Sat, Sep 20, 2014 ●
BathHarpswellTopshamBrunswickCumberlandNorth YarmouthFalmouthFreeportPortlandCape ElizabethScarboroughSouth PortlandChebeague IslandYarmouth

Abby's Road: Runners, take your marks

Opinion

Abby's Road: Runners, take your marks

My athleticism is best described as “shy skydiver.” I cower at the fringes of any sporting activity and then, when absolutely forced to participate, I throw my arms out and free-fall.

I grew up in a sports-oriented family. Sundays were for church in the mornings and the Patriots in the afternoon. My most vivid childhood memories with my father are of watching Georgetown basketball games.

This early exposure to hand-eye coordination and limb control expressed itself directly in my three younger sisters. They were all very good athletes, the youngest one exceptionally so. Somehow, even though I could distinguish between a double-dribble and a carry during a Celtics game, I wasn’t allowed in this deep end of the gene pool.

My first team sport experience came in elementary school, when I joined the girls’ basketball squad. The only part of that adventure that I recall is the pink striped sweatshirt featuring dancing white teddy bears that I wore to the first practice. I think that fairly encapsulates why the Scholastic book fair lady always greeted me with far more enthusiasm than the gym teacher.

I abandoned basketball after an embarrassing incident in eighth grade, which involved the lone shot I ever dared heave at the basket ending with a whistle because the ball got stuck in the rafters. In high school, I flirted with field hockey, swimming and active participation in gym class. Then I entered a committed relationship with reality, and I haven’t tried to move in a coordinated fashion since.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered running. I realized it was just like walking, but with more anxiety and pain. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s exploiting an activity for the anxiety and pain it can produce.

So now I run. I swing my arms in barely perceptible forward-backward motions, and I lift my feet off the ground just enough to avoid tripping. I can pretend I’m engaging in sport when I’m doing the same thing toddlers do when they want to scare their parents.

I run, but I wouldn’t say I’m a runner. That’s mostly because “splits” make me think of bananas and “marathons” make me think of movies. I have, though, participated in organized running events, and I love them.

A road race is essentially a catered, proctored workout. Someone else provides the water along the course, throws snacks at you when you finish, and takes care of clocking your pace. Running in a crowd is also good for morale, scaring off wildlife and alerting distracted drivers.

The best road races are the ones that actually mean something. At the beginning of the month, I ran in the TD Beach to Beacon 10k for the first time. That meant I could finally look Joan Benoit Samuelson in the eye and ask “did my friend in the pink hat already finish?”.

There are two local 5k races in September that mean a lot more than that to me. On Sept. 8, the Daniel Cardillo Charitable Fund will host its 15th annual memorial run. Dan grew up in Falmouth and was a Junior Olympic skier who learned to ski at Mt. Abram. He died in a ski accident as a teenager.

Dan was one of my sister’s best friends, and his absence is as big as his presence was. An exuberant boy who exploded with life, he had a warm laugh and a twinkly eye. The fund that honors all he was able to accomplish in his abbreviated allotment has awarded scholarships to dozens of young people pursuing their passions just as Dan pursued his: graciously, genuinely and generously.

Then, on Sept. 28, the Falmouth Foreside 5k Classic will be held to raise funds for the Falmouth Food Pantry, the Falmouth Education Foundation, and the Honduras Humanitarian Partnership. The three beneficiaries address challenges relating to food insecurity, education and public health in both Cumberland County and Honduras, the second poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Each event takes place in Falmouth, with all proceeds directly benefiting the host organizations. Visit danielcardillo.com and falmouthforeside5kclassic.com for more information.

I look forward to running in both. If I can do it, you can. Trust me.