There were no bibs, no starting line with a clock and timing mat and no finisher's mat. There were no medals and this certainly wasn't a USATF certified course. There was so much more at the Comfort Zone Camp Grief Relief 5K that started and finished at the McGlynn Elementary School in Medford and looped through a magnificent albeit very hilly course along the Mystic River.
Flash back to my first conversation with Sue aka ComfortZone Sue on Facebook that I wrote about in my September 11th blog (the synchronicity of my life is never lost on me).
It was a conversation overflowing with Goosebumps and God.
Yesterday began with gray skies and raindrops falling. It was cold but nothing could or would deter the spirits of those setting up and gathering for this event.
Within an hour, the skies cleared and radiant sunshine showered upon us.
Tom and I set up the tent for Jeffrey Spratt, Owner and Principal of Spratt Muscular Therapies, LLC with our new banner that coincidentally was not supposed to arrive until next week but came via UPS just in time for the event.
Jeffrey has been participating on Comfort Zone Camp events for the past 5 years and yesterday it became quite obvious to me why he supports this cause.
The love, energy and passion was palpable throughout the day as campers, campers who became Buddy volunteers and volunteers gathered to live the Camp's motto of Grieve...Heal....Grow.
It was amazing to meet Sue and then Chris (who got Jeffrey involved through their work in CISM) and to watch the day transform from gray and cold to sunny and warm. The weather paralleled the process of what we experience when we grieve. As long as love is present we can weather anything that life throws our way.
There were welcoming remarks from Sue, an executive from Comfort Zone Camp who traveled from Richmond to attend the event and the Mayor of Medford:
the singing of the National Anthem:
And then we were sent off to the starting area with walkers on one side and runners on the other:
We chose to join the runners!
What a spectacular Autumn day in New England! As we left the start there were signs of remembrance that lined the fence to our left. I felt a lump rise in my throat as I felt the grief of the 17 year old within me but also the awe and wonder of Comfort Zone Camp that makes the journey of grief so much easier for children ages 7-17 years old. We even met one woman during the course of the day who went to CZC as a young adult and went on to become a Buddy.
My pace was swift and my run was strong despite the uphill grade in the course. There were love signs posted all along the course with mile markers made with magic markers on white poster board. We had the opportunity to chat with a few runners along the way but truly no words were needed. Everyone there was connected through Comfort Zone Camp's mission, passion and purpose.
Tom stopped to take this photo:
It was one of my strongest and swiftest runs to date and one in which I could experience the beauty of the day, the magic of the moment, the purpose of being out there because, although I was running hard, my effort did not consume me.
What a joy and a blessing to have Jeffrey there to meet us after we crossed the finish line. He hugged Team McManus and congratulated me on a great run! I looked at my pace and it was a faster pace than my Harvard Pilgrim 5K in July and just a few seconds shy of my PR pace last year at the Bill Rodgers 5K.
I stretched out and Jeffrey had me get on the table for a post run ShakeOut (more about this in tomorrow's blog).
As people came to experience Jeffrey's power of positive touch, I was blessed to meet people involved with Comfort Zone Camp - amazing people who become absolutely radiant when they talk about Camp.
And then this happened.... "Excuse me - you're Mary aren't you?" a woman asked me. "I recognized you from Facebook and because you are wearing your Boston Marathon jacket."
She introduced herself as Elizabeth Birmingham and she was the one responsible for recommending Jeffrey for One Boston Day to do chair massage which is how Jeffrey and I met. I was exuberant to thank Elizabeth for being a part of the synchronicity that brought us together at Old South Church on 4/15/14. She was thrilled to meet me and to know the story.
Jeffrey had posted a sign that all donations for massage would be donated to Comfort Zone Camp.
After the raffle and silent auction winners were announced and people were beginning to say good bye, Jeffrey asked us if we should see how much he made. He likes to make at least $100 at these events. As he took out the wad of cash we guessed if there was $100 there or not. It turned out to be $99.15 so Jeffrey tossed in another dollar to make it an even $100.
Sue was over the moon ecstatic when he gave her the money. "Shut up" was all she could say when he told her there was $100 there.
More hugs and kisses and gratitude expressed as we said our good byes for the day but I know it was only the first of many hellos.
The Comfort Zone Camp Grief Relief 5K raised over $50,000 which will change the lives of many children as they attend Comfort Zone Camp where they will have the opportunity to grieve - to heal and to grow! What a blessing and an honor to be a part of this amazing organization and to meet so many like hearted and kind hearted souls gathered in one space.
While I had a great time on my Nike+ and am so pleased with how I felt mind, body and soul during the 5K - this was so much more than a race report!