She was running for a cause. She was running for something she believed in. She was running for love.
She was running for Jack.
The Mercedes Half Marathon was organized through the efforts of a father named Paul nearly fourteen years ago in honor of his little boy Matt, who has Down Syndrome. On the day that little Matt faced open heart surgery to repair a heart defect that is common to many children with Down Syndrome, his father Paul and his mother Cinna noticed a crowd of people flooding the streets of downtown Birmingham as they peered out the window of their UAB hospital room. It was the day of the Vulcan Marathon, and it was the day that Paul became a runner. He looked at his feeble little boy facing surgery and made him a promise, "You pull through this, Matt, and next year Daddy will run a marathon for you." Well, Matt pulled through, and so Paul did too, and he ran the marathon the following year and the next and the next. In the years since, this marathon has been named the Mercedes Marathon and the proceeds from it go to the Bell Center for Early Intervention Programs for children like Matt, for children like Jack.
Hearing of the marathon from a friend (who also has a nephew with Down Syndrome), my sister Kelly, who is an avid runner, jumped at this opportunity to run for such a wonderful cause and dedicated herself to this mission only 3 weeks before the event. (Only my sister Kelly could actually run 13.1 miles without formally training for months in advance!)
So, today I'd like to dedicate this post to my wonderful sister Kelly who listens when I need a patient ear, who comforts me with her words when I need to cry, who worries with me when I need a pal, who encourages me and my son, who loves Jack as if he was her own, and who runs 13.1 miles at her fastest pace ever (under 2 hours!) and just after having recovered herself and her three kids from strep throat ... all for her nephew. I don't just have sisters, I tell you ... I have soul sisters. I feel so blessed to share such a closeness with both Kelly and Kasey.
I received a text this morning around 10:30am informing me that my sister had finished the half marathon, her brief but profound tribute to our dear Jack. Booming with pride, I just had to call her, and the excitement Kelly's voice was something that I'll never forget. She and I were both filled with emotion as she told me how wonderfully inspirational and motivational the event had been, and she mentioned that it was all the more wonderful due to the many smiling, cheerful faces of Down Syndrome that surrounded her as she ran. I simply could not hold back the tears as she told me that the run wasn't easy and there were some tough hills, but whenever she felt like quitting, she would picture Jack's smiling face and it would pull her through. She said that she realized that the hills were nothing compared to the challenges that Jack may face in his future and the challenges that I face as a mom of a special needs child, and this realization just made her run faster ... so fast that she broke her own personal record (13.1 miles in 1 hour 57 minutes ... incredible, just incredible!) Way to go, Kel! I am so very proud of you! (Man, I wish I could've been there! Maybe next year I'll even run too?!?!)
"Thank you, Aunt Kelly, for running so hard for me today! I love you and miss you so much!" Love, Jack
For my sisters,
God sent us to be sisters
So we can be best of friends
To be there for one another
Even when there is pain
I thank the Lord for sending my sisters to me
For whom I truly love and care
We shared so many things together
Like laughter and some scares
Having you as a sister
Means more to me, more than you'll ever know
I wouldn't trade you for anything
I will never let go
As our friendship continues to grow
So will my love for you
Just always remember you can talk to me
I'll be the best friend you ever know