The "Old Birds" Running Team plus Rene and James.
At 6:30 a.m. we were at the parking lot near the start of the 41st running of the Decille Memorial Relays. As soon as we parked James, the 27-year-old firefighter came up to us, "Is there a spot for me?" Bob told him he was running leg number two. "Great! I'm ready."
Soon everyone had arrived and the annual team before-the-start photos were taken. Martita and I were the DP's (Designated Photographers), each of us with three or more cameras hanging around our necks.
Martita arrived in running clothes as she had decided to run from the start back to their lodge--about five miles. Bob and Rene followed the runners in a car, giving them water every two or three miles. Martita and I relaxed until 11:00 a.m. and then started up the back side of the course to intercept Bob and Rene and take photos as Rene received the hand-slap handoff from the previous runner to send him on his way. We then caravaned the two cars back down the 20 miles as first Rene, then Bob, ran their legs. About one mile from the finish we drove down to tell April the race manager that Old Bird Bob would arrive in about 8 or 9 minutes. The team escorted him across the line ,celebrated the team's 35th year of participation in this race then disbanded to reunite at 6:30 p.m. for a celebratory dinner together at the condo three couples had rented together on the beach.
We talked, showed grandchildren photos and commisserated over health problems. One runner was absent because he had a biopsy scheduled for potential prostate cancer. Another one, present, was having some sort of emotional problems, exhibiting inappropriate and pretty outrageous behavior. I guess it's to be expected that when 14 people have a 20-year history and all are over 63, there will be some problems.
We'd all eaten and were mingling and enjoying some wines from California, Chile and Australia when someone yelled, "Sunset!" We all filed outside, across the sand and onto the pier to participate in an annual ritual: Larrry, on his cornet, plays the sun down with taps. It is always a very emotional moment as all the husbands are ex-military pilots and two of the wives (I am one) lost brothers in Vietnam.
We have long-term although superficial relationships, sharing this event and discussing parenting and grandparenting priorities but we have very different political, religious, cultural diversity and "world view" opinions as well as hobbies and interests. All of these people are on my "worry" list, my people for whom I have concerns about their welfare, but they are not on my "to call if I need someone" list--nor am I on theirs.
The two ex-officio runners stole the show at the after-race presentations. After Bob, this year's team chairman, announced the official times and presented the official shirts, Rene asked to say some words to the group. He spoke with such gentle sincerity and appreciation for being included that there was not a dry eye in the room. He then opened a bag and presented each "Old Bird" team member with 2 shirts: one T-shirt and one polo shirt--both imprinted with the logo of the "Santiago Runners Club," the running group of which Rene is the publications manager. He also invited any of them and their wives to visit he and Martita in Chile and stay at their house. I think one or two of them may take him up on his invitation.
Next young James Smith, 27-years-old and quiite mature for his age, full of the idealism not yet tempered by life experience, spoke and inspired us all. He had all the mothers searching their minds for a 20-something daughter or niece to introduce him to. James said he is determined to form and enter a team of runners for next year's relay--and I believe he will.
We all said goodnight and goodbye, gave hugs all around and vowed to try to be here next year, though we never know until February or March who will be able to come.
Team photo at the finish line