Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Memories contained in a shoe

Its been almost one year since I last posted here. With the passing of Laird and the emotion of writing and trying to squeeze into words the feelings and memories I had of him I had lost the energy and enthusiasm for writing.

Today is the first anniversary of Laird's passing. I have wanted to return to writing again and have had encouragement from many but I haven't felt ready. I figure that today would be a good day to return and to pay honor again to a great friend who has shown himself to me several times in the past year in memories and dreams.

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are,
the things you never want to lose.

Three days ago I was at the Dome doing a speed workout for a upcoming mile race in Boston. While my days of speed are long gone (something I'm reminded of each time I step on the track lately) I have been trying to reclaim some semblance of quickness to avoid completely embarassing myself. I decided to bring a pair of spikes I had just located in a box as I am considering wearing spikes for the race and figure I better get my calves prepared.

As I prepared to put the spikes on I looked at a bit of dirt still clinging to them from their last race. As I tried to figure where they had last performed I realized that it was in 2000 at a Open/Coaches race after the high school invite our team had run. It was two days after I had turned 40 and my first competition as a Masters runner. This was no small event as the university squad had come and several of us post collegians had put together a squad to compete against them.

I have run this race many times and it was always tough to coach all day and then perform in front of your team knowing they were going to yell all the things you had been saying to them each day in practice and each race. I had run well on this course, but had never come close to breaking 16 minutes for the 5K and this day I would be lucky to make the top-ten with all the excellent runners.

Laird had been coaching with me that day and we quickly began our warm up as soon as our last team had finished. I remember how nice it was to have someone to warm up with and that we were preparing as "teammates". I usually end up warming up by myself, but today was different.

The race started off very fast and it was all I could do to stay close while Laird sped off near the lead. Little by little I worked my way past the college runners and eventually got up to 5th place nearing the finish. As I went through the gate to the finish with 250 meters left I could see Laird on his way to victory with two more teammates a few seconds behind. That gave me a little more energy and as I saw the stadium clock ticking I realized I could break 16 if I pushed it a bit more. Closing my eyes for a few strides I managed to hit a 15:58 and beat all but one of the college lads.

I remember ripping off those spikes immediately after the race as my feet were on fire. The warm down with Laird was such a joy as we felt so good about our efforts and we shared our reflections of the race. It was a special day - the kids ran well, the coaches ran well and I got a birthday cake and song from the team after Laird and I finished the warm down.

Its funny how 4-5 ounces of spikes can hold so many memories but those spikes will be special not because I ran fast in them but rather because of who I was with while I was wearing them.

Laird, you are missed and remembered daily. Thanks for making those shoes and that day special.

We do not remember days; we remember moments. - Cesare Pavese

Laird cruising to victory in that race. I'm about 20 seconds behind well out of view


Tom Ritchie said...


I was just updating my training log and I see that you wrote in your blog. I enjoyed reading this entry. That was my 2nd year back in Alaska and I was helping out at Service. I remember watching that race. I ran the open race the following year, but I was around 17:30. I'd like to run that course again. I do remember Laird taking the lead. He was a machine!

Darcy Dugan said...

Hey JC,

I'm really glad to see you blogging again. I had a dream about Laird on Jan 6th (I write down all my dreams). In the dream, I was with Toby watching Laird run a track race -- we sprinted back and forth through the infield to see him on both sides. Each time, it looked like he wasn't quite going to hit the split, but he nailed it every time. I spent the rest of the day thinking about Laird.

Your tribute to him, and your reflections on life leave us with a lot to think about. Thanks.