The picture on the back of our race shirts reads “I’m running in loving memory of my beautiful friend Kim Paradise Ross.” It is difficult for me to feel comfortable with calling myself a “friend” of Kim. Looking at one possible definition we find the meaning as “one attached to another by affection or esteem”. In today’s virtual society the term has become so watered down that its value more closely resembles acquaintance, and it is there that my comfort level is found. Friend is a title to be earned, not assigned.
Kim succumbed to breast cancer July 8th of last year. My memories of her are primarily grounded in our teenage years. She and I attended Fort Caroline Middle School and Terry Parker High School. While we did not necessarily run in the same social circles Kim’s personality elevated her above the social cliques. It was not difficult to be drawn to her smile and undaunted optimism, things she shared with all who drifted into her path. After graduation she became nothing more than a yearbook photograph but one not forgotten.
Last year a mutual friend of ours, Amanda Farmer, asked me to participate in the Team Kim Ross relay for the 26.2 with Donna. When Amanda gave me the back story it was impossible to say no. Kim had fought and overcome the cancer but was now in the throes of a second attack, one which would be described to me as virtually insurmountable. Both the pre and post race feasts were a mix of joy for the cause and sadness for the reality that this would probably be the last race Kim would run.
If you have ever considered tackling a marathon the 26.2 With Donna is a great race for a worthy cause. Traversing Jacksonville’s beautiful shoreline and winding through a variety of neighborhoods lined with supportive folks sharing not only their support but also their bacon, Bloody Mary’s and an assortment of fruit, the physical pain and effort is easily overcome by the sense of community and purpose. OK, “easily” is a poor user of the language, especially if you are not a seasoned distance runner. You will hurt but when surrounded by those running in honor of loved ones they have lost or those presently fighting to survive, your pain is a little less relevant.
My first “Donna” was this past year and while my responsibility was the first leg of a relay team (I along with my friend Vicki Schoonmaker tackled the first 5 miles), hearing the stories told by those who had run it in the past of how beautiful the experience is, I had to continue beyond my task. Gutting out 15 miles, roughly 7 beyond what I had trained for, left me aching through a good portion of my lower extremities. Adding to the pain was the unseasonably cold Jacksonville day which never topped 36 degrees during the run. Having run a New Years Eve 5k in Vermont where the temperature was 8 degrees the cold was not a shock. The wind was another story, especially along the beach where the tranquility of crashing waves illuminated by a cloudless sky fought hard to mask numbing breeze.