I stood in the melee’ of runners at a big 10K in Rapid City; people milling around talking runner talk, checking shoelaces and toenails, comparing times and injuries…when a small hand slid into mine. I looked down; there she stood. Just under three feet tall, just over five years old, big brown eyes smiling up from a mass of tangled chocolate curls, and an impish grin on her pixie face. “Hi, Elaine!” she tilted her pert little head and waited for my reaction.
“Emily!” I said, “What in the world are you doing? Do you know where your mother is?” She nodded vigorously, raised her eyebrows and perked….
“Why do you think I’m here?”
And that was Emily. A vivacious sprite; on her own, in nobody’s way, just hangin’ out, socializing at a road race. Of course her mother was there somewhere, but Emily was so self sufficient and so loved by the running community, that she had a friend wherever she went.
I last saw Emily at the MORE Marathon in New York City in April. She had traveled from Hershey, PA, where she is attending medical school, and came to watch her mother compete in the marathon. Emily ran in high school, but that distance was as much as she ever aspired to. Since the MORE is five loops in Central Park, she ran some of the race with me, some with her mom, and some she just sat and watched.
That night we all went to a nice place for dinner to celebrate our respective finishes, and I spoke of the woman’s marathon I was planning for August 14th. The big brown eyes lit up again. I think the clincher was when she heard it was on her birthday…she decided what better time to schedule the prodigious event of one’s first marathon than on the anniversary of one’s 23rd year.
So she is on her way from Turkey, where she doing a portion of her internship, and has done her long runs in stifling heat! I guess it won’t matter much about the temperature here, she’ll be acclimated.
Her mother is a gifted runner and a seasoned coach, Emily was one of her athletes. They will both be running on Sunday; mom will probably qualify for Boston and daughter will capture hearts all the way down the Canyon.
It’s hard for me to think of little “Em” as a 23 year old medical student, but I can assure you this; she will do well at the marathon, be an astonishing doctor, and look good doing both. Go Em.