A road trip to Kansas City brought a wonderful visit with my lifelong best friend and her family, as well as my oldest son (who is LOVING his internship there). While the (over)abundance of Royals gear around town is an exercise in control for my inner Cardinals-loving trash-talker, I really do enjoy that town. In addition to being home to my beloved second family, Kansas City is clean, friendly, and really lovely. Above is the view from our hotel room.
And below is the view from the start line of our weekend adventure: the Hospital Hill half-marathon, a Kansas City classic. Drew and I both ran it.
When the word “hill” is part of a race’s name, normal people would generally take pause before signing up and lacing up. Who likes hills, for crying out loud? But between the race’s national accolades and the opportunity to see my favorite peeps, I bypassed that pause. Sign me up, baby! Besides, it’s only Hospital HILL, right? How bad could it be?
Well…turns out that hospital hill should actually be hospital HILLS. Seven, to be exact. This was far and away the toughest race course I have ever experienced. It was really rough. But it was also amazing in so many ways. Drew knocked it out of the park, posting a time that blew both of our minds – especially given the difficulty of the course. My bestie and her family got up at oh-dark-o’clock to see us off at the starting line and cheered us on at different points along the course, and were there for hugs at the finish – a level of support I’ve never experienced before. They even hopped on the course and ran me up one of the hills. It was amazing. Our hearts were so full.
And then there was this.
This was at mile 9, the only photo I took during the race. Unusual for me, I know. Between the rain and hill after brutal hill, I really wasn’t in the photo opp-seeking state of mind. But these three runners yanked my brain out of survival mode when they began giving me thumbs up because of my shirt. As it turns out…we were on the same team. A wonderful, dreadful, powerful team, as evidenced by the t-shirts we all had in common: The Children’s Tumor Foundation, the organization that raises money to support research for neurofibromatosis.
When you see someone wearing an American Cancer Society shirt, you don’t really wonder how they know about it. Cancer is ugly. Everyone has heard of it. You can’t NOT be touched by it. Same thing with American Heart Association, Alzheimer’s Association, ASPCA. Everyone has heard of these. But The Children’s Tumor Foundation…well, it’s a different story. Most people haven’t even heard of this disease, let alone any related education or fundraising efforts. You really have to know someone with NF to have heard of this organization. So the four of us, running in the rain on the hilliest course any of us had seen, were instantly connected by grief and a higher cause. They were running in honor of a 21-year old girl with NF1. I told them that both of my kids have NF2. I thanked them for raising money for this research that provides hope for families like mine. And I cried. In the middle of a half-marathon course. Did I mention that something very similar happened during my marathon in April? Only this time the runner in question actually has NF1 herself. And we both cried. In the middle of a marathon course. We also hugged and posed for a selfie before moving on.
Anyway, it was a tremendously moving experience from an altogether wonderful and memorable weekend. I’m so grateful.