Happy 199th birthday, Mr. Lincoln:
A PROMISE KEPT -- After my daughter ran the mile in a benefit race in Oakdale in 2007, I promised I'd run with her when the event returned this year.
This year came Saturday. She, of course, had forgotten my promise, probably dismissing it at the time with a typical, "Yeah, Dad. Sure." But I didn't forget. Nor, unfortunately, did I train accordingly.
I still could jog a measly mile, I reasoned, and maybe even have enough left for an all-for-show finishing kick over the final 20 yards.
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I mean, how tough could it be? I ran track (sprints) in high school, which seems like only yesterday (OK, nearly 33 years and 40 pounds ago).
Expectations change over time. Now, at 50, I set a goal of merely going the distance without stopping or, of course, collapsing because of cardiac arrest. You see, I've never enjoyed running distances beyond 100 or 220 yards (I know ... yards gave way to meters sometime near the end of the Mesozoic Era). And I remember a quip from a talented but inherently lazy football player who once questioned the logic of running beyond the 10 yards needed for a first down. Thank you.
That stated, I do admire people who can run longer distances. I just don't aspire to be like them.
A marathon? Not a chance. A 5K (3.1-miler)? Too far, too. But a mile? Yeah, I could putter along and do that for a suitable cause. The annual event benefits the Stanislaus County Library branch in Oakdale, which my family frequents.
The race began. The 70 runners, male and female, competed in categories ranging from 1 to 99 years old, with the senior-most competitors being a couple of 83-year-old gentlemen who still motor pretty darned well.
The serious runners bolted to the front and disappeared from sight in less than a minute. The remainder of the pack included dedicated joggers and those who walked-jogged the course just to get some exercise on a spectacular morning.
About a minute into the race, I realized I'd started out too quickly for my own good. Yeah, those first 100 yards were tough. I downshifted and plodded along.
The leaders soon passed me heading back toward the end of the narrow, U-shaped course. By the time I had reached the half-mile turnaround point, I knew I would struggle to finish without stopping. Really, it felt like I had anvils strapped to my thighs.
With about 200 yards to go, I got my second wind (not that the first one helped all that much) and realized yes, I can finish this thing. In fact, I even entertained thoughts of that finishing kick -- like Jim Ryun turning on the afterburners down the home stretch.
As I turned onto Second Avenue and saw the finish line, I heard footsteps closing on me rapidly. I tried to kick it into gear and hold the challengers at bay, but the tanks were empty.
Two runners blew past me in the final 15 yards: A 7-year-old girl and a contestant named Bandit that I only can assume is a dog.
The speed of my youth has degenerated into a 9:05 mile that made my legs feel like they were going to explode. I finished 31st out of 70, outrun by the 7-year-old, a 9-year-old, the dog, four 10-year-olds and several teenagers, along with all of the real runners. But I whupped a 3-year-old by five full minutes. (Never underestimate experience, kid.)
I set out that day to keep a promise to my daughter (who finished first in the girls' 14 age group. So what if she was the only 14-year-old girl entered? We're still proud.). And I promised myself I'd finish the race without stopping. I kept both.
Surprisingly, I didn't hurt as much later on as I thought I would. In fact, I might even start running with my daughter.
C'mon, Erin -- let's do 10 ... uh, yards.
THIRD TIME'S A CHARM -- After a couple of postponements, Jennifer Doyle of Modesto finally gave a kidney to her husband, David, on Friday at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.
I wrote about the Doyles in a Christmas Day ("No Greater Gift") column. Jennifer needed a radical cancer surgery in 1991. David, already dealing with kidney failure, had his first kidney transplant in 1996. The transplanted kidney finally wore out after nearly 12 years. By then, Jennifer had been cancer-free long enough that her doctors allowed her to donate a kidney to her husband.
David developed fevers that postponed the surgery twice -- the first scheduled for Dec. 28 and the second for Jan. 22. As it turned out, the second postponement became a blessing because it allowed David to be with their daughter, Meghann, when she was crowned Big Valley Christian High School's homecoming queen a couple of weeks ago.
"We wouldn't have been able to be there," Jennifer said. "There wasn't a dry eye in the auditorium, with Dad putting the sash on her."
His fever subsided, and they finally had the surgery Friday. It went incredibly well, Jennifer said Monday, just hours before she and David returned home to Modesto.
"The doctors told me this is the first time in they don't know how long that they've let both patients go home the same day," she said.
Just as rare is that both went home to the same home.
"God's perfect timing," she said.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2383.