Life. It’s surreal sometimes. So much so, that when things happen which are beyond belief – beyond being able to put into words for fear no lexicon could do proper justice – you have no choice but to sit back and remain silent. That is, until such time as the subject of the unbelievable circumstances is back on their feet again. Back to the person you once knew, in the reality in which you knew them.
It was January 2008. My early mid-life crisis in full swing, I decided to join a program at the YMCA which promised to teach those in attendance how to complete a Half-Marathon. I was a runner “back in the day,” but that day was literally one child, one Bone Marrow Transplant, one+ sour relationships and 20 years ago. No matter. I was in. Indy Mini…here I come.
The class, PR Training, was every Tuesday at butt-crack-early-o’clock and taught by an elite female runner. We learned proper nutrition, proper technique, proper etiquette when running insane numbers of miles (like, spitting is only allowed after 4 or more miles) and generally how to complete 13.1 miles in a race without looking like a total nincompoop. Oh, and we ran once in awhile too.
Being very Type-A, I did not miss a class. I think I may have even sat up front and reused my name tag every week. But more than those details, what I remember is meeting two fellas and instantly thinking: they seem nice; they seem committed to this program; they’re going down.
The class was not all that big. Said two fellas, myself, one or two women walkers, and maybe another guy that was (and obviously is still) forgettable. We’d sit there trying to wake up from a collective slumber, pretend to listen, and mentally try to gear up for running the daunting 3-4 miles which our Bible-like training sheets inside our pretty folders outlined. Seemed easy enough at first. I clearly remember the raising of hands after one class to indicate who was staying to run outside; all but the walker hands went up.
You went to Yale?
Did you like it?
What do you do?
So, you went there on a running scholarship?
[I had heard another person running along side mention this interesting fact. Let me tell you, as I was running next to this guy, I thought…man, was obtaining a running scholarship SUPER easy back then or what? ’cause he kinda sucks. However, I was also slightly concerned and unabashedly sizing him up with these newfound facts since, as noted earlier, I planned to annihilate him and the other nice guy.]
[Well this guy’s a talker. Total social butterfly.]
We finished the whopping two miles and obligatory “tell me about yourself since we’re going to be puking together at some point” questions, and back to our respective cars and worlds we went.
That was over 4 years ago. Over 3,000 miles ago. Over conversations which consisted mostly of “Why do we love running again? Why are you sleeping in again when we have a speed workout this morning? Do you want to just stop, call this 20 miles and get a beer? Look out! A car!”
You know…things like that. The easy things. The light things. Things that make you go hmmm (especially the post-run beer).
We all trained towards one common goal: the mighty marathon. Sure, we got through that PR training program like champs and even broke our sub-2 hour first Mini Marathon time goal. 35,000 people is a lot of people so while we didn’t run together during the race, we compared times once back in the Fort. (Fine, he won. And the trophy was purchased. Along with the creation of a blank Excel spreadsheet that used some Archimedes spigot algorithm to determine Runner of the Year accolades henceforth). We were hooked. Marathon…here we come. Life was gooood.
So like clockwork, we followed our plan. Monday: get the junk out of our legs run; Tuesday: speed at the track; Wednesday: 5-8 easy miles; Thursday: tempo run; Saturday: long run. For weeks and weeks and weeks, four of us met religiously at the Y or the Middle School track to tackle the work ahead of us. At 5:00am.
The camaraderie, the friendship, the suck fests, the laughter, the love, the injuries which ensued, the races, the post-run protein shakes that caused runs in and of themselves, the constant support – can only be described if you were there. I am a woman of many words, yet there simply aren’t any to convey this collective effort. The bonds that were formed were forever, even if truly in hindsight, they were short lived.
After 3+ years together, two of the four of us moved out of state. Our kids became older, our jobs somehow became even more demanding, our interests changed, our lives changed. Our running careers together just sort of faded. And I guess perhaps, sadly, so did our friendships. I clearly remember being at a marathon together – in fact, it was the last one we all attended together – and my partner said to me (after ribbing him once we hopped off the Metro): “Look, you can be in the circle or out of the circle, which do you want to be?”
The morning of March 27, 2012, there is no place I’d rather have been than in that circle. I was sitting in my office beginning my work day, when my iPhone displayed the following text:
Southwest Allen County Schools on lock down due to shooting in the area.
My one and only child is a freshman at the High School in SWACS. My stomach immediately sank as I read that text. I bolted out of my office, ran down the hallway to our front desk and asked our Admin Assistant if she had heard anything, as her kids attend the same school.
“It’s fine. It wasn’t at the school, it was just in a neighborhood close by so they’re taking precautions.”
I didn’t exactly feel any better. I went back to my office and immediately sent a text to my daughter asking her if she was ok, demanding that she text me back with an answer and I would handle the principal if her phone was confiscated. Yet again.
She did, and she was fine. Whew. In the meantime, I had already sent a text to my buddy and customer downtown who for whatever political reason, knows everything that is happening around here real time.
He responded that yes, he was aware and the shooting was in a particular subdivision.
Shit. I know people there, I thought. Good people. So I sent back a message at warp speed asking if any names were released. It’s a big neighborhood…I’m sure it’s not…
And then I saw it. On my phone. In print. The name of the people’s house where this shooting had just happened. Oh my God. Oh my God. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I just burst into tears.
My running partner. My friend. Someone made a mistake, this information is not right. Take it back! What do I do? What do I do? I need to DO something. No make this stop! Make it stop.
People were swarming into my office at this point because I think I was literally hysterical. I don’t really remember any of it. Surreal. Pain blocked out. Whatever it was, I don’t want to remember how I felt in that moment ever again. A person should only have to lose a friend unnecessarily once in a lifetime. Twice is too much to bear.
The first call I made was to our other running partner (a/k/a one of the 3 amigos) who happened to be back here in Indiana for work. I was overwrought and incomprehensible. Screaming into the phone I said, “You have to come here! Now! Right now! We have to go…”
And then we were both just silent. I was weeping, he was I think whispering. I don’t know. The rest of the day is still a blur.
Thank God he is going to be ok. Truly, to God we give thanks. There is no explanation as to why this happened and, even if one is mustered up some day – I for one don’t give a rat’s ass what it is. This guy, my former friend and running partner, is one of a kind. He is a man after God’s own heart and has been since the day I first met him. Sure, he’s sarcastic, witty, crazy brilliant yet remarkably humble; he is, for all intents and purposes, as normal as they come in a life that perhaps is a little bigger than they normally come. But that’s why those who know him love him.
To all the haters out there who don’t – those who speculate, gossip, and wrongly condemn when the plank is still in their own eye – all I can say is…seriously? Seriously you want to bring down a man who we should all aspire to emulate? What is wrong with this world?
To whom much is given, much is expected. I used to tell him this when I could sense the big circle in which he lived seemed a smidge suffocating. People want nothing more than to knock you down when you’re at the proverbial top. It’s inexplicable, really. Yet his character and priorities remained then, as they will remain now, undaunted regardless of the people who fail to have either.
While I cannot comprehend what he’s been through, I do know what I expect he’ll do: continue to live by example as he models God’s image through the gift of forgiveness, draw on the strength of his true family and friends, forge even deeper relationships with those dear to him, and get back at it with his head held high.
Oh yeah. And run.
Sweet Mother of Pearl.