The King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company 9/11 Memorial 5K was the first 5K I’ve run on 9/11. Fire trucks with their ladders up held one of the largest American flags I’ve have ever seen–it filled with wind like a sail, tugging on the twin ladders piercing the sky.
Tables laden with pretzels, bagels, bananas, and grapes lined the inside of the fire station; volunteers were everywhere checking in runners and handing out race packets and swag bags. I was there alone with the hopes of getting a PR in the 5K; it seemed like a good idea at the beginning of summer, but with my recent hip pain and the addition of hills to everywhere I run, I’ve slowed down a little bit.
As I looked for the line of port-o-potties that were no where to be found, I spotted a real bathroom inside the fire station. I slowly opened the door, not wanting to relive the time I opened a port-o-potty door on a guy who didn’t lock the door… eeeek, and there was Deborah, and thankfully, not some half-naked man. I started chatting with her immediately about how lucky we were not to have to wait in a long line and be able to use real flushing toilets before a race. Our conversation ended with the closing of the stall doors because I never know who thinks it’s OK to talk while you’re using the bathroom.
A few minutes later, I saw her stretching out by herself and realized that unlike most of the runners here, she was here by herself too. So I went up to her and talked to her. I’m so glad I did–she was friendly, runs all the time, and has a positive attitude. The time before the race began went by in a flash. Soon, the National Anthem played, and everyone was asked to grab a lemonade shot. One table nearby had Dixie cups filled to the brim with pink lemonade. I’ve never done this before a race, so I didn’t take one, not knowing what it was for. The announcer started talking about the reasons for the race–for 9/11 and also for a 6 year old named Brielle. She died of cancer in July 2016 and each month after her death, her family drinks a lemonade shot in honor of her. I almost started crying. Here I was worrying about how I would do in a race, and there’s this little girl who fought cancer and died.
I lined up at the start and looked at the twin ladders with a different perspective. The announcer said, “Ready, set, go!” And the fire engine sirens blared while the field of 300 runners ran under the flag. At that moment I almost ugly cried with my running bitch face on. But, I had to keep running. And breathing. Breathing is very important when running, so holding in a cry while you run is not advised. I sucked in my tears and sprinted up the first hill with my lungs burning.
I’m running for Brielle whose favorite number is 11, and I’m running for those who no longer can be with their families since one 9/11 fifteen years ago.