This past weekend I ran in the Baby Steps 5K race held at beautiful Tannehill State Park in McCalla Alabama. This is the third year in a row that I have run this race. I will always make sure this race is on my calendar every year.
The race was started by two families with a common bond. They both experienced the untimely death of a child. They decided to start this race to help benefit an organization that helped them with their healing process after this tragic event occurring in both their lives. The Amelia Center is an organization that gives counseling and support to grieving families. Here is a link to The Amelia Center's Website.
Both of the couples stories are very inspiring. Their motto for the race is "Together WE'VE taken BABY STEPS to mend broken hearts". You can read their stories at this link.
Baby Steps Web Site Click the "Meet the Race Directors" on the main page.
Four years ago in August my father passed away. When I decided to sign up for the Baby Steps 5K, I did not know how the race was started. A couple of weeks before the race I got an email from the race director that the race was a memorial race and those who wanted to could submit a name of a deceased family member. There would be memorial signs created with that person's name on it. The signs were placed at the beginning and end of the race course. Suddenly, I had a fitting tribute to honor my dad each year in the way I knew best....running. I decided to run this memorial race each year in the very month he passed away as a tribute to him.
On the morning of the race I got to the racing venue early. I found my dad's memorial sign, said a prayer and took a walk along the course by myself. This morning it was a little more muggy and wet due to all of the rain we have had lately. As I was walking I came upon a few deer wandering around the park.
I passed by a sign for what I guess was an old stage coach road called the Old Montevallo Stage Road. I wonder what that road would have been like back then. What stories were made on that trail and if any of my ancestors might have traveled on it.
As I finish my walk, I get back into race mode. The race starts on pavement and winds through the park. The course gives you a good feel of the park. Part of the race takes you by one of the camping areas. You see people just waking up not realizing there is a race going on. You smell fresh coffee being made and sometimes you smell someone cooking bacon, hmmmm bacon. Just when you get used to the course it moves from pavement to trail. The trail is not very complicated but you do have to watch your step. Also, there a few hills on the trail. At this point if you have a GPS watch you know there's not too much left in the race. You emerge from the trail and hit pavement again. The last quarter mile is a sprint to the finish. It's a challenging course for people who run the course and those that choose to walk the course.
In addition to the memorial signs of deceased loved ones, at the end of the race after the awards ceremony, there is a balloon release. Racing participants are invited to release a balloon in honor of the memory of their loved one. It's a very special moment. I released my balloon, said a prayer and got a little choked up as the balloon rose into the sky. Around me I saw other families releasing their balloons, some smiling, some hugging and some crying into the arms of their spouse.
I leave this race with a different feeling than I have from any other race. Yes, i still have the same soreness that I do after a race. I still have thoughts of if I had done this I could of had a better race time. I still check the Internet to see where I placed and if my time was better than my last race. But, when I run this race I leave with something else. I think of my dad and I think about how proud he would be of his grandchildren. I think how blessed I am to have a wonderful loving wife and two wonderful children. I say a prayer of thanks for all of the blessings in my life. I pray for all those families at the race who have had to experience the loss of a young child and that God will give them strength.
Thank you to the Hodge and Nicholas families for starting this race.