Earlier this year, when my brother first told me that he’d somehow convinced my parents to take up the challenge of running a marathon, I thought he had surely gone off the deep end. Never mind that my parents had just finished running the Brooklyn Half in the middle of May and my mom was already placing in her age group consistently in most of the NYRR races. I just wasn’t convinced that running marathons was something you pick up after retirement. In my mind, I’d always imagine them to be spending their golden years playing mahjong or card games at the local YMCA, not pounding the pavement every weekend for a long run in the dead of summer. But when push came to shove and they picked Dallas (where my mom’s brother happens to live) to be the site of their first 26.2, I was surprised. I figured there was a 50/50 chance they would be able to start and finish this race. Just in case though, I made arrangements to be there so I could document the momentous occasion!
To their credit, my parents were very diligent in their training, much more than even I was during my best weeks this summer (you can read my previous post for details). They arrived in Dallas last week full of confidence that they would be leaving the city with a marathon medal around their necks. In fact, they were so determined that my mom and uncle invited the rest of the extended family to come down to Dallas for the weekend to cheer them on. In all, two aunts, one uncle, one cousin and her husband flew down to join my uncle, aunt, and their children (two cousins) to spectate this race. Before it was all said and done, there were nine people gathered under one roof on Saturday night ready to rock their cheer on for my parents as they prepared for their 26.2 mile journey around Dallas!
Ironically when I was initially planning this trip back in the summer, I had my own thoughts for the marathon that only tangentially involved my parents and family. At the time, I had the notion that I would be racing for time so the details of my parent’s race and how the family members would arrange themselves along the course on marathon day didn’t seem so applicable to me. However as the trip and the race approached, it became painfully obvious that I would not only not be able to race, I wouldn’t even be permitted to run with my parents (stupid MCL tear!) So I did the only thing I could. I made myself captain of the Lam Parental Virgin Marathon Fan Club and spearheaded the entire spectating campaign (with help from my uncle) to cheer on my parents as much as possible. We had my cousins make colorful signs while we drew up a strategic plan of where and when everyone should be. I also gave my parents some highly classified personal last minute racing tips for them to use just in case they run out of gas in the last 10K. For their last meal, the entire family drove over to a neighboring Olive Garden and loaded up on garlic bread and pasta so everyone would be adequately fueled for running or cheering.
The next morning, my uncle, aunt, two cousins and I got up early and executed the spectation plan to perfection. We were able to track, take photos, and cheer on my parents at multiple locations along the course. Whenever mom and dad arrived at each of our four cheering stations, we were more than ready for them. We had signs, hi-fives, cameras, and cowbells all out in full force. We whooped and hollered whenever they passed by and they responded in kind. My uncle took several high-quality pictures while my cousin took video shots of their visits. I half-expected my parents to be walking at some point, but every time they passed us by, they seemed to be running stronger than they had before! We ended up seeing my parents at mile 9, mile 11, mile 15 and mile 21. After the last checkpoint, we drove into the city to join my other aunts and uncles at the finish line. Because we had been tracking their progress, I knew that they would be coming close to finishing the race in under 5 hours. As the big red digital clock at the finishing line counted down the minutes til 5 hours, I began to worry. I worried whether they were still running or walking gingerly. I wondered whether they were still together or running far apart. With so many thoughts running through my mind, I will admit that I had trouble containing my own emotions. I had a hard time believing what was about to happen right in front of me. I just couldn’t believe my parents, MY PARENTS, would be MARATHON FINISHERS in a matter of minutes. I couldn’t believe that this running project I gave myself 7 years ago (to run a marathon) almost on a whim would turn out to have such an impact on my family’s lives.
Minutes later, they arrived, still smiling, still running strong, still under 5 hours, with some time to spare. They gave one big wave to the nine of us cheering on the sidelines, took each other’s hand and crossed the finish line in unison with their arms raised high to show the world what they had done. It was the most adorable, endearing, and inspirational marathon finish I had ever seen.
Kudos to mom and dad for completing their first marathon, the Dallas White Rock Marathon, in 4:49:21! In doing so, they not only motivated me to be a better athlete, they inspired all their brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and everyone else who were privileged enough to have witnessed this epic event to be more active and healthy in their own lives too! I was so touched and amazed by all the love and affection shown from and to my parents that I can say I’m so glad I did not run this race. For me, being able to share this magical marathon experience with my mom, dad, aunts, uncles and cousins firsthand is something I will surely never forget. Congratulations again mom and dad and thanks to everyone who played a part in making my parents’ dream a reality!