2012 seems off to a rough start. It’s early afternoon, and the list of chores I’d tasked for the day has been all but ignored. I’ve taken the box of Christmas decorations upstairs – one step closer to the storage closet. Otherwise: nothing.
As the sun’s glow filters lower through the trees, my enthusiasm wanes for the afternoon’s planned track workout (5X800). I downgrade it to a seven-miler around Donner Lake and think about cleaning out my closet (#1 on my shunned chore list). I settle for cleaning out the microwave (not on my list) and roam restlessly through the house until I realize the dogs need a walk.
It’s a typical procrastination pattern for me, except the thing I’m trying to shove aside isn’t something I should be doing, it’s something I don’t want to think about. It’s this feeling in my heart, the knowledge that two friends, Robert and Linda Mathis, were killed last night by a motorist while crossing the street in Incline Village.
I head out the back door and off into the woods with the dogs, their deaths heavy on my mind. Robert and Linda were the RD’s for the ultrarunner.net race series, and I try to reach back into my memories and recall the first race of theirs that I ran. I’m pretty sure it was Lake of the Sky, which was probably also my favorite of their races. I find myself wondering if I will ever get to run it again and think how nice it would be to run a memorial race on that course in their honor. I smile because I know I am no RD. Still, with the winter we’re having, we could run that race next weekend. Not a race, but a community run perhaps. It’s a nice thought because it feels like doing something. Something! In a situation for which nothing can be done.
The dogs run far ahead and I am alone on the pine needle path. As the sun slides closer to Donner Peak, I realize if I’m to get my run in, I’ll have to do it by headlamp. I shrug. I let go of the workout altogether and choose trails that extend the dog walk. I blame it on PMS and laziness. I don’t feel like running.
I feel the dirt and sticks and pine needles through my thin-soled shoes and take comfort in feeling a part of the landscape. The dogs return to check on me before quickly catching a scent and bolting for another romp. I allow myself to be alone with my memories.
I had just been talking with Jamie the day before about how when you’re new to ultra running, you seek out mentors – people who can help you learn the trails, find gear, and meet other runners. Robert and Linda did much of that for me through the races they put on. Their events were typically low-key affairs, but done with care and professionalism. There were always well-marked courses, plenty of aid, and smiling folks there to help. I learned many of the trails in the Sierra Foothills through running their races, and I also met many friends there for the first time. People like Peter, Catherine, Scott, Lainie, and Dave, just to name a few. Twice I competed in their race series, taking third place in 2007 and second in 2009. It was not a highly competitive series, but they always had great prizes, and the pile of Inov-8 shoes I won got me through many wonderful miles of trail.
In addition to their own races, Robert and Linda could often be found volunteering at other people’s events. Their smiling faces (and Linda’s homemade chili and grilled burgers!) were everpresent. Last spring, I ran their Auburn Trails race for the third time. It rained all day, and if you think that’s tough to run in, you should try standing around at the finishline trying to keep the timing software dry and grill burgers for a bunch of muddy, stinky runners. They were a beautiful sight to see when crossing the line.
The sun finally drops and the temperature swiftly follows. I don’t mind the cold hands, but I reluctantly turn for home to avoid getting caught out in the dark. I never feel like I deal well with death, but then, I suppose no one does. It’s so … strange. So damn permanent.
The running community lost some very special people yesterday. We can only be glad that we knew them, and appreciate how much better off we all are for what they gave us. I guess my way of dealing with the sadness is to share these memories here, with you. If you knew Robert and Linda, or have fond memories from their races, please share in the comments. I’d love to hear about them.
|Robert and Linda taking care of things behind the scenes at the 2008 Rucky Chucky Roundabout.|
[Update: A memorial group run has been planned for Saturday, February 25. Meet at the Auburn Overlook Park in Auburn at 9:00 A.M. Details can be found at the event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/247160062023224/ For additional info, contact Jen Dicus - firstname.lastname@example.org]