The fateful day, 10/10/10, finally arrived. William hit the streets of downtown Chicago with 30,000 other runners to attempt his first marathon. Running in support of Inheritance of Hope, William ran 26.2 miles in five hours and 24 minutes. Look below for photos and updates from race day. View William’s race results here.
In addition to completing the 26.3 mile Chicago Marathon, William wanted to raise $1,000 for Inheritance of Hope, a non-profit that provides retreats for families caring for a loved one battling terminal illness. After months of advocating and posting updates on his facebook page, William reached his fundraising goal Tuesday, five days before Sunday’s race.
With the “10.10.10” Chicago Marathon date approaching, William kept active with his intramural flag football team. William’s stamina and scrambling ability as a quarterback led his team, Corn Sugar, to a 20-12 victory in its first game Sunday.
After completing training runs up to 16 miles, he will rest during the final days leading up to Sunday’s race. Although designing a lethal football playbook preoccupied William more than running a marathon during the past week, he was pleased to learn Kristen, William’s aunt and Inheritance of Hope co-founder, returned home after surgery to combat cancer.
Approximately 45,000 runners from all 50 states and 100 countries are expected to participate in the Chicago Marathon Sunday. In 2009, more than 8,000 racers
raised $10 million through the marathon’s charity program. The race will begin at 7:30 a.m. from Grant Park in downtown Chicago, then wind through 29 neighborhoods in the city’s north and south sides.
I rolled out of bed at 10:35 Sunday morning. Church in 25 minutes. Alex and I stayed home last week when the family – grandparents, neighbors and all – went to service in Murfreesboro. I didn’t want to miss out on a true southern Sunday morning.
I threw on one of William’s shirts and hopped in the car. William’s mom flew through downtown Carrollton and we still arrived five minutes late.
The service wasn’t much different from other Methodist services I had attended. William later told me, “That’s about as liberal as it gets around here.” The accents did attract my attention. The cheerful Sunday school teacher drawled in the faces of her children and the minister channeled Foxworthy while discussing a world gone “off track.”
There was a baptism, not much different from every other baptism I had ever witnessed but for the black guest preacher presiding over the ceremony. There were chuckles as the infant protested the holy water dumped on his head and the congregation vowed to raise him in the Christian life.
However, I soon learned the baptism was indeed special,
The father of the baptized infant was the son of an important man in Carrollton. While William was home from school in December, word got around that the his teenage daughter had died.
She was pregnant with twins but told no one. The family heard cries from the basement and discovered the daugher had given birth to twins. The babies were stillborn, the young mother died hours later.
The community was in shock. Therapists were on call at the local schools and teachers did their best to comfort students.
Thus, the baptism of the healthy grandson was a significant moment in the Carrollton community still grieving from the tragedy.
Georgia has the eighth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, according to a 2008 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, with more than 22,500 teen pregnancies each year. The Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention has launched a campaign to reduce adolescent pregnancies by 15 percent by the year 2015.
The organization has a fascinating map on its website combining census and health survey data to show teen pregnancy rates in Georgia counties along side income and employment data.
“Girls who grow up in poverty and without hope of bettering their situation are likely to be teen mothers,” writes Jane Fonda, the famous activist and G-CAPP founder. “Without early and on-going interventions, their early parenthood virtually guarantees that they and their children will spend their lives in poverty.”
G-CAPP seems to hold poverty levels and poor sexual education within ethnic minority groups responsible for teen pregnancy rates. A social divide is apparent in Carrollton, the county seat of Carroll County nestled between Alabama and Atlanta, where the country club on the east side and government project housing on the west side of town divide the community. As the tragedy of the mayor’s baptized grandson demonstrated, the issue affects all sections of Georgian society.
William had never participated in a triathlon, let alone any sort of organized race. He couldn’t help but laugh when his brother in-law Michael got sick at the gas station hours before starting the Tri the Parks triathlon at Tanner State Park in Carrollton, Ga. Saturday morning, but the race would prove to be the most challenging physical task he had ever attempted.
The duo scoped out the course after checking in and setting up their bikes in the predawn darkness. Before them lay three tasks: 600 m swim, 11.2 mile bike and 5k run. Finish and they could watch college football for the rest of the day.
William had been training all summer with his sights set on completing the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 10 to benefit Inheritance of Hope, an organization founded by his aunt and uncle that serves children and families caring for a parent with a terminal illness. Although William’s cardiovascular system was strong from running regularly, he had not practiced swimming during the two weeks before race day and had only tried his road bicycle once. Michael had marathon experience and was well read on triathlons, but this would also be his first time attempting one.
There were a number of serious athletes vying to qualify for national races. They paraded before their inferiors, bodies bursting from tight fitting race uniforms. Michael’s eyes bulged at the sight of their state of the art road bikes with sleek wheels designed to torch the modest hills of Georgian countryside.
The youngest racer was 13-year-old Matthew Stanley. He blew away most of the competition with his high-tech bicycle and customized uniform.
“He’s probably sponsored,” Michael said.
The majority of racers, however, were middle-aged men and women seeking a challenge to start their weekend. There was a camaraderie among the novices, who wore bright red swim caps and displayed the letter “N” written in felt marker on their calves. They joked about drowning, running one another off the road or suffering a heart attack mid-sprint.
Somewhere in this group, behind the athletes, the star-kid, and in the middle of the middle-age pack were William and Michael. They donned their red novice swim caps, staring out at the cones in the peaceful lake that soon would be attacked by hundreds of ambitious swimmers. William originally stated his goal was to beat Michael, then revised it to completing the 5k run in less than 25 minutes. Above all, however, the great goal was simply to finish.
“I had no idea a triathlon would be such a religious experience,” William’s sister Bonnie, a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, said.
After the nation anthem, racers bowed their multi-colored swim cap-covered heads as a race official led the crowd in prayer and a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks exactly nine years before. Christian rock music surged through the PA speakers as swimmers leapt into the warm lake waters.
Nobody drowned at Tanner State Park during the 30 minutes racers were in the water. Michael emerged a minute ahead of William and the two shared brief moments together at the bicycle staging area. William carefully buckled his helmet – failure to do so would result in disqualification – and took off after his brother-in-law. Michael would gain seven minutes on William during the bike phase.
Michael returned with his bike and a comfortable lead, waving to his wife. William entered the staging area with determination on his countenance. He had trained to run and bolted for the trail at an upbeat pace.
The sun was shining in the morning sky as they ran around the lake, uphill through the woods and back to the finish line. Michael raised both arms in triumph when he finished. William completed his first triathlon with an official time of 1 hour, 37 minutes. Out of breath, he spoke of losing feeling in his legs and passing an armadillo on his bicycle.
After downing a few energy bars and bagels, the boys drove home, showered and collapsed on the couch. They ate Chick-Fil-A and watched football the rest of the day.
Shortly after stepping off the airplane at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, I was eating my first ever Chick-Fil-A sandwich with William and his parents. We drove overnight to Murfreesboro and stayed at William’s grandparents’ house along with a dozen other family and friends.
After a weekend of fun, we drove four hours from Murfreesboro to William’s home in Carrollton, Ga. The long trip combined with the weekend’s exciting activities wearied the travelers. William’s young cousin Luke was particularly responsible for the fatigue, insisting on the non-stop pickup football games.
Shortly after returning home from the Labor Day weekend of merriment, however, William was focused on his training. The Chicago Marathon was a month away and William was determined to run the race.
William plans to raise $1,000 for his run to benefit Inheritance of Hope, an organization that serves children and families caring for a parent with a terminal illness. The organization was founded in 2003 by William’s aunt and uncle, the parents of Lucas, after William’s aunt, Kristen, was diagnosed with liver cancer.
Kristen continues to fight the disease. Meanwhile, William set off to attempt the longest run of his life – 12 miles in 90 degree weather – to stay on course for his incremental marathon training. Two hours later, he walked through his front door drenched with sweat and out of breath. He promptly poured himself a glass of water and collapsed into a chair at the dinner table. He had never run such a distance at once in his life, but even longer distances awaited him in the coming weeks.
The next day, William sent this message to his facebook followers comparing his difficult training to the trials faced by those with terminal illnesses:
I ran 12 miles yesterday. I am sore, and when I finished I was really tired. So what. There are families out there facing the terminal illness of a parent. What is running without pause for about 2 hours compared to that? Nothing.
I am running to raise awareness for families who find themselves in this situation. Furthermore, I am running to support Inheritance of Hope, who helps these families out during their time of struggle with the illness.
I hope that you can help me reach my fund-raising goal of $1000 before I race next month in Chicago. It would only take a little bit from each of you. $5. $10. That’s it. That’s a combo meal at your favorite fast food joint or 3 gallons of gas. You wouldn’t miss it. But the families who go on Legacy Retreats will be so grateful.