|All proceeds went to IFOPA|
We took a circuitous route to Peachtree City (PTC) for the race, through Buford Georgia to visit my prosthetist, ProCare, for a quick checkup and to discuss a new walking prosthesis to replace my original, thermoplastic test socket. (This is the same foot I ran the Cooper River Bridge Run in 2010.) Jennifer had not seen their facility and I was anxious to show her where the magic happens. Scott Rigsby, who is a friend and mentor to me and many others, happened to be there and we got to spend a few minutes getting reacquainted before we met with Stephen Schulte and his staff to discuss our plans.
|Lauri Buell, Ashley, Bob Truhe|
Although this was the first time we met Ashley's adoptive mom, to me it seemed we were old friends with much catching up to do. I'm always impressed with all the people Ashley knows, I am quite certain if she went on an excursion to the north pole, she would meet someone she knows there. "Mr. Claus, your friend Ashley has dropped in to see you."
PTC is perfect for Ashley, because the entire community is built to get around in golf carts. She drives like a Formula 1 racer, in fact, "some say The Stig learned to drive from Ashley." The place has a rolling terrain that would test these lowcountry runners as well as some unexpected cart tunnels we would run through. The race day weather forecast was not horrid either; although warming up it would not enter the stifling category.
|From left, Woody Thornton, Kate Tamblyn, Eileen Tamblyn, Brian Johnston, Ashley Kurpiel, Me (tall one), Brennan Johnston, Michael Thompson|
|Master of Ceremonies Ashley at starting line|
|Carol, Ashley & me|
I don't recall exactly where the tunnels came into play, but I was not expecting them. The cart paths go under some roads, and coming from the light into the darkness made visibility difficult. I slowed to a shuffle because I could not see the footing at all, and was taking no chances on falling and injuring myself. I finished mile two in 8:11, a bit surprised it was not slower but mile 3 would fix that.
Indeed I was slowing as my body and the morning heated up. I was damn happy this was a 5k and the end was near (!). There was one short, steep uphill near the end of the mile that nearly convinced me to take a couple of walking steps, which I mightily managed to resist. Finally mile three and I had slowed down to 8:27 pace and glad we only had a tenth of a mile to go.
I ran strong up to the finish line, seeing Ashley on the left helped remove the running distress. I glance at the race clock and I see 25:31, 25:30 on my watch. The PR would have to wait for another day. Once I recover a bit I go watch other finishers with Ashley and wait for Jennifer. We see Woody finish, very strong on his dual Cheetahs a la Pistorius, and under 30 minutes. Jennifer comes in a few minutes later, a solid effort, and we head back to the start area.
|What did we do before smartphones?|
Unbeknownst to me, there was an additional award for the "fastest inspirational runner." Yes, my throat grew tight and my eyes a bit damp when my name was announced. I did a decent good job holding it together as my dear friend and source of bright inspiration Ashley Kurpiel handed me a trophy. Well, well.
|Michael Thompson and moi, 3 legged race?|
Carol spoke with almost reverent respect for someone who has worked tirelessly and with utmost compassion for FOP kids, Dr. Fred Kaplan. His efforts may soon be bearing the fruit of clinical trials that may derail FOP in its tracks; a scientific paper is here describing the research. It is not the cure but it could stop the formation of bone growth in the individuals who have FOP.
Jennifer and I also had dinner with Carol and Ashley on Saturday. Afterward Ashley became our tour driver as we hopped in the golf cart for a ride to the lake to watch the sunset, hence generating my earlier comments about her professional driving skills. It was a beautiful evening, the sky gorgeous in the changing light, a perfect ending to a perfect day.
|Sunset at Peachtree City|
Time and time again I have thought...what if...what if my life had been different, on that morning so many years ago, what if I had not run after the bus, or stood in the other line. If I could go back, change my life's path, and never experience all that I have experienced?
That long road would end here, at this sunset, with friends without equal.
I would not change a thing.