My Run with Scott Menzies

“We are going to run this together from start to finish for Meg.”  This what Scott and I said to each other, sealed with a fist bump, as we lined up back in the pack of the November 15, 2014 Richmond Marathon.  I didn’t know how literal this would be.

We met at the start line about :45 minutes earlier. It was a cold crisp morning in downtown Richmond as Lynette Buffington Adams and I make our way to the start line to meet everyone. We immediately saw Scott and Meg’s mom, Pamela. We then saw Robert Keith Cartwright and Brooke Roney. But Scott in particular caught my attention. He had on a bright blue “I Run for Meg” sweatshirt with hoodie pulled up over his winter cap, gloves, and winter tights under his shorts. He also had a little green scarf. I MAY have asked if we were going for a run or a winter expedition and complimented him on his little green scarf. “Shhhh … it’s my daughter’s. Had to grab it on the way out. I don’t like the cold, ” he said with a smile. We laughed.

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With a very bundled-up Scott Menzies and Keith Cartwright at the start of the 2014 Richmond Marathon.

Everyone else had plenty of layers on too. I had a jacket, Brooke, Pamela and Lynette had long sleeve shirts and Kelly Clark was draped a superhero sleeping bag. It’s smart to stay warm at the start and then discard the jacket, long sleeve shirt or sleeping bag, as you start. As the half marathon started, everyone shed their layers, exchanged hugs and took off for the start. The exception was Keith Cartwright, who was bound and determined to keep all of his, what looked to be about, 15 layers on. Well, the exception to the exception was Scott, who was also determined to start in his complete winter expedition outfit.

Scott and I started at the back, about nine minutes after the official start of the race.

Within a few minutes into the start, we saw Amanda Parrish who was doing her first marathon. It was great to see her – a perfect start of our race together. She took a quick photo of us then one more as Scott and I took off together. I love that she captured us taking off together – in a perfect stride for stride.photo 4-3 photo 5-3

The miles flew by as we talked for about the first five miles. We covered topics ranging from where we both grew up and went to school to the beauty of the course to why he has not shed any of his winter outfit. I was warm looking at him. We were fast becoming friends as our pace held steady at 9:00 per mile – mile after mile.

I learned a lot about Scott. We continued to talk non-stop through 20 miles – touching on some deep subjects like his love and concern for his three small children and how much he still misses Meg everyday. But for most of our run we talked about how overwhelmed his family was by how many people – from all over the US – were there to run for Meg. The weekend turned out exactly how they has hoped, everyone running to celebrate Meg’s life and how she lived it.

I also learned how much he hates running hills. During one long stretch, he pointed out again and again how the gradual hill NEVER ENDS! For about three miles, he constantly  reminded me we were still going up. I’m an eternal optimist, but he even had me cursing this 1% grade which had become Mt. Everest!! We laughed.

At mile 13, I recall he commented we were in ‘No Man’s Land”. He clarified that since the Boston Marathon, he had not run more than 13 miles.  Now I was learning just how strong – and crazy – of a runner he was!

I learned Scott loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches … a lot. In fact, he packed one in his sweatshirt and at every water stop he offered me a bite.  Every. Single. Water. Stop. he would pull that sandwich, secured tightly in a zip-lock baggie, out of his pocket and offer it up.  “Are you SURE?” he would ask with a giant smile on his face.  We laughed.stopstomake_1

I learned Scott really DOES NOT like to run in the cold. Evidence: He ran the ENTIRE RACE in his sweatshirt – the giant blue one I was waiting for him to discard by mile 3. Nope! He was the only one on the course that day to run in a sweatshirt. I counted. If there were a division for people running an entire marathon in a winter hat, sweatshirts, gloves and tights, Scott would be at the top of the platform. We laughed – until I realized the little green scarf was gone! Somewhere along the way, Scott has taken off the little green scarf! “She is going to look up at me with her beautiful blue eyes just like her mother’s and say, “Daddy, where is my scarf?””. We laughed at the thought of him in a panic after our marathon, racing at Target looking to replace it!

Between 2:45 and 3:00 into our run, we started talking about Keith Cartwright. We were thinking Keith should be finishing in this window.  He may be crawling, but we both KNEW he would be finishing. Keith was running his first half marathon and Scott gave him credit for encouraging him to “push the button” to sign up for the full marathon. Seemed like a reasonable idea at the time… (Keith did come in under 3:00 for his first half marathon we would later find out.)

I also learned just what an amazing and talented runner Meg was. She was competitive and loved to push herself including bouncing back stronger than ever after two ankle surgeries. Scott said he had to get her a knee scooter “because she was too fast for crutches.” “Everyone was on alert in the house as she cooked because of how fast she would wheel around the kitchen”. We laughed.

“This was a race she loved and definitely would have run”, he added. We paused.

Throughout the race we saw lots of “I Run for Meg” shirts, signs and banners. There were also lots of hugs and a photo with Bart Yasso. At mile 19 we took a photo with a Meg’s banner. Just ahead was a hill that lead over an highway. Scott said how much she loved hills and would attack them. We seemed to fly up it imagining how Meg would have run it. photo 4

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photo 1-1We crushed the hill and ran through beautiful neighborhoods that lead us back downtown. We didn’t talk much for the last few miles, but I would feel his strength as we ran side by side. We were both on pace for a sub 4:00 marathon until about mile 24. We began cramping. The next two miles would be a challenge. We alternated between walking and running. The cramps moved to the calves and it was tough to even walk by mile 25. Scott attributed it to the fact he did not hydrate at all. The day before he was at the Expo for most of the day meeting people and forgot to drink. We laughed about Brooke Roney, who toted a gallon of water around with her the entire day.  So there we were: Scott who’s longest run was 13 and  me, now really feeling the effects of the marathon I had run one week earlier.  As we hobbled around the last corner to the downhill finish, we said we were the worst examples of how to train for a marathon. But if you could average us out – PERFECT!!!

Our calves were burning and cramping, but I came up with a tip you will never find in Runner’s World. I suggested like we “run like ducks” downhill for the last 1/4 mile. By swinging our feet out and and landing a bit pigeon-toed with each stride, the pressure would be less on the calf and more on the quad which would take the pounding for the last downhill to the finish. Made perfect sense at the time and Scott thought is was BRILLIANT!! 🙂

indexWe were not going to quit. Not this day. So like two large ducks, (one still in a heavy  blue sweatshirt and winter cap) we took off and “ran”.  What a sight we must have been for the spectators who lined the course to the finish.

We saw Scott’s mom, his friend Sabrina with a Smiley Face sign and other Meg supporters as we made our way down the screaming downhill to the finish. A little further down on the right side, we saw Meg’s mom, Pamela, cheering loudly and waving as she saw us. He ran over and kissed her.

As Scott and I ran the last 1/4 mile down to the finish line, a girl ran up next to us and screamed in excitement, “Thank you both for running for Meg!! She is so inspiring!!”

“Do you know who this is?”, I asked her as I nodded over to Scott. After a short pause, I said, “Scott Menzies.”  “OH MY GOSH!” she yelled!!  I will never forget her expression and huge smile as the three us made our way the last few few hundred yards.

Scott and I finished as we started – together. Literally. Scott’s finish time: 4:03:12. My finish time: 4:03:12. (somehow he placed ahead of me, so next year is revenge!)

We had run it for Meg together – from the first strides to the last second.photo 1 photo 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From start to finish, this weekend – and the race cradled within it – was an experience I will treasure forever.  My first stop in Richmond Thursday night directly from the airport was dinner with Robert Keith Cartwright and his wonderful family. My last stop before heading directly to the airport on Sunday was Meg’s Memorial with Scott and Pamela. I met them to drop off the shoes I had run in. This is where they needed to stay along with Meg’s bib. And I have already signed up for Richmond 2015. I hope thousands join Scott and I as we run it again next year. And celebrate Meg as we do.

I will be the one with an extra little green scarf and a stack of Uncrustables for Scott.

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POST RACE ADDENDUM:  The girl we met at the end was Sandra Toro Byrd. I asked her about the moments we shared at the end of the race and here is what she wrote me:photo 2-2

I didn’t know Meg, but we trained with the same training group here in Richmond! Sports backers MTT! I live in the same county and when Meg passed away it hit too close too home for me as well.. i was running for her today as well. The finish was Epic! I saw you both on and off thru the course and had no idea who you guys were until the finish when I saw your back with the “I Run for Meg” bib and it took everything out of me to speak!!! Meeting you and Scott was the highlight of my 15th Marathon! He is a very brave guy! I can’t imagine the sadness in his heart and still manages to keep running and smiling!!! I believe we were there to meet, I wanted to PR and I was right on goal until mile 23 and couldn’t keep up the pace!!! But I think it was because I was going to meet you both later!! This was fate and I will never forget it.”