I let them fall as I gripped the steering wheel with both hands. The emotions surrounding this event came out of hiding and tender memories filled my mind. A nervous anticipation for what was coming. As I drove the highway curves, I concentrated on my destination.
Not just any race.
I pondered a somber year. Devastation that led to this. Scenes played out in my mind as the car headed toward Utah.
Some time back, Jim had set a goal. Ten marathons.
A nice round number. Sure he could do it. He had nine under his belt. Training to finish his tenth marathon in Saint George, Utah.
But then … a tragedy.
It came without warning.
A brain aneurysm so large and violent that Jim didn’t have a chance to fight.
A sudden end to his time on earth. Future benchmarks and stories in Jim’s life that would never come to pass. An end to personal dreams.
But there is one dream that would come true. Because of a brother’s love.
Ross is Jim’s younger brother. A younger brother who always looked up to and admired his elder brother.
Upon Jim’s passing Ross wrote:
“Jim touched many lives by his generosity, humor, kindness, and his unconditional love. My brother could always be there if I needed him with no judging … just love.”
And so Ross made the decision to run.
For his brother.
He moved Jim’s old treadmill into his home. And he began to train. Willing his feet to move on the same black belt that turned under his brother’s feet just months before.
Weeks and months passed. This would be difficult. There were health issues. He ventured off the treadmill out into the streets. A few 5-milers. 11 miles. Pain. Smoke from summer fires prevented more training. And then the flu - just a week before the race.
How would he run 26.2 miles? He had promised himself. He had promised the family.
He had promised Jimmy.
The morning of the race was a cool 55 degrees. Ross stood in the dark and found his place in a line of thousands. Contemplating the journey before him.
Physically he was not ready. Emotionally there was no doubt.
Just one mental strategy. Don't stop.
He wore a red sweatband on each arm. He would give one to Jim’s wife at the finish. His red T-shirt said, “Be The Change” on the front. Words on the back gave a snapshot of the story.
And so that morning a few family members gathered at the finish line. Prayers in our hearts. “Please let him finish …” Understanding that this was much more than just a race. Heather wore Jim’s picture in a heart-shaped locket around her neck. A solemn reminder.
The first 11 miles complete. A success. Ross continued. One foot in front of the other.
We received electronic texts which tracked his progress. "Come on Ross - you can do this." Heard it whispered over and over. We continued to hope.
Ross crossed the 15-mile mark. And hit the wall.
Light-headed. His body was fighting. Shutting down. Physically he was done. Emotionally he dug deep. This would be a mental battle to the finish. Ross would cling to his faith.
Ross is a perfect example of doing all that we can do and then turning the rest over.
He found a private place in a porta-potty along the track. A heart-felt prayer. A desperate plea for help.
Ross began to run again.
He would be carried for the remaining 11 miles. By unseen hands.
Perhaps a father and a brother beyond the veil. One on each arm. Certainly willing to help and love.
Just as they did in mortal life.
Ross recognized it. Knowing he was not alone.
At the finish line we knew it was close now. Straining to see runners as they appeared in the final stretch. Looking for that familiar red T-shirt.
And then we saw him.
Ross' mother and son cheered with all their might as they caught sight. We all recognized the pain. Saw it. Felt it. The triumph. The reality of a dream about to be fulfilled.
As Ross crossed the finish line he raised his arms. One hand signing “I love you” and the other pointing toward heaven.
Communication between brothers.
A tribute to a brother missed. To Jim's dream.
Ross looked over to our cries and cheers. Exhausted - he fell into Heather’s arms.
A tender connection. A shared understanding.
I felt them again. Let them roll down my cheeks as I took it all in.
Tears of joy for a miraculous finish. Tears of grief for one taken too soon. Tears of gratitude for lessons learned and recognized.
Brotherly love. Sacrifice. Enduring to the bitter end. Faith.
Lessons seen and felt.
At race #10.