I often write a blog entry because I have just done a race, or a major training run. But this entry isn’t about any of those things.
During the first full week of December I would think about my friend Amanda every night before I went to bed, and then she was the first person I remembered when I woke up. Amanda died on Dec 2, in the Oakland Warehouse Fire, which took the life of 36 people. At first I mainly thought about the horrific way in which she died. I worried about how much pain she felt before passing on, and I was terrified to think how aware she was of her end. I do not wish these thoughts upon anyone—the more vivid scenarios still scare the hell out of me. I don’t know what I would have done in her place, and it frightens me to put myself in that unthinkable scenario.
About a week and half after her death, my mind was still on my friend and her life. Reading through her Facebook page was reliving her life through the memories of her many friends of hers—some of which I remember. Everyone focused on her life and not her death—which was hopeful in a weird way. We were all working though the memories, and holding on to the happiest ones. That night, after sleeping for maybe 30 minutes, I had a vision pop into my head—perhaps it was a dream:
I had an urge to get out of bed, walk to my computer, and look up Amanda’s name on a website called imathlete.com. I was searching and searching, and had a serious need to find her name.
But as soon as the dream began, it ended and I awoke bewildered. For an instant I was unable to separate dream from reality. Amanda, the website, the search, all of it was vivid and tangible in the darkness of my room. I knew in my head that Amanda wasn’t an athlete, she was a photographer, and someone who loved music. But I immediately groped for my phone, and upon finding it typed in the website from my dream. I found it to be a race registration site, with no place to look for the name of a person. Undaunted, I looked up another site—something similar that I remembered listed athletes—athlinks.com. Here I found Amanda’s name, and the three races she did in 2010.
During those weeks after her death, I had remembered all sorts of fun times with my friend—many of which involved dancing at the Middlesex Lounge, or following her life via Facebook. During all this reminiscing I had forgotten that she was a runner at one point as well. I remembered there were many posts about her training, running this many miles, or aiming for a tempo run, or completing a mileage goal for the week. She trained and raced for a 5k, a 10k, and a half marathon—and ran them all in a single year. Following her training was inspiring.
In 2010, and the 10 years prior, I had kept a steady routine of running every other day, but only doing 15 miles per week. I assumed that half and full marathons were races that only “elite runners” accomplished. However after seeing Amanda’s achievements, I realized that these distances were possible by people who were not solely professional runners–but people like Amanda, who had a job, and a life, and a relationship. In the spring of 2011 I began to push myself, I just wanted to do more miles. Fifteen miles per week turned into 20, 25, and even 35. I completed my first race—a half marathon—at the end of 2011, largely due to Amanda and one other friend showing me what is achievable.
I will not forget how passive encouragement is as powerful as a friend running alongside you during your journey.by