On October 9, 2011 I had the pleasure of celebrating my brother’s 34th birthday with him the best way I know how, by pounding the pavement.
Rewind a year prior, my brother moved to Denver, Colorado from Columbus, Ohio. He had made some major changes in his life and was presented with an opportunity through his employer to relocate to a beautiful new city and he jumped at the chance. As the months went on, he started making some goals for himself, one being that he wanted to run a marathon on his birthday in Denver. He asked if I would want to run the race with him and I jumped at the chance, I didn’t have to think twice.
As the months progressed my brother had a change of heart and decided to come back to the Buckeye City, though he loved Denver, he realized he was missing out on a lot of life by not being near family and his best friends. With the move back to Ohio, we decided we would still run the marathon in Denver and make a vacation out of the deal. As the summer months progressed, work and life got very busy for my brother and his training for the full marathon wasn’t where it should be to ensure a quality first marathon experience, so I suggested we change to the half-marathon distance and he was on board.
Like me, brother has always been an athlete. He even ran cross country for a year in high school just to get in shape for his number one sport, basketball. He went on to play basketball in college, but since his co-ed days has had an on-again, off-again relationship with his physical training. Even without the most diligent training plan, I knew my brother would be able to complete the 13.1 mile distance, some walk breaks may be needed, but I knew he would cross the line, even if I had to drag his limp body behind me, he was crossing that finish line!
Race morning the temperatures were in the mid-thirties. We walked just over a mile from where we were staying to the start line. After explaining the idea of gear check, pointing out restrooms, and discussing where we needed to go to line up in our corral, we listened to the National Anthem, watched the official start, and then elbowed our way to corral 11. After about 20 minutes we were crossing the start line and beginning our half marathon journey.
Denver is the mile-high city, the elevation change is no joke, especially for a midwestern girl like me, but we locked into a comfortable pace between 11-12 minute miles. The game plan was to start out at this pace, not too fast, and take walk breaks when needed. The walk breaks were more to catch our breath with the elevation change and to give my brother’s bad knees a break.
The first few miles we snaked around the city and saw the Rocky Mountains in the distance. As we approached mile three we realized we would see Mommaberries and my friend Amy cheering for us, which definitely put some pep in our step! Also each mile featured at least one musical act, so that kept things fresh and entertaining. The rest of the time and space between seeing our number one fans and jamming to some music, we talked about all sorts of things. It was seriously one of the best days I’ve ever had with my brother. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you want to REALLY get to know someone, go for a long run with them. The topics of conversation will run the gamut, and more times than not it ends up being a damn good time. I know what you’re thinking though, this guy I was running with wasn’t just some random Joe, it is my brother. We share the same DNA, the same parents, he used to drive me to school when I was in 7th grade. He is the sibling that is closest in age to me. I’ve known him for 28 years, what else do I need to know about him?
Well, for starters, people change, obviously. We aren’t the same people we were 20 years ago when he would teach me to play Euchre while he talked on the phone to his girlfriends, or he would go out in the back yard and convince me to rebound the basketball for him while he worked on shooting drills. As time goes on, we age, mature, develop new interests and insights, and become adults. But to be honest, from the time my brother went off to college until the last two years, I didn’t have much interaction with him aside from holidays, but I never thought much of it. He lived in other states, I was in 8th grade when he went off to college. Then I was in high school and was a bratty teenager, so of course we didn’t have a solid relationship then either. Eventually I went off to college and he was off doing his own thing. Once I graduated from Muskingum and moved to Columbus, he moved back to Columbus, but we still didn’t spend much time together aside from family related activities. That’s just life sometimes.
One thing to keep in mind, my brother has always been a social butterfly, having lots of friends and always out and about having a good time. No one really knew how “good” of a time he was having until he reached out for help. On March 4, 2010 my brother decided to make a major change in his life. One that I honestly didn’t see coming…
‘One year ago…at this very moment…I was so intoxicated…I remember nothing. Those of you who know me well…know that was a typical weekend and sometimes a typical week day. Some of you who know me very well…knew nothing of this madness. One thing that I should mention…3/3/2010 was planned. I knew 2 weeks prior that day would come…that I would end my relationship with booze…that I would make the right decision for once…that I would stop suppressing my anger, guilt and sorrow…that this was the last time I would drowned my soul. I could write a book about my journey…maybe someday I will. For now, I will continue to breathe positive things into existence and share as much of that energy with the universe…I will simply keep being the best I can be, for me. Someday I will have an opportunity to assist others in standing up to their struggles…pumping the brakes so their train doesn’t de-rail…leaving the bullshit in the past so that the present can be celebrated. I know that someday will come because I have conquered the hardest parts.’ – My brother.
My brother has been sober for 19+ months. This race that we ran together was a challenge he wanted to take on and he beyond conquered it. Running the race on his actual birthday was perfect, it was the first time that he had lived an entire year of his life 100% substance-free since he took his first sip of alcohol as a teen. Previous years his birthday parties included things like shots of liquor and keg-stands. But that was in a previous life, that honestly seems so far away compared to the new version of himself. So I’m sure you can understand why we have a lot of catching-up to do and getting to know one another, on a clear level.
So those miles were spent sharing stories, laughs, encouraging words during the most painful parts, and dreams for the future. We discussed running other races, things we wanted to accomplish in our lives, and memories from our previous years. All the while the sun was shining down on us paired with some crisp mountain air, there were moments that all just felt right in the world, and all the ups and downs our relationship endured over the years landed us where we were meant to be, in this moment sharing a run on the most perfect of days.
I couldn’t be more proud of my brother. I will never forget this day as long as I live. To be able to truly celebrate life and utilize the gifts God gave us: two strong legs, a pair of working lungs, and the faith in ourselves and our abilities to push beyond what we initially thought were limits, is the best way I know how to celebrate another year and another birthday.