This weekend is the twentieth anniversary of 09/11. Kayla was four years old. Shayna was not even one. I was grateful that I didn’t have to explain any of what happened to the girls. But, I didn’t know at the time they would both grow up in the shadow of an event that shapes our lives a score of years later.
This was not a day for me to look back at the events of 09/11/2001. This was a day to celebrate and remember Shayna by participating in the Shamrock Shuffle halfway to St. Patrick’s Day race.
March of 2020 we gathered in the house for the race, as we normally do. It was to be the fifth race since Shayna’s passing. We got word on Friday night that the event had been canceled for Saturday due to COVID-19. Then, we were told it should be a few days or weeks before we’d get back to normal. Here we are a year and a half later, still struggling.
In spite of the pandemic still going strong, the race was on! There was a smaller crowd, for sure. However, having the race in early September, we had perfect weather. Normally, we are all bundled up because it’s cold, or raining, or both. This year it was shorts and t-shirts weather.
The first couple of years, I ran at least parts of the race. I turned 60 in May. It’s time for me to give up that nonsense. I trained to fast-walk it. My course, of course, is the neighborhood where I get in the equivalent of 38 flights of stairs on my morning walk. The weeks prior to the race I worked on speeding up my gait to try to bring my time down.
At race time, I didn’t push to the front to go with the runners this time. It was a little sad hanging back. But, Father Time gets us all. As I got to the Start/Stop line, I queued up my playlist anchored by Van Halen’s “Right Now” and I was off with the piano, guitar, bass, and drums opening banging in my ears.
The runners pulled away from me. I paced myself by keeping up with the stragglers and passing them as they slowed to a walk. No one walking passed me. Soon after making the turn for home at the halfway mark, I passed the other members of Shayna’s Shining Stars still heading out. I quickened my pace pushing hard for home.
As I was crossing the two-mile marker, a race official running backward on the route approached me and asked me why I wasn’t wearing the official green tee-shirt of the race. I had to remove one of my Airpods to hear her. I told her I wear the penguin shirt for Shayna and I love this shirt because the irony is penguins are flightless birds. I bought it shortly after Shayna passed. I told her Shayna’s story. She gave me a pat on the back and said that today I was flying for Shayna. I quickened my pace again.
My goal was to cross the finish line in under 45 minutes. Based on my training, that seemed easily doable. I didn’t think I could do 40 minutes. 40 minutes for a 5K is a 13-minute mile. I had been training in the 14.5 minutes mile range.
I crossed the Stop/Start line again at 40:03. I knew no one walking had passed me and I didn’t see anyone who walked the entire time in front of me. I didn’t know I was in first place among the walkers though. I placed as #1 Male Walker, not for my age group, overall. Not too shabby for 60 years old. Elisabeth Carter won a prize as a top female (runner) finisher. Shayna’s Shining Starts showed up!