Sunday, March 03, 2013
A few days ago, I got an email. The email was sent to a running group - one that I used to run with prior to marriage and children. I still subscribe to their news - even though I haven't run with them in over 10 years. Anyway, this email announced a "first annual" 10K/5K/5K un-timed family walk. Truthfully, I wouldn't have entered. But the email said that Zola Budd would be there. I watched Zola Budd in her Olympic debut. It was 1984. She is from South Africa but it was the year that South Africa was barred from participating in the Olympics because of their stance on apartheid. Concerned that she'd miss her one chance at participating in the Olympics, she used her granddaddy's British citizenship and pulled some strings to get herself a spot on the British team. To make things worse, she ran in the same event as America's sweetheart, Mary Decker Slaney.
Mary Decker was my hero. We ran the same event. I was just a kid. I scored some tickets to the Olympics for that day and went with my grand-father. It was a day I'll never ever forget.
Zola Budd runs barefoot. She and another runner shot in front of Mary Decker and boxed her in. My stomach sank for Mary, because once you're boxed in, well, it's really hard to recover. It's nearly impossible to go around them because they'll just move out. Plus, she's got someone on her right. The best possible position she can get is 4th place. So she cleats Zola, who was right in front of her (maybe accidentally). Then she falls to the infield and clutches her thigh and pretends to pull a muscle. Mary Decker is out of the race. Blood is running down Zola's back leg where she was cleated by Mary. Zola finishes either second or third (I can't remember). And Mary's coach - on Mary's urging - has Zola disqualified for some inane reason. Truth is, Mary was America's sweetheart but she ran a bad race. And nobody wanted Zola to medal.
The race took a huge toll on Zola. All the negativity. I don't think she ever really recovered from the psychological aspect of what happened.
But back to today. News that she would attend this tiny little "first annual" event of less than 100 participants in a town very far from her own got me to sign up. And then I signed my oldest son (age 11) to participate with me. I was so excited to meet Zola Budd. I practiced what I'd say to her.
My son and I arrived to the start and we pinned on our race numbers. It was a beautiful day. I told my son to expect to come in last place. Then we were relieved to see some casual walkers arrive with little kids in tow. OK, they'll come in after us. And then we learn that Zola wouldn't show up. She's sick, they said. And then the race started.
We ran/walked the 3.1 miles. My son was the first child in the walk and third child over-all to finish. Which was really exciting! We finished in 41 minutes. We had a WONDERFUL time together - doing the event and immediately grabbed a brochure for another, larger, event that promoted a family 5K walk. We can do the same thing at that event.
So I'm really excited about today. I'm excited for my son. This may be the start of something great for him. I'm excited for me, because it'll help me get back into running. And it's something healthy I can do with my oldest son. And, one day, something I can do with my other two children.