Written on September 29, 2012.
I ran a 5K this morning. Actually “jogged” is a much more accurate description than “ran.” It was the Run Proud race to help raise money for ALS/MDA. The race started and finished on the campus of Cooper Aerobics Center and is named after our former running pro, Diane Proud, who passed away last year from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). She was 59. Diane was one of the nicest, most sincere individuals I ever met. She loved helping all runners and triathletes, but she had a special fondness for beginners. Sharing her passion for fitness allowed Diane to impact the lives of hundreds of people in a very positive way.
It was a perfect day for running…temps in the low 70s with a cool, steady drizzle. Wet, but not enough to get in the way. Just enough to let you feel “connected.”
Before the race I saw Bob Proud, Diane’s husband. He was actually the reason I got up early today. During Diane’s extended three-year illness, I often crossed paths with Bob and was always awed by his unwavering, upbeat spirit. He knew, as did Diane, that a diagnosis of ALS is always, not sometimes, not usually, but ALWAYS fatal. That didn’t deter Bob. He knew that maintaining a high-energy, optimistic attitude was exactly what Diane needed most.
I had not seen or talked to Bob since Diane’s funeral last year and wanted to shake his hand. I did that about 15 minutes before the race, and we talked briefly. I would have liked to talk more, but just about everyone involved in the race had known Diane and Bob, and like me, they wanted to say hello. I didn’t want to monopolize his time.
At the starting line I saw friend who is a longtime member of Cooper Fitness Center. We decided to run together, although he warned me he was having issues with his I.T. band and wasn’t sure how he would hold up. Normally, he wouldn’t have even considered running, but like many of us, he was there because of his love and appreciation of Diane. Sure enough, after less than a quarter of a mile into the run my buddy had to pull out. Doing that is never fun, but it was clearly a smart move.
I continued on at a very comfortable (read slow) pace. Soon, as the course extended down a long stretch through a beautiful neighborhood, I looked up and saw Bob running by himself. His pace was right in sync with mine, so I gradually began to narrow the gap and after a minute or two, we were side by side. We started talking and it wasn’t long before Bob encouraged me to, “Feel free to run ahead. Don’t let me slow you down.” Little did he know, I was delighted to be running at such a moderate pace. Even though I’ve been lifting consistently and cycling on a pretty regular basis, my running mileage has been down so I wasn’t in a great position to take Bob up on his offer. Besides, for me the opportunity to run with Bob and talk about life far exceeded the need to foolishly push myself to meet some arbitrary 5K time. From a very selfish standpoint, this was a great chance to spend about 30 minutes one-on-one with a guy that I had really come to respect but had not taken the time to let him know that.
As often is the case when running, we talked about all sorts of things; the radio business, The Rangers’ pennant race and why a relatively flat neighborhood suddenly felt like the Newton Hills in Boston! More than once Bob apologized for his slow pace, “My 5K time is now beginning to approach my 10K PR.” I assured him not to worry about it, “No need to apologize.” I reminded him that the fact we were out running early on a Saturday morning, regardless of the speed, probably put us in the top half of one percent of most Americans as it relates to physical activity! All the research shows that the vast majority of benefit from exercise comes from just getting off the couch. A little bit, on a consistent basis, goes a long way in improving health and quality of life.
As we neared the end of the course and came back onto the Cooper campus, there were all sorts of folks cheering us on: friends, family, volunteers and many runners who had finished before us. Most recognized Bob and were very supportive and enthusiastic. Last year, less than a week before she died, Diane was at the finish line passing out cupcakes to every single runner that crossed the finish line, despite the fact that she could no longer talk and was so weak that she was confined to a golf cart. This year there was no Diane. I was glad it was raining hard enough to mask the fact I was tearing up a bit. Bob was quickly surrounded by a crowd of well-wishers, so I gave him a high-five and began my post-race recovery, which included all sorts of wonderful fare provided by the race sponsors. That’s always one of the great bonuses of finishing an endurance event…all the fun treats!
I felt great afterwards. I had gone on a nice run, seen a lot of friends and co-workers, and it was early enough so that most of my Saturday was still before me. Most importantly though, I appreciated the wonderful time I had spent with Bob and promised myself I would reach out to him soon to schedule a dinner or a workout.
And guess what? This afternoon I got an email from Bob THANKING ME for running WITH HIM! How great is that? I told him the pleasure was all mine…and I meant it!