But, Richard was a volunteerer (just made that word up). Race directors loved his big voice and commanding presence. He kept order at the finish line (“Do NOT cut in front of that runner!”), moved random and clueless pedestrians off of the race course (“Get out of MY road!”), and cheered every single person’s effort.
For 3 years, back in Fredericksburg, he helped me organize a local early spring race. Then, somehow or another, he ended up president of the running club . Now, tell me how that happens? A non-runner is president of the running club?
He was awesome.
Last year, he volunteered at the Marathon Makeover Renaissance Half Marathon . He was dutifully handing out water and helping at the finish line when a little bit of confusion erupted. Apparently, a couple of the lead runners had inadvertently missed a turnaround early on (the lead car went past it, and they followed) and were disputing the results because they had run a bit farther than the guy who ended up winning. The race organizers (the wonderful Mark and Robin Simpson) were still a bit new at putting on races (and a very large, sophisticated race, at that), so were flummoxed and not sure how to deal with the situation fairly. Richard overheard and stepped in with advice (things he had learned putting on our own, much smaller, race and helping with so many others). Issue resolved…and I think everyone walked away okay with the results.
Mark and Robin were impressed. Richard was hired. He managed the volunteers for their next race, a half and a full marathon. Then, he did the same again for this year’s Renaissance half. And, he was scheduled to do the same for the Run for Life Half Marathon a couple of weeks ago.
The Simpsons took the news of Richard’s death as hard as anyone. Then, they immediately offered to dedicate the race in Richard’s memory. I thought it was a great idea. And, I figured, I ought to run.
Race - The (aptly named) Run for Life Half Marathon
2:02:34 3rd Age Group; 116 Overall
The days leading up to the race were rough. Richard’s Road ID, which he ordered shortly before he died, arrived in the mail that week. Robin and Mark had put a small image of Richard on the race t-shirt. Of course, I cried when I picked up my race packet. They hugged me. I cried some more.
The next morning, I overslept and was running late to the start. I got there just in time for the National Anthem and Robin’s dedication.
Yep. I cried some more.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this.
But into the crowd I went.
The morning couldn’t have been much nicer. It was supposed to get quite a bit hotter during the day, but at 7:00 a.m., the sun was just finishing its rise, the air was still clear of humidity, and it was in the low 60s.
I had decided to run this based on heart rate. That had worked well last year at the Lake Caroline 15k . So, I split the race into two 5 milers and a final 5k. The first 5 miles would be at a zone 2 pace, the second at a zone 3 pace, and the last 5k as hard as I could go. I probably should have pushed it more, as I was just in the lower range of zone 2 for the first 5 miles, and the next 5 miles averaged just at the top of zone 2. The cooler weather and flat course helped. Even though I should have had more in the tank for that last 5k, it was tough. My legs started to hurt a bit and the last mile was a slight uphill until we crossed over an intersection. I tried to run harder/faster, but it wasn’t quite as fast as I wanted and even a bit slower than the middle 5 miles. And my average heart rate still didn’t get out of zone 3 (average for the entire race was only zone 2). Obviously, I need to suck it up and push it.
In the end, I was really happy with my finish time. It’s been at least 4 years since I’ve been this close to 2 hours. The course was great for a half marathon. Flat and wide open. Not sure I could have done it twice for a marathon, though.
There were a couple of moments while running that I felt like I might lose it. Especially when it occurred to me that Richard would not be at the finish line doing his thing. But I was able to hold on and save it all for later. Perhaps I was getting a little help. My friend Mary felt like she got a special little push toward the end.
Robin and Mark met me at the finish line with my medal and gave me big hugs…in spite of me being a sweaty hog.
I hung out for a little bit, chatting with Mary, but decided to head home before the awards (I didn’t expect to place in my age group, and I’m not sure if they gave anything beyond first place in the age group).
It’s going to be okay. Eventually. I know that.
But right now, it’s still really hard to know that Richard will never be at the finish line ever again.