We started running together when I was seven and my sister, Pam, was eleven. She was practicing for the field day relay race with some friends. When one went home early, she asked me to run her leg of the race. My sister explained each of us would run a part of the race. I stood there, bouncing on my toes, waiting for her. “Run! Run!” She yelled, “Run for our team now!” So I ran. She ran next to me, encouraging me. I don’t remember if she won the relay race, but I remember how happy she looked during practice, and how much fun I was having.
The next time we ran together was when I was in college. She worked near my campus, so we could run together at the end of the day. We ran all over the city. Neither of us was very fast, but we could keep it up for a long time. While we ran, we talked. We talked about everything, her job, my classes, what we were planning for the weekend, what we were planning for our lives.
Pam kept running, long after I had moved away. Instead of running in the city with me, she ran in a park near her home. I did not keep running. Work and family got the best of me and I just couldn’t find the time.
I went to visit my sister when I was six months pregnant. She asked me the first night if I wanted to run with her the next morning. We started off slow, making our way to the park she ran in everyday. We talked about her job, my pregnancy and the fact that she herself was a few weeks pregnant with her second child. I made it to the top of one very small hill and wanted to quit. I didn’t slow down, I stopped. She noticed I wasn’t there and ran back laughing, “You can’t just stop! We’ll slow down if you need to, but keep going.”
When I still hadn’t moved, she grabbed my hand and pulled until I started walking. She told me “I’ll help you, just keep going.” At one point, she ran behind me and pushed my rear end while I was puffing up another very small hill. Not only were we laughing, everyone who passed us was laughing too. It was ridiculous, but we were having fun.
I didn’t keep running during that pregnancy, but my sister did. She slowed down a little, but she still ran every morning, as long as it wasn’t raining. In the middle of her eighth month, she went out for a regular run and was struck by a car as she crossed the street. She and her baby died immediately.
It was an accident. She never saw the car, the driver never saw her. He was devastated by what he had done. My brother-in-law, her husband, was a state patrol officer and looked at the accident report. He said, it was an accident. He didn’t hold the man to blame and told him so. My brother-in-law is a very good man and is now raising their daughter alone. I took my cue from him and forgave the man who hit her. I had to keep going; I couldn’t stop my life and attempt to tear this man apart with my misplaced anger and grief.
After a few years, I started running again. I looked forward to the time alone and the peace that brought me. I thought about her accident every time I put on my shoes. It made me cry but eventually, I stopped thinking about her accident and just thought about her.
I run now because I believe life is a relay race, and you just have to keep going. I can slow down if I need to, but I can’t afford to stop. I will hold out a hand to the ones running beside me and help them along. I run for our team now.
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