/run for. What a great thing – to do something for someone that has passed on! As a mother who lost a baby I can tell you that you love them well before they are born and you long to do things for them even when they are gone. So I thank all the participants that allow me this opportunity to spend a little time on behalf on my daughter I didn’t ever get to know but long to one day. I do believe I will see her again, but that doesn’t make me miss her any less. She would have been 16 this year. I am not alone in missing my loved one. All the people at the race were missing someone. It was a day to celebrate and recognize life. It was great to see people cheer and embrace each other as they finished. The pride on their face as they were awarded their hard earned 10K finisher medal was priceless. For many participants this was their first race ever! I can’t think of a better reason to run than for someone else! How neat it was to see family and friends gather together for group pictures and to witness all the support and love they have for one another! One thing for sure – this is a unique race. While there is the push to finish strong and achieve athletic excellence as indicated with an impressive new 10K course record of 35:32 (5:43 min./mile average) – this is a USATF sanctioned event. This is more than just a race, it’s a little step in the direction of healing from a loss. It’s a moment to embrace life and overcome difficult challenges. It’s a day to gain support, love and understanding. It’s a race for grief.
Even when the race is over for me I can still feel it’s effects. The comments like “great race, I’ll be back next year” helped seal those memories in my heart as people were leaving with their finisher and award medals proudly around their necks!
The positive feedback and kind messages that come over the next few days help me savory the richness of that day.
“Lora , I had such an overwhelming experience on Monday. I can’t put in to words how much I needed that or how much I’m looking forward to next year.” Shaylee
“Thank you again for giving us the opportunity to be a part of your amazing event. We had so much fun!” Leslie
“Thank you for all your work in putting on a great event that helped my family grieve some more with our loss this last month of my brother in law that died in a motorcycle accident. Sorry for your loss. Thanks for a wonderful morning.” Kory
“Thanks for putting together this great event Lora Heyl Erickson. Great course and better cause!!”
“I had an incredible experience this morning. Today was my first RFG and I’m so glad I was there. Granted, I cried most of the morning, but it was so healing and beautiful. I love and appreciate my finisher medal! I will be back every year you do this race!” ~ S.H. 2014 participant
“I’m running for my little brother, November 9, 2012. He was a Marine Corpsman and father of three. Lost him to suicide. Running is my therapy for grief!! THANK YOU for allowing the opportunity to run and honor him and his life accomplishments!!!” Dan E.
“I thought the race was amazing again. I was able to set a new PR for the 10K and beat my time from last year. The turnout was wonderful and it is such an emotional and amazing event. Great job!”
Samantha is in my heart and will forever live through this Race For Grief event. I do hope to have you join us next year!
~ Coach Lora Erickson
aka Blonde Runner
In Loving Memory of Samantha
The Sharing Place
To learn more visit www.RaceForGrief.com
Read a recent newspaper article about the event:
Run allows families to remember, honor lost loved ones