Gavin Tedford was a brother, a son, an extremely talented musician, a friend, a valedictorian, a teacher, and a runner. In fact, one of my happiest running memories is running a half marathon that Gavin also ran in.
Have you ever seen someone who was clearly just designed to do something? Gavin was born to run. He didn’t run as much as GLIDE – fast and effortless - it was a beautiful thing to watch. In the half marathon we ran together, the course took us in and out of a cul-de-sac. Gavin was exiting there just as I was entering it. Seeing me, he grinned, changed where he was running so that he could cross over and give me a high 5 and continued on.
Gavin was also a horrific heroin addict. Through hard work he got clean and began establishing a new life for himself. For reasons that we will never know, though, he fell back into the darkness and last year, at age 29, he lost his battle with this horrible disease.
Today, there was a race to remember him and to raise money and awareness to combat addiction. Having a goal to reduce the number of people that succumb to their disease.
Since my injury in May, I’ve been really struggling with my running. I haven’t been running often or far. But I really wanted to run this race – for Gavin and for myself.
I went to bed last night worried that I wouldn’t even be able to run the whole thing. I kept telling myself that if I had to walk some of it, it was no big deal – to stop being so ridiculous. But it was a restless night.
After weeks and weeks of hot humid weather – it was over 80 degrees, sunny and HOT yesterday – today dawned extremely cool (55 degrees) and raining.
I surprisingly felt at peace as we got dressed to go.
We arrived, signed in, pinned our numbers on and headed over to the start line. It was raining, but not hard and while some shivered I actually found myself relishing the cooler weather.
Since I have felt almost like I am no longer a true runner, when I guy that I see at many races (who always seems to be a positive person) came sprinting up to me and threw his arms around me – it made me feel great! Several people wanted to know where my tutu was, and I told them past experience has shown me that tutus absorb a surprising amount of water, and I didn’t want to any more weight on me. This was met with laughter.
The airhorn blew and we took off and I concentrated hard on pacing myself. The start was extremely crowded as we weaved our way through the first mile. As usually happens at these combined races, we hit the 5K turnaround and the crowd thinned out. I felt good. The Achilles was hardly bothering me at all.
I ran next to a girl for a while that I’ve seen at some other races. As we hit 2.5 miles in, I saw that 3 FAST runners were already on their way back. I felt no pressure as I knew I was not going to remotely competitive this year, so seeing several women that were ahead of me didn’t stress me out.
We ran around the cones at 3.1 in and I headed back, both giving to and receiving encouragement from those I ran by.
It was mile 4 when I started to feel fatigued – my lack of training and conditioning as well as the weight gain was starting to take its toll. I slowed at a water stop and sipped some water. I saw ahead of me dozens of walkers and knew I didn’t have all that far to go. I thought about Gavin and carried on.
The last mile went fast as I dodged in and out of walkers – in packs with strollers and kids and umbrellas. It was both an annoying and welcome distraction.
I crossed the finish line and was happy to have just made it the 6.2 miles.
Finish time was 55:13. That is a terrible time compared to my times in the past, but since my goal was to finish in under 1 hour I was content.
I made my way back to the venue and looked for Marc. He has been battling his own leg injury and hasn’t been running. He had decided to give the 5K a shot, knowing he could walk if it started acting up. We met up and I was so happy when he told me that his leg felt great and he was cautiously optimistic that he was healed.
I changed out of my soaking wet running clothes and put on the “Team Gavin” t-shirt that his mother gave me last year.
We ate the provided lunch and then waited for the awards ceremony to start. I had been behind so many people I had no idea where I stood. I socialized with other runners that I have seen at races as well as members of the recovery community – counselors, recovering addicts, and family members.
While waiting, Gavin’s sister came up and introduced herself. As we were talking, his mother came over and I was also introduced to his brother. His mom was obviously emotional, but the whole family was clearly focused on using this day and the run to celebrate his life, not mourn his death.
As the awards got started, they asked Gavin’s mother to come up and say a few words and as she talked about Gavin I unexpectedly burst into tears.
They then began giving out the medals and I was surprised that I came in second in my age group.
I was 33rd out of 92 runners. 12th out of 56 females
Marc came in 23rd out of 117 5K runners, and posted his 2nd fastest 5K time – pretty awesome since he hasn’t been running at all.
Although I can’t help but be somewhat disappointed in my performance – it’s just the way I’m built – I’m glad that I could be there and honor Gavin’s memory and spend some time with his family.
I also am relieved to know that my running career is not over. Is winning a 10K again ever going to be in my future? Probably not. And maybe that’s ok.