Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hot & Now

In August of 2008, Matt Gfeller, a Reynolds High School football player, was fatally injured during the season's first game. The tragedy impacted our community greatly, especially our friends who knew Matt well. Many thoughtful tributes followed, and a scholarship fund in his memory was initiated soon thereafter. The idea of a 5K race to support the fund in Matt's memory was formed earlier this fall. But you know, this wasn't just any old kid, so this couldn't be just any old 5K run. Apparently, Matt loved Krispy Kreme doughnuts, so in order to be a full-fledged challenger in this race, you had to eat 6 doughnuts - at the halfway point! It doesn't take much to imagine how that could turn out...

And so today was race day in memory of #57. After 4 straight days of a cold, wind-driven rain, we awakened this morning to beautiful sunshine and temperatures near 60 degrees by 9am. The goal for the turnout had originally been set at 300 participants. But with the weather so perfect and the cause so compelling, more than 700 racers signed up, and many more had to be turned away. How cool is that? We felt lucky just to line up at the Start. The feeling of community was palpable - the entire Varsity football team was there to marshall the course in their team jerseys, and neighbors stood on their sidewalks and front porches to cheer on the runners. Even though it was an unseasonably warm morning for mid-November, it was impossible to get through the race without the chill of goosebumps.

The run for me personally was not at all comfortable. I had decided long ago that I would sign up only as a Casual runner, meaning that I could eat as few doughnuts as I wished at the halfway mark...which for me would be 0 doughnuts, no question! Still, the sudden increase in temperature made for a tough race. I really hate running in the heat; I would rather run in 26 degrees than 76 degrees every.single.time. So the (unexpected) warmth plus the (expected) hills created a challenge Matt would have been proud of. Fortunately, I had my buddy Starnes to keep me going strong, and we approached the uphill finish on a decent pace. However, you can never quite estimate the impact of having to dodge regurgitated Krispy Kremes on your path to the Finish. Admittedly, my own stomach was churning a little by the time we crossed the line, but our race came to an end in a pretty respectable time. My speedy husband, on the other hand, having (wisely) chosen to forego any doughnuts at the turnaround, decided he'd be the 3rd overall runner to cross the line, easily winning his age group. What a stud.

So needless to say, it felt like our morning was well-spent. Over the mandatory post-race Pumpkin Spice Latte, we had the good fortune of lounging around with our friends and talking about life. Inevitably, someone brought up the concept of living for the moment. After all, tackles like the one that claimed Matt's life happen in every single football game. For whatever reason, it was simply his time. And so the idea of living life in fear because of its fleeting nature seems in stark contrast to living each moment as fully as possible. To be sure, it's a little scary to think that any particular moment could be your last. I mean, one of the reasons Matt's story has been so touching is the manner in which he lost his life. But I believe the bigger reason he continues to have such an impact, even now, is because of the way he lived his life.

Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting Matt Gfeller. But anyone who knew him will tell of his compassion, his integrity, and his ambition...pretty admirable traits in anyone, especially a 15 year-old kid. So I was honored this morning to sweat, to tackle the hills, and even to eat a Krispy Kreme doughnut (after crossing the Finish line!) in memory of such a cool guy. And as is usually the case with an event like this, I feel like I received so much more than I gave. Because in exchange for my registration fee, I walked away with the satisfaction of crossing the Finish line of a tough race, a pretty sweet t-shirt, and a little more zest for life...courtesy of #57.

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