I have been running for nine years and in that time, I have had plenty of reasons to run, think time while I run, training calendars to follow, and miles to cover. A few years ago, my friend and fellow runner Alejandro posted an online challenge. He challenged us to offer the names of our departed family and friends who lost the battle with cancer. He would wear their names on ribbons on a flag he would wear during the race. He would also think of these people during his training. While I did share a few names, this challenge changed the way I ran. My running club was born.
Inspired by my friend, I began to devote my training runs to those I have lost. I honor those I lost to cancer. I honor those I lost to AIDS and suicide. I honor those I lost to accidents and old age. Every single mile is spent with one person. I remember them and revisit the memories we shared. Sometimes I do talk to them. I ask what they might do in a situation I am currently living. If I feel tired or unmotivated, their memory pushes me forward. So many of my antepasados fought to their last day. Their courage inspires me.
Since my running club began, a few traditions have been established. I always run with my grandfathers and my uncles who have died. I always run with my baptismal godfather. The first mile, so often the most challenging, is usually offered to someone who passed recently. In recent months, I have lost my Tio Mario, our host when we visited Peru last summer, and one of my mom’s best friends, Rosario Otarola. The last two miles are offered to two special people. The second to last mile is offered to Luz Nieves, my best friend’s mother. Mama Luz was a vibrant, beautiful woman and devoted mother. She cheered for my best friend and me during a few of our races; it was my best friend who first inspired me to run. The last mile and therefore every crossing of the half-marathon finish line is devoted to Brett Haagenson, one of my dearest friends. Brett was a coach and teacher and he still plays those roles in my life. Currently, I am dealing with workplace challenges so they are on my mind while I run. Thinking of Brett helps me smile and shake that negative energy away.
I am truly grateful for the amazing people in my life. My running club has allowed me to stay close to those who have passed.
I remember and honor these people and ask that you lift them and their families up in prayer.
Abuelito Marcelo Calderon
Abuelito Rodrigo Urbizagastegui
Tio Delio Calderon
Tio Armando Villa
My nino Malaquias Mercado
Godfather Alex Loza
Godfather Alex Loza
Father Bob Mathews
Donnell “Don” Grant