Friday, February 26, 2016

Nostalgia and the Cowtown Marathon

The Cowtown Marathon this weekend will bring back a lot of memories for me. My late friend, Charles Ogilvie, who ran in that race well into his eighties and took me to many carbo-loading dinners, used to say it began in my living room, and I think it did. My ex was part of a group from the Institute for Human Fitness, and several men met weekly on Sunday afternoons to discuss programming. The Institute, a part of what was then the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, had a program to promote health through fitness and preventive medicine, rather than treating illness. What happened to that approach is sad and a bit stupid, but it’s a story for another day.

At the time Joel (my ex) and I had a friend, Anne, living with us. While the men talked fitness, Anne and I were out in the kitchen whipping up the richest desserts we could imagine. I particularly remember her Italian Cream Cake. And the men ate like there was no tomorrow. Fitness?

At any rate they came up with the plan of a marathon. This was back in the late 1970s—do the math: this is the 37th running. It took months of planning, endless committee meeting, countless volunteers—I was coordinator of publicity and worked with my dear friend Melinda Mason from the Star-Telegram. I’m not sure why they chose a date in late February, but they did.

The night before the first race, we were sitting in our bedroom when we heard it—sleet! Joel spoke eloquently, “Shit! I didn’t want sleet.” Next morning the ground was covered with ice, snow and sleet. He left way early, and the four kids and I followed cautiously, not quite so early. What I can’t believe to this day is that I turned the kids loose in the Stockyards District while their dad and I worked—Jordan must have been really young at the time, but I guess she had her siblings to look after her. Still, I would no more do that today than I’d run a marathon myself. The kids loved it, looked forward to it each year, and have told me since there was always a huge group of kids they hung out with—yeah, where Marine Creek passes under buildings in dark tunnels and rocks anyone could trip on. I don’t like to think about it.

Having abandoned my parental responsibilities, I had a ball, talking on radio stations, taking care of this and that detail, arranging trophies, who knows what? At the end of the day, all four kids magically reappeared and all was well. It was one of the highlights of my year.

Joel never ran until the last year of our marriage which was really frayed by that time, so I didn’t get the joy of welcoming him across the finish line. After we divorced, I worked one or two races, but it wasn’t the same, and I gave it up.

This Sunday the full marathon will go by my house, and I’ll watch the runners, judging their style and timing, and my thoughts will be far back in the distant past.

Jordan will power walk the 5K, and Jacob will run it though he’s made it plain he won’t stay with his mom. He wants to run with his buddies. I’m not sure he even knows what role the grandfather he never knew had in starting the race. But I know, and I remember, and I offer a silent salute.

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