[at-l] stick your neck out

Tom McGinnis sloetoe at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 22 18:25:57 CDT 2011

--- On Mon, 3/21/11, Abi Meadows <ultrarunningmom at aol.com> wrote that:

...she's going to Japan, where her husband serves, to help the Army help out.
..."As for the Barkley...I know that this will be the toughest physical adventure that I will have embarked upon so far. ... In the past month I have really faced things that put my running into perspective. ...

### Abi, apologies for the continual mix of tenses to follow -- I was writing fast.

Last year around New Year's, my Dad was passing away at my sister's place down in North Carolina. Neither Dad or Mom had cared much for my or my sister's running (I remember clearly as a teenager the disdain in the suggestion to "put a lawnmower in front of yourself and make some money" {i.e., 'so some good'} -- and yet my parents ending up providing me material support when I chose to hike the Appalachian Trail instead of pursuing an immediate college degree {this was 30+ years ago -- and good little boys just didn't do that, then)... And when I re-entered the running and hiking world in '97, this time bringing my kids into it (they finished Vermont's 300 gnarly mile Long Trail at age 7) -- the disdain was once again evident. "Why do you need to do that?"

Well, between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2009, as Dad's waking hours shortened and were more labored, my sister (a competitive marathoner recovering from a wicked compound tib/fib fracture) and I held more than one conversation in my parents' room, on trying to get *and* *keep* shape -- and bemoaning our now 50+ years.

Not only did both my parents listen intently but, to the shock of my sister and I, they both commented appreciably on our efforts, *knowing* their statements were in contradiction to their longstanding "parental" position on the frivolity of "that running thing." They didn't care! "Keep it up, kids. Don't let [your fitness] go for nothing!"

As per the academic calendar, I was down in North Carolina for an extended time over Christmas / New Years, and suspecting that I might need to make myself scarce for awhile, I'd packed my mountain gear. And with the weather parked just above 0° in the mountains, I headed for the Appalachian Trail. My packing and leaving was an excuse to give a show-n-tell of all that would keep me warm and fed, and when I returned 5 or 6 days later, I strolled into the house and directly to my parents' quarters -- one proud little hiker.

My Dad, who was awake at this point only minutes a day, was wide awake and smiled broadly at the sight of me -- a gift that shines for me to this day. I don't even know if he said, "Heyyy, Thomas! How are ya, kid?" (I'm 50 years old, and I'm still "Thomas" and still a kid. Parents. Sheeesh.) I doubt he actually spoke, come to think of it. But his *eyes* sure greeted me! And he was happy about my return, and happy about my adventures -- that was plain. I grabbed the foot sticking out from under the blanket and shook it, "Heyyyy, Dad!"

I had been rather ambivalent about leaving my sister's place to go on a solo "hike" -- it seemed selfish. But too, I suspected it could be a distraction and upon my return, I'd get to tell some stories. But while I was out there, there was -- with my Dad passing -- a lot to think about. I made good use of that time.

As it turns out, that smile/foot shake and a few stories were the last real communication my Dad and I were able to do. And I felt like in the end, both he and my Mom wish(ed) my sister and I many good miles ahead -- and you, too, for that matter.

Now, my little story doesn't come close to the trials you face now but, to paraphrase a wise person who once opined about someone else's potential adventure (versus family-directed attention), "...consider the example you provide -- and will continue to provide! 'Remember back in 2011, when [Abi entered The Barkley]?!? Boyyyy-n-howdy!' Tenacious, disciplined, accepting of a challenge, devoted in effort."

I could think of worse ways to give quiet tribute to our families and the values of life they espouse, than to undertake a challenge bound to bring out the best in you.

MANY Happy Trails,

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