This is long but worth reading. Don’t let the scroll bar scare you.
Race for Taylor is about more than writing your finish time on running number bib or going home with a pirate bobblehead. Everyone should do the race next year. In fact, you should do it every year- I plan to, as long as I can. If you’re not a runner, you can walk it. Do that.
Each year, the Race for Taylor is held in memory of Taylor Elmore, a high school senior with a bright future whose life was tragically cut short in a 2009 car accident on his way to visit Charleston. I never actually met Taylor, but I know he was an amazing young man. Reading and hearing about his short life has surely inspired me as a runner and person.
This is one of my favorite races in Florence. It’s one of the last races before it gets hot, hot, hot- meaning too hot to really race- in the dirty south. The race gets bigger and better every year, and the proceeds support scholarships and the local Florence Track Club.
I ran the Race for Taylor 5K the first year it took place, 2010 (I also ran last year).
I don’t recall how I found out about the race in 2010, but there was no personal connection. I just started running, and it seemed like a great cause, so I signed up. I knew no one else there (didn’t know many runners at all), and didn’t really meet anyone either.
My finish time wasn’t terrible, but I took frequent walk breaks and felt physically bad after the first mile. I felt especially sorry for myself when a very speed 7-year-old girl passed me.
With legs heavy as lead (classic anemia symptom) and pouring sweat, I grabbed a cup of water and tossed it over my head. The water got into my ipod headphones, so my music-free, depleted, trudge to the finish was pretty tough.
I left before the awards ceremony and slept for the rest of the day. Not realizing how ill I was, I thought everyone slept and felt wiped out after running three miles in the heat. Less than a week later, I was diagnosed with severe anemia- I had a 7.3 hemoglobin level and NO iron stores. Running was off limits for quite some time.
Whether in life or in a race, sometimes God puts people in front of us for a reason.
Two years ago, I never thought I’d coach track, much less coach the speedy little kiddo who passed me that day and coach with Taylor’s mom, Belinda (both of them make the 1500 such a joy to coach!).
I didn’t know if I’d still be running two years later- I didn’t want to run another race for awhile. I certainly didn’t know I’d be running races that Taylor’s dad, Greg, times with Carolina Running Company.
Small town. Small world.
The starting horn went off at 8:15 Saturday morning.
I wasn’t nervous- Clay was at the finish, with a child-sized pirate hat and sword- courtesy of a last-minute trip to the Target birthday party department. Someone waiting for you at the finish gives you that extra push you need, even when there’s a headwind.
The 5K and 10K started together. I loved running around other people but not in a pack. Just after the first mile mark, I turned off on a side road with the other 10Kers and saw him- a man in a yellow technical running shirt, just ahead of me.
Unwilling to pass early in the race, I watched him. He didn’t run like me or my runner friends- he ran with a limp. When there was grass along the road, he ran in the grass- I guess that’s easier on his leg.
I don’t know why he ran slightly limping, or why he was running a 10K- just that he was, even when he had every excuse not to. Running comfortably behind him, I couldn’t imagine the pain he was in- not just physical hurt, either. Looking at a person, you don’t always know the pain, physical or emotional, someone may be enduring- but this was right in front of my eyes.
I ran just behind the man in the yellow shirt for four miles, including hills I wasn’t prepared for. As a coach and student of both running and people (the last one comes from being a writer), I could tell he was slowing a bit. Physically and strategically, this was my “go-time”, but I pulled beside him.
“God placed you in front of me in this race for a reason. Go- onto the finish. I can’t pass you- don’t let me pass you.” I said, in my “Coach Amy” voice. Speaking in complete sentences when racing means you aren’t going 100%. Sometimes that’s okay.
He took off, a burst of yellow down the road. That was what he needed and what I needed. At the finish, he thanked me for the encouragement and we hugged.
I never got his name, but the image of the man in the yellow shirt will stay in my mind beyond those 6.2 miles.
After the race, I had an amazing time hanging out with Clay, my friends, and some of the kids I coach and their parents. We took lots of pictures and ate Rita’s Italian Ice, Krispy Kreme, and loads of candy. Some people had Chic-Fil-A, but this vegetarian did not partake.
My friends Susan and Colea and I won awards. I finished in 52:19 (2nd place, 20-29 females). Most of the Florence Track Club kiddos were in Mt. Pleasant at a meet, but a few who did this race won awards, including a first-time 10Ker, Katie. The little children did a Run with the Pirates (basically a 100 yard dash), and everyone cheered from the sidelines. The kids loved it and all received a pirate necklace.
This race was super fun, memorable, and inspirational, so needless to say, my eyes weren’t completely dry. This would be the race to cry at, but if I wanted a tear-free sport, I’d play softball.
I love the Florence running community, Florence Track Club, and all my amazing friends. No matter where life takes me, they will all have a special place in my heart and on this endurance course of life together.