Amid my so-called training for the Columbus Marathon, along comes a preliminary weather report from Stuart Lazarus, my fleet-footed mentor who founded Run To Remember, an organization that raises money for the National Hospice Foundation.
His weather report says it might be cold and rainy.
So, that’s the weather. Here’s the news:
If the pavement is slippery, so am I. If it is raining, I’m out. At first, I will wear my rainsuit. But, if my rainsuit leaks or any dampness forms on any of my parts, I quit. I refuse to chafe. And I am working to convince the rest of the growing Run To Remember team to follow my courageously wimpy leadership. I have sent them this message:
Worried about walking to the point of even the slightest discomfort? Does that 1/2 Marathon map make you anxious? Did you know there is a Super Secret 1/5 Marathon alternative?
I will be offering cool beer, chips and salsa in my back yard near the five mile marker (Drexel and Broad) upon the occasion of my suddenly, subtly and spontaneously dropping out of the Marathon. If you want, we can wrap you in tin foil, just like Stuart (and the other burritos) at the finish line.
Using George Carlin’s logic: marathoners who run slower and shorter than you are slackers; those who run farther and faster than you are maniacs. You are just right.
Since I am running in memory of my beloved father, Arthur J. Isaac, Jr., you just might ask, “Does this honor the memory of your father?”
Channeling my father, I can safely say: “Yes.” And, even, “You think dignity comes from my son running through the streets in his underwear?” You see, my father ran no marathons. He did jog for a few months, but his lifetime mileage didn’t amount to a marathon.
My father died quickly and unexpectedly from an overwhelming strep infection, Group A Streptococcus. It was the same year, and the same cause, that killed Jim Henson, the Muppeteer. From my perspective, here’s what happened: Otherwise healthy, he told me on a Friday that he wasn’t feeling well and would I be kind enough to fill in for him in his weekend men’s doubles tennis game? I said sure and played.
The next Friday was his memorial service. At the calling hours afterwards, the men from his doubles game said to me, “He’s probably not going to play this weekend either. Do you want to play for him again?” I said sure and played.
I played in the game every weekend for about two years. It was my inheritance and my mourning. And, more than exercise, it was a chance to learn — at the age of 30 — how to play tennis for the rest of my life. After all, here were men who were my father’s generation, still playing hard, but hardly exerting themselves. No grunting. No sweat. Lots of spin, with the ball sliced as thin as pastrami.
I tell this story because I’m walking (or not) in memory of my father. But also because there was a moment during one of those tennis games, just after I had run as hard as I could to chase down a deeply lobbed ball. I think I reached it and returned it. I was poetry in motion. But after the point, my father’s and my tennis buddies met at the net to admonish me: “Your father wouldn’t have run for that one.”
So here I am. This one’s for you, Dad. It looks like I’m not running for this one.