Sunday Runday, and my morning run (though short) was a fast, local race.
Too often I discount and downplay the value of lacing up for a cause that isn’t just another tick on the tally of my own personal achievements. Yet a five kilometer fundraiser race, as far removed as it is from the epic half marathons and ultra trail races that seem to consume my training calendar these days, is a heartwarming reminder of my sports more enduring legacy in the modern running landscape.
Some backstory may be relevant here.
I often write and talk about my ”little run club” but the truth is that prior to the pandemic we were a crew that was often forty or fifty members strong. The last two years have whittled us down to less than half that number, and only time will tell if some of the folks who drifted away will return. Two years is a long time.
Between those who remain and those who have gone away, some of have been running together for well over a decade. Also, needless to say, some of our membership are not the young thirty, forty and fifty year olds that we were when we met and started running all those years ago. As years have ticked by many of our crew have transitioned from a running crew to a walking club, still keeping themselves woven in as part of the social fabric of this club. No matter, though, we all meet back at the same parking lot for chats and coffees. A decade or more and people have had rich lives swirled around this little sport, changing jobs, growing their family, moving too and fro, and even passing on.
Fair to report that not everything is good news when years pass and people change and stuff happens.
The story, as best as I know it, goes something like this. About four years ago, one of those aforementioned runners-turned walkers-became a grandmother, and as happy as that occasion should have been, it was shrouded with bad news about a huge complication: that her new grandson had a congenital heart defect and would require a transplant.
Daughter-slash-mother, a runner like grandmother, turned her grief into motivation and started an annual fundraising race. “Fundraiser for free-health-care Canada?” you ask. Well, there are plenty of costs outside of hospital bills that families need to account for, and our health care system has limited funds to contribute to things like research and family supports and outreach.
Those efforts, as announced as we stood at the start line for this morning’s edition of the 5k family fun race, runners bunched in around kids on bikes and tots holding their parents hands, has raised a quarter million dollars for the cause since its inception.
Now my friend’s grandson has spent a lot of time in hospital and will likely never be a kid free to adventure and play without restraint, and certainly may never be seen sprinting to the finish line at the lead of the race that he inspired. Instead, we all put our personal training plans aside and dash through the course for whatever bit of hope for a cure and support for that family that such an effort inspires.
Rich lives and a decade of running with the same small group tangles your lives together in a way that leads you to prioritize your actions and your thoughts.
I’ll be running a much longer race next weekend, a slogging ultramarathon through the rolling lakelands east of the city and for no other reason than to say I can do such things. But something tells me that even years from now I’ll remember little five klick runs for the good of little lives just as fondly as the big races.