Tag Archives: Dick Jones

Run for a Reason Again

Stephanie (middle) dances with the Angels during halftime at a football game.

I’ve been a somewhat-dedicated runner, jogger (at my current snail-like pace), or walker since 1978. Enjoying the great outdoors (I’m not coordinated enough to use a treadmill) for miles at a time is a very selfish pursuit. It’s a great chance to clear your mind, think of blog posts and photo ops, and re-energize for battling strong-willed teenagers.

Every now and then, I actually train for and finish a race (usually January’s Aramco Half-Marathon). It’s satisfying to set a goal and achieve it, no matter how long it takes to cross the finish line. And it’s especially fulfilling to have yet another purpose amid that selfish pursuit: Raising funds for a worthy cause.

For the second straight year, I’m participating in the January 30th Chevron Houston Marathon/Aramco Half-Marathon’s Run for a Reason program. Once again, my chosen charity is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a cause that’s near and dear to me. Blood cancers have cut short the lives of my father, stepfather, cousin Lisa, and my dear former neighbor’s father, Dick Jones, who I ran in honor of last year.

I’m also honoring the memory of Sue Van Natta, a tireless fundraiser for LLS, who passed away from breast cancer this past summer.

Stephanie shows her exuberance.

While I plan to draw energy during the race from the memories of loved ones and friends, I’m also going to gain inspiration from Stephanie, a classmate of my younger son. The fellow high school sophomore was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma this past February 18. She endured four months of chemo and a month of radiation. But she’s come back strong—her latest scans show no sign of cancer, and she’s had a wonderful season with our high school’s dance team. Who wouldn’t be motivated by her story to run well?

I sincerely hope that this also will motivate you, my cherished readers, to click on this link and donate to support my fundraising efforts. Let’s kick blood cancers to the curb!

Random Running Snippets & iPhone Apertures

Me pre-race (note Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS watch) complete with my Hero hat

Wondering how I did in yesterday’s Aramco Half-Marathon?

Short version: I finished with a wide smile on my face and tears in my eyes.

Longer version: I finished with a wide smile on my face, tears in my eyes, and with my left arch hurting almost every step of the way. That had plagued me in training. But numb feet had not; unfortunately, I suffered with those from miles three through six, forcing me to walk from time to time until I could feel my toes again.

Thankfully, my tootsies felt fine once I hit mile seven, so after that I only walked through water stops and when I ingested Gu energy gel. Oh, and when I took iPhone 3Gs photos, which I uploaded to Facebook along the way.

I wasn't the only one taking iPhone photos at the start.

I figured I’d try to take iPhone photos and keep updating my Facebook status during the race. In hindsight, it would’ve been much better to have used my Olympus Stylus Tough point-and-shoot camera. It was awkward stopping mid-race to take a photo, typing in a caption (especially considering I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses), and then hoping AT&T would allow me to upload it to Facebook. I missed out on lots of potentially good pix of cute signs and even cuter babies. And that guy at the half-marathon start wearing a Lion King costume. Wonder if he finished still wearing it? It got pretty warm.

Lots of people in front of me as we head towards mile two. Guess I'm not going to win!

We did have perfect running weather—it was about 45 degrees at the start at 7 a.m. and about 60 degrees when I finished around 10 a.m. Which means that probably half the participants overdressed. Those who were wearing tights, jackets, gloves, and beanies looked like the temps were still frozen over from last weekend!

I felt very comfortable in a short-sleeved t-shirt and shorts, complete with my Hero running hat that I earned by raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Oh, and my Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS watch. Why was that important? Because, as in 2008, it showed that I actually ran 13.3 miles instead of 13.1. Oh, that aching extra two-tenths!!

Heading up a hill just past 10K (6.2 miles).

The race starts with the half-marathoners and those running the Chevron Houston Marathon on separate streets. We mesh together around mile two until mile nine where the halfers blissfully turn around (180 degrees) and head for the finish. The organizers like to boast that the course is flat . . . but it is NOT! There are enough hills in the first seven miles to stretch out our legs and tighten our arches (well, my left one).

Cresting the hill over Allen Parkway nearing mile 7. As we're running outbound, faster runners are about to turn near mile 11.

Here were my plans for the race: First goal always is to finish. My second goal was to break three hours. That’s a slow pace and nowhere near my personal best, but my training had been done at snail speed. Mentally, I was going to concentrate on just getting into the swing of things for the first two miles, which includes the much-hated (by me) Elysian Viaduct. At least two people slipped and fell behind me as we approached the first mile on the viaduct. I’ll bet they hate it, too.

Sidebar: Years ago there was talk about getting rid of the viaduct, which is a concrete overpass. I volunteered to be the one pushing the plunger when it came time to dynamite it! But, alas, it still stands if only to torment me every year.

After the Elysian, I was going to think about the six people in whose memory I raised funds for LLS. The first was Dick Jones at mile three, then my dad, my stepdad, my cousin Lisa, Don Queen, and Ron Kalteyer at the subsequent miles. After that I felt like all of them were on my back spurring me along to the finish.

The halfers will turn around in 200 yards!

Two of the best aspects of Houston’s premier marathon/half-marathon event are its volunteers and spectators. We couldn’t have a successful race without thousands of helpers. And those watching make us feel like running gods and goddesses, as well as providing plenty of distractions. I saw so many great signs along the course! Some I remember were “Run like you stole something!” and “So easy a caveman could do it.” There also were live bands and boom boxes providing great music along the way.

No balloons for my pity party at mile 10?

Once I made the turn at mile nine, I focused on one sight: That mile 10 banner. I just couldn’t wait until I was able to have my very own pity party and feel sorry for myself and my aches and pains. Funny thing, though—by mile 10, I was rolling along at a decent clip for me. Sure, my arch was hurting, but it wasn’t slowing down my pace any, and I knew that in a mere mile we would be on Allen Parkway running along with the fast marathoners across the median. Plus I had those six precious souls riding on my shoulders whispering in my ear, “You can do it!” Cancel that pity party!

Mile 11 is a good time for prayer!

Houston’s Christian radio station had several prayer stations set up along the course. What a great idea . . . even for those of us who are Jewish! All runners are grateful for divine intervention late in a race.

My biggest disappointment once we got off Allen Parkway and headed through downtown towards the finish line at the George R. Brown Convention Center? No Elvis sighting! That’s the first time I haven’t seen the supposedly dead rock ’n roller during either the half (now five finishes) or marathon (eight finishes).

Disappointment reigns for those who finished behind me.

Finally, there was the most-spectacular sight of the entire 13.1-mile race: The finish line! Why do we run races? To finish them! As always, when I crossed the line, I looked to the sky to thank my dad for being along with me.

And then I thought of Dick Jones, who I had hoped so much would be there at the finish watching me run for him. He was there in spirit, of course, interrupting his golf game in heaven to ride on my shoulders. I couldn’t help but break into a wide smile and start to cry.

Planning My Pity Party

Dick Jones celebrates his birthday.

Sunday is a day I’ve been looking forward to since last July. It’s our annual Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Half-Marathon, the premier running event in Houston.

Originally I signed up for the marathon, because I wanted to try to inspire and take inspiration from Dick Jones, the beloved father of my then-neighbor JJ the organizational whiz. So much has changed since that mid-summer day!

Now Mr. Jones sadly has passed away, JJ and her family have moved away, and I’ve switched from the full to the half-marathon. I’ve been having problems with my left leg, which has meant I haven’t enjoyed exactly stellar training. I’ve finished quite a few long runs, but I don’t have a lot of everyday miles in my legs.

Hopefully, this will be my fifth Houston half-marathon finish. No one is sick in my family, so I don’t expect to have another stomach flu debacle like last year knocking me out of the race. My goal, as it is with every race I’ve run, is to finish, hopefully with a smile on my face. It’s hard to set a time goal when I don’t know how much my leg is going to bother me—the more it hurts, the more I’ll have to walk. And that means a slooooow time.

Of course, this particular race isn’t just about me. I’m running for a reason: I’ve been raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in memory of Mr. Jones, my father, my stepfather, my cousin Lisa, my neighbor Tami’s father, and my friend Karen’s brother. All of them died from these dreaded blood cancers. When I’m out pounding the streets of Houston and hurting, my thoughts will be with them every step of the way. I’m hoping that they’ll lift me up and help lessen my load.

Still, I know that I’m going to throw myself a pity party somewhere along the course. Every long run I’ve done has included one of these negative “celebrations.” I allow myself to pick one—and only one—mile during which I can feel sorry for myself. Sunday it will be mile 10. That’s a good time to assess the first nine miles and then try to re-energize for the final push along Allen Parkway to the finish line.

Ah, the finish line! The reason we do these races. I don’t care how much you’re hurting and cursing your lack of training and good eating habits during the event. Once you cross that blessed finish line, everything feels so much better. That pity party at mile 10? Forgotten! All is right in the world.

Well, until you start walking and find that you can’t climb up a curb, because you can’t lift your legs that high. That’s when it’s time to hit that ibuprofen bottle!

Good luck to my fellow marathoners and half-marathoners Sunday. May the weather be great and the wind be light.

Saying Goodbye to Our Dear Next-Door Neighbors

JJ the organizational whiz tries to brainwash the #2 son into liking her alma mater, the University of Kansas.

We’re extremely fortunate that we live in a close-knit subdivision in our master-planned community, which is marathon distance southwest of Houston. We not only know most of our neighbors, but we like them, too. They’ve got our back, and we, of course, have theirs.

Most of us have lived in our neighborhood for at least a decade, and we’ve watched each other’s kids growing up. When the weather is nice, we like to sit outside together and revel in the comfortable feeling that comes with warm, genuine friendship.

The neighbors crowd around JJ and Bill as they look at photos.

Last Sunday that friendship was once again on display, but this time it had a bittersweet tinge to it. Our dear, cherished next-door neighbors—JJ the organizational whiz, her husband Bill, and their kids Lindsey (a sophomore at the University of Kansas) and Michael (who graduates early from high school this week and will attend KU next fall)—are leaving our little nest. They’re moving back to Kansas City, Kansas (JJ already is there to set up their new house a mile from her mom and one of her brothers). Back to family and old friends. Back to being close to their beloved alma mater.

Bill and JJ check out a local wine in their Remember Texas bag.

We’re happy that they’re going back to the comforts of home after what’s been a very difficult year. A year that started with so much promise for them became one of shock as JJ’s much-loved father, Dick Jones, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in the spring and sadly passed away in October. No one can blame them for feeling the tug from their other favorite state.

Grace photographs her three girls with JJ and Bill.

But no one can blame us for wanting at least a few more years with such wonderful neighbors. Living next door to them for almost 11 years has been terrific! We’ve talked a lot, laughed even more, and shared lunches, dinners, tears, getting toilet paper out of their trees, highs, and lows. Our #1 son and Michael, who are the same age, became good pals in elementary school and had great fun together before drifting apart. We’ve relished the chance to watch Michael and Lindsey growing up to be fine young adults.

Marcel, Bill, the Mister, and Vic stand around.

I remember one Saturday years ago when we were taking the boys and Michael to see “Snow Dogs.” All of a sudden, JJ and Bill popped into our minivan. They wanted to see it, too!

The Mister, who owns a box company, inspects the moving boxes.

That’s what I’ll miss most about our neighbors moving: That sense of spontaneity. I loved it when I would call JJ or she would text me wanting to go to lunch at the spur of a moment. Can’t do that now . . . KC is a little too far to meet up at Chipotle or Quizno’s. I’ll also miss the heart-to-heart talks and discussing our hopes and fears when it came to our kids. Oh, and those catty chats, too! We did sharpen the nails a time or two!!

The ever-shy JJ and the #2 son hug goodbye.

Fortunately, in this day and age it’s so easy to stay in touch. E-mail and Facebook can’t replace that day-to-day contact, but they do take the sting out of moving away from long-time friends. They’re the next best thing to being there!

JJ, Bill, and their kids will always be in our hearts. JJ and I are forever friends; our destinies always will intertwine. I hope we never lose that sense of closeness that we’ve felt since March of 1999 when we first met on my driveway. I knew in an instant that she was someone I’d always want to be friends with.

Surprising weather news catches JJ off guard!

I sure hope JJ feels the same way when I text her every day this winter about how much warmer it is here while she’s freezing her butt off in Kansas City!

A Warrior’s Battle Is Over

Patty and Dick Jones

Patty and Dick Jones

An old warrior has now been laid to rest. Dick Roland Jones, the father of my neighbor JJ the organizational whiz, peacefully passed away from cancer last night.

Mr. Jones, one of the most amazing and interesting people you could ever meet, battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for six months. It was a fight that inspired me to sign up for the Chevron Houston Marathon and fundraise for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through the marathon’s Run for a Reason program.

Mr. Jones’ untimely death saddens me so much. He was a wonderful husband, father, brother, grandfather, and friend. But his passing also pushes me to train harder and better for the January 17th marathon. I know he’ll be my guardian running angel, encouraging me along the dreadful hills of Allen Parkway during the later miles. He and the others whose memories I’m running for—my father, my stepfather, my cousin Lisa, my friend Karen’s brother Ron, and my neighbor Tami’s father Don—will be in my heart every step of the 26.2 miles. They will give me strength when I’m running out.

I’m pleased that people have been donating to the LLS through my Run for a Reason webpage. I hope more of you will give, so that we can one day find a cure for this dreaded disease. Any amount—big, small, or in between—is appreciated. You never know if it will be YOUR $5 that funds the research that finally cures these horrible blood cancers.

Mr. Jones: You will be missed but never forgotten. Rest in peace, brave warrior.

Running for a Reason

My dad in 1969

My dad in 1969

In 1986, my parents were driving from their former home in Virginia to their new abode in the Los Angeles area where my father had gotten a new job. When they got to L.A., my mother called me and said that my dad hadn’t been feeling well, and that she had driven part of the way.

Ever have warning bells go off like mad in your head? That’s what happened to me when I heard the news. My father NEVER let my mom drive. It didn’t matter if they were going a mile down the road or cross country. He was the master behind the wheel. I immediately knew something was wrong.

A few months later I got the frightening call from my mom: My father, at age 57 (a year older than I currently am), had been diagnosed with leukemia. Back then he was too old to qualify for a bone marrow transplant, so his prognosis was bleak.

At first I went through the range of emotions that affect most of us when we hear that one of our important loved ones is terminally ill. But then I got busy. I had been running avidly since 1978, but I only had participated in 5Ks (3.1 miles) and 10Ks (6.2 miles). I decided in the fall of 1986 to train for and run the Houston Marathon the following January in honor of my dad and to encourage him in his fight against leukemia.

I finished my first marathon in January of 1987. My dad, who was touched by my efforts, passed away in March of 1991, almost a year before my #1 son was born. I ran a four-mile race right after he died, and I still can remember crying away the miles.

I’ve finished several Houston marathons since then, but I’ve switched to the half-marathon distance, because it’s so much easier to train for and complete. I haven’t trained for a marathon since 2001, and I only miss those 26.2 miles when I’m watching marathoners finishing. Ah, but then I remember the hours of running and the aching muscles and the agony of mile 23, and I’m glad that Houston started its half-marathon tradition in 2002.

Dick Jones celebrates his birthday.

Dick Jones celebrates his birthday in happier times.

But then my next-door neighbor JJ the organizational whiz’s father, Dick Jones, was suddenly diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma this past spring. It has been a tough, hard battle for him . . . kind of like a marathon. And that got me thinking (always dangerous for me!)—I need to draw inspiration from Mr. Jones’ fight as well as try to encourage him and help raise money for a cause. Why not train for and complete the January 17th Chevron Houston Marathon in his honor?

lls_c_hi_res_jpg

Fortunately, the Chevron Houston Marathon has a long-standing Run for a Reason charity fundraising program. I’ve signed up to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), and I hope my readers will help me inspire Mr. Jones. Here is the link to my fundraising page: Run for a Reason. Let’s show Mr. Jones that he is not alone in his war against this dreaded disease.

In addition to running for Mr. Jones, I also will run in memory of those who have died of leukemia: My father; my stepfather, Earl; my friend Karen R.’s brother, Ron Kalteyer; and my neighbor Tami’s father; as well as my cousin, Lisa, whose life was cut short by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I hope to gain strength along the route from all of them.

Please join me in my efforts to raise money to help find a cure for blood cancers. I’ll do the running; I hope that you’ll support me by contributing to this worthy cause.

Let’s fight along with Mr. Jones!