10-10-10 Minus 1: A Family Affair

3.5 miles, last run before the big one.

My daughter Erica and her fiancée Fievel flew in last night to cheer us on tomorrow.

We went to the Expo today and, well aware of the risks of spending too much time puttering around the aisles, proceeded to spend four hours. Who can pass up complimentary cut-up Luna bars and mini Greek yogurt sundaes? It’s an astonishing experience in its own right, seeing the masses of humanity all joined together in the common cause of shopping for official t-shirts or the latest trick in running shoes. Actually, this year’s highlight was Nike’s runners’ wall, a massive edifice that lists every runner’s name. Like the Viet Nam Memorial, sort of, except for the self-absorbed rather than the self-sacrificed. We were really psyched to find our names together at the edge of the wall.

Tonight, my parents and their friends joined all of us for a pre-race dinner of homemade lasagna and chicken. While the kids cooked, Jan and I laid out everything for the race: clothes, gels, etc. so we don’t have to think clearly in the morning. After that, not much left to do except enjoy the time with family. Tomorrow morning, this whole crew will grow by three, as Jan’s parents and sister arrives. It’s like a holiday, but one of our creation.

No other race brings people together like a marathon. I’ve done ten half marathons, and while I felt great each time and there were quite a few spectators, I never felt the need to have my own personal cheering section. The marathon is something different. It really means everything to have so many loved ones here with us. When I finished my first marathon last year, I felt like it was one of my life’s great accomplishments; I suspect Jan will feel the same way tomorrow. These are moments we want to share with family.

This morning, Erica joined Jan and me on our run. She’s done or is doing something like six half-marathons this year. She just took up running last year, with no cajoling on my part, and I am giddy with pride in what she’s done already. My youngest son Todd has also become a distance runner, with only some tactical prodding on my part, and I expect he’ll value it even more when he finishes college. (Now, just my artist son Matthew… getting him to run might be harder than running an ultra-marathon.)

This summer, we all four ran the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon together. It was a special time for a father, one of those experiences I will always cherish (and hope to repeat someday). I have every expectation that doing this run tomorrow with Jan, after thirty years of marriage, with our children and parents cheering us on, will be another one.

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