Tag Archives: Sports

Up, Up and Away

Of all the running races I’ve done in the past 35+ years, one of my all-time favorites is the annual Up, Up and Away 5k,  held in conjunction with the Findlay (Ohio) Balloonfest.

Why does this race stand out? For one thing, it starts at 8 a.m., which is significant in August in Ohio, where the temp and humidity can often reach into  the 80s by 8 a.m. Then there’s the added exhilaration of watching the multi-colored hot air balloons fill and drift up to the sky above us as we approach the starting line. As we return to the finish line, the sky is dotted with many balloons.

And then there is the food table, sagging under the weight of slices of watermelon and bagels from Tim Horton’s.

Sure, those are all good reasons for loving this race, but the real reason we’re there is to help the Findlay Striders raise funds for the Hancock County (Ohio) Special Olympics. Following this year’s race, the local running club presented a check for $8,000. How great is that?

Once the 5k is over, we get to cheer on all the Special Olympians who are able to participate in a one-mile run/walk. Their persistence and strength far outshine the rest of us.

And somewhere in our attic is a box of race awards collected over the past 35+ years. But none of them means as much as the ones I’ve received at the Up, Up and Away. These unique awards are handcrafted by the Special Olympics athletes at the Kan Du Art Studio in downtown Findlay.

These are the only awards I actually keep out where I can see them on a daily basis because they serve as a daily reminder to be grateful for what is really important. photo (14)

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Peacefulness of early morning runs marred by thoughts of violence

In 35 years of running, my early morning runs have provided me with much time to think, to pray, to meditate, to plan, to talk (and not just when I have a running partner because who better than oneself to talk to), and to completely lose myself in memories.

Tuesday morning’s run was in many ways like every other run. The early morning quiet was welcome, broken only by birdsong and the occasional car passing by. But the peacefulness of the early hour was marred by conflicting thoughts of sorrow and anger as memories of the horrendous bombing at runnersMonday’s Boston marathon.

As I ran, I reflected on all of the finish lines I’ve crossed, happy in knowing that my family was often waiting to cheer me on. It never once occurred to me that I could be putting them in danger, that there might be someone angry enough at the world that he or she would set off a bomb at a road race.

Even as this thought crossed my mind, a distant rumble of thunder broke into my reverie, sending chills down my spine. It reminded me of the old lady in “Under the Tuscan Sun” who agrees to sell her crumbling villa when a bird defecates on Frances’ head. “Le signe, le signe!”

If that thunder clap was a sign, it was perhaps more a sign that we all need to remember that we Americans aren’t the only ones facing acts of violence every day. Even as the bombs exploded in Boston, there were about 20 separate car bombings in Iraq that killed at least 37 and injured more than 140 people, all in one day.

I’m reminded of a statement by a cousin — “We are not alone in our grief.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/16/world/middleeast/attackers-strike-across-iraq-as-elections-approach.html

In the weeks to come, those early morning runs will serve to remind me of our shared grief the world over. I’m sure I won’t be alone in my thoughts.race

 

 

 

 

Navigating the slopes of Cincinnati on foot

A few years ago, I decided to run a mini-marathon near Cincinnati — 10 miles on a “flat, fast course.” That phrase alone should have made me skeptical, but silly me….a pure-bred Northwest Ohio runner defines flat as in pancake. No hills.

About halfway through the third mile, it occurred to me that flat was a relative term. If one lives in Cincinnati, a “flat” race course in Mason could certainly be considered flat since Mason doesn’t sport the steep hills of downtown Cincy.

But as the race went on, it became more apparent that I’d been naive to believe that first hill would be the worst. By the end of the race, I swore I’d never run in Cincinnati again.

But oh, how time dulls the memory. So when my daughter suggested we go for a run on a balmy late January morning, I jumped at the chance to explore a new neighborhood. As we approached an intersection, I asked which way we were turning.

She snickered and said, “Well, we won’t be turning right.”  Curious, I looked right — I swear the road went straight up. In reality, it was certainly steep, but not quite the equivalent of Cincy’s Clyde Street, which rises at a 30 degree slope.

Steep Clyde Street

 

The rest of the run continued in gradual ups and downs, which can be almost as bad as a straight-up hill. You don’t realize you’re running uphill until you’re nearly out of breath, thighs aching.

But as is usually the case of running in a new locale, it was a route of surprises. Along the way, we passed my cousin’s studio, and later, her house. A short while later, I admitted I had no idea where we were. I wasn’t worried until daughter number 2 admitted she too wasn’t sure of our location.

But down another hill, and across a street, and she suddenly recognized her surroundings. Phew.

In retrospect, it was a good run. We had a great conversation, discovered a new bakery, and conquered a few hills. And it was 62 degrees, sunny, and we had worked up a good sweat outdoors in late January.

The down-to-earthiness of an extraordinary woman — Helen James Minck

Some individuals walk into our lives quietly and unobtrusively, yet leave such an indelible impression that we feel their presence long after they are gone. Helen James Minck was one of those individuals. When Helen died on Christmas Eve, I felt saddened that I’d never get to hear more of her stories, to hear her laugh. Yet her face and voice are so clear, so present.

I met Helen about five or six years ago when she and her husband, Richard Minck, invited us to join them for dinner at the Shawnee Country Club in Lima. My husband and I had known Dick, a  Bluffton native, for many years. In fact, he’d been my landlord when I’d lived in a tiny garage apartment at the back of his property.

On that first meeting, we met at their condo that bordered the golf course. Having never met Helen, I was nervous. In the first few minutes, she put me at ease. My first impression of Helen was that she was a lovely, sweet woman who dearly loved to listen to her husband’s stories of their extensive art collection. It wasn’t until later when we were sitting in the club dining room, which overlooks the golf course, that I began to understand just how accomplished this woman was.

Dick and Helen Minck

We happened to be seated at a window from which we could see some young high school golfers teeing off. I knew little about golf, but it was clear that Helen was an old pro. Until back problems prevented her from participating in one of her favorite sports, she’d been a champion golfer at Lakewood Golf Course in St. Petersburg, Fla., where she’d lived when not summering in Lima. Without a hint of snobbery, she began telling stories about golfing with so and so. But it was her mention of “Chi Chi” that caught my attention.

Chi Chi? Rodriguez? Yep, that’s the one. She grinned and recounted a story he’d told. I’ve forgotten it, probably because my brain stuck on the name. She really did know her golf.

The old feature writer in me surfaced and I began asking questions. Pretty soon she’d told me about growing up first in Toledo, then Lima, before heading to Wellesley College, a women-only school in Massachusetts. Then she really surprised me — she had majored in physics — one of only two physics majors in the class of 1941. I remember her saying she loved the sciences and math.

By that point, I was pretty much awestruck, although not by any fault of Helen’s. Her stories were just that. Stories of a life lived fully.

On the wall in my office/sewing room, is a mounted photo that Dick Minck took while he and Helen were traveling. It’s a scene of a fishing village in Alaska, I think. Dick will probably tell me I’m wrong. No matter. If I look at the photo just right, I can imagine Helen standing on the old pier, ready to tackle yet another of her favorite sports — fishing.