It is with sadness that I write. I did run and finish the marathon on Sunday. On Monday, as I was hobbling my way through New York City, I got a call that Jack McClarty had been hospitalized. I was able to get a flight home on Monday night in order to be with Martha and the family. Jack passed away early yesterday morning, November 7, 2007.
Each day before the marathon I had been talking to Jack on the phone, giving him the status updates on my ‘niggle’ and how I thought the marathon would go. The night before the race he told me to run well, and not to go out ‘honky tonking’ so I could get some rest. I told him I would not ‘honky tonk’ since I was not sure what that meant anyway! He had also been giving me the status reports about the garden—it is his and Martha’s backyard where Tommy and I have been gardening these past months, an intermingling of growth and new life in the midst of letting go and passing of life.
On Sunday, after the marathon was over (I did it in 4:35:13, by the way, and have some pictures on edunny.com) Jack called to congratulate me. He had been charting my progress at each 5K and had plotted it on a graph, he told me, that he would show me when I got home. He also pointed out that my pace had slowed significantly at the end, which I thanked him for rubbing in. An engineer, he had spreadsheets for everything and though we did not know it, this was to be his last.
Running for four and a half hours through New York City gives you a lot of time to reflect. At one point, running through Manhattan, I thought of how proud my dad would have been, cheering me on. I thought of Jack who was tracking the race from afar via computer, and whose cancer had gained the upper hand.
Along the route itself friends had calculated the best spectating places and were there to cheer me on at mile 8 and 14.5 (in Brooklyn) again at mile 16 (in Manhattan) and at mile 23 along 5th Avenue and into Central Park (I guess the tendency toward over-detail runs in the family). I had written my name on my running jersey so as I ran through the various boroughs of New York City I heard “Go Dunny!” shouted all along the way, in a variety of accents.
At mile 15 I thought I was not going to be able to finish. My leg was hurting, I had a side ache, and I was ravenously hungry. All I wanted to do was lay (or is it lie? Jack would be correcting me!) down on the ground. But as I came off the bridge and looked at the sidelines I saw friends there to cheer me on, and knew that there would be more friends a few miles on, it was as if a new energy lifted me up and kept me going. I ran with Mason, a friend of a friend. When I was feeling weak, he kept me going. When he thought he could not finish, I didn’t let him quit. We both said we could not have finished without the other.
The thing is, in running a marathon, and I think in life too, it makes a difference to have others who run beside you and keep you going when you think that you can’t take another step. It makes a difference to know that there are those who love you and who are cheering for you, encouraging you along the way. Jack was one of those people in my life, and I will miss him terribly. But I also know that his life and his spirit will live on in the lives of those he knew and loved.