Paul E. Anna: High Points
October 21, 2010
I’m a sucker for everyday heroes.
People like the Challenge Aspen skiers who put aside their physical challenges to ride down the mountain. Or that Aspen High School teacher who stays late to help a struggling student. Or that woman who regularly runs down Highway 82 between Brush Creek Road and Watson Divide. Just everyday folks who use courage, compassion or conviction to do something.
So it was the other day when I met a woman on a running trail along the banks of the Potomac River in Arlington, Va. It was an unseasonably warm afternoon. A couple of miles into my daily trot I wasn’t feeling it, so I thought I would cut things short. Then I saw the woman.
She was maybe 45, with a brace on her lower leg and was obviously struggling. I slowed down next to her and asked how she was doing. “Hurting,” she said. “But I got three more miles to go. It’s my last long training run for my first marathon and I’ve got to finish.” Having been there myself, I settled in to see if I could help her along a bit.
I had to ask which marathon she was running. Without looking up she said “The original one.” I started to think Rome, London, Paris? She clarified. “Marathon to Athens. I run it in two weeks.” How cool is that, I thought. I continued my questioning.
It turns out that this woman was sitting around on a snowy day last spring with her boyfriend and told him she had always wanted to run a marathon. It was on her bucket list. He replied that she was not getting any younger and, with that for encouragement, went to her computer and began researching races. Within an hour she had entered the Marathon to Athens race (scheduled for Oct. 31), booked a flight and a hotel for one, and found Hal Higdon’s 22- week marathon training program.
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Though she had run a couple of 5Ks in the past, she explained that she was never what one would call “a runner.” And this was the first race she had ever trained for. The summer in Washington, D.C. had been brutally hot and many of her runs began and finished before dawn as she sought to avoid the heat.
Our pace picked up with the conversation and her gait began to get stronger. She had thoroughly researched the race. This marks the 2,500-year anniversary of the run Phiedippides had made over the same course to deliver the message of victory in battle to his fellow Athenians. This year’s race will have 15,000 or so runners from around the world and will finish in the Olympic Stadium. Quite a way to spend Halloween.
As we got closer to her destination, she was running well and had enough strength and humor to remind me that Phiedippides died at the finish of his race. I assured her that she would do fine and wished her the best of luck as I turned to run back to my hotel. I thought I helped her. But, in reality, it was she who had taken me an extra three miles.
I had found my everyday hero.
Postscript: Last week in this space, we talked about another everyday hero. Ellen Anderson from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, the woman who founded the Tipsy Taxi program in Aspen in 1987, asked that I include a couple of additional points.
First, Tipsy Taxi is “a crime prevention program” designed to stop crime before it happens. It is administered through the Pitkin County Sheriff’s office and supported by the Aspen Police Department. The program is operated without the use of any tax dollars. Funding is through private donations and court-ordered fees imposed on convicted drunk drivers.
Tipsy Taxi is, as Ellen said, a gift from the community to itself.
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