|The Champion of My World|
Doug started running in 1993, after seeing a shirtless picture of himself sporting Moobs (Man Boobs.) He ran 3.5 - 5 miles every weekday. He never stopped until his heart stopped on June 8, 2010, in the middle of a lunchtime run. More on what happened.
Doug liked to run for a bunch of reasons.
When Doug ran, he didn't listen to music. When running with his buddies, they talked and joked. When he ran alone, he just looked around at the scenery. I asked him once what he thought about on those long or short runs. He said "Nothing." I believed him. He seemed uniquely capable of completely emptying his head.
Doug ran a lot of races, and had a closet full of race T-shirts to prove it. I had all his medals on display in a shadow box that graced the "I Love Me" wall I set up for this and his other accomplishments. I went to every race I could, to root him on. I always found it odd that he would thank me afterwards for coming. I was proud to be there.
He ran the Manchester Thanksgiving road race dressed as a gift wrapped present (and fans yelled after him "Go gift!")
He completed six Hartford marathons. Afterwards he would barely be able to walk up the stairs. (He thought it was hilarious that they accidentally gave him a women's medal one year.) He usually kept a tasty beverage in his bag to celebrate and rehydrate immediately after each race.
One of his favorite race memories was at the Kathy Deary Race. He and friend Dirk headed into JD Coopers for a beer the minute he crossed the finish line. Doug proudly noted that, although he was not the first to finish the race, he was the first at the bar. He also thought it was special that he needed to step over an elite runner (who was being treated for dehydration) on the way in.
Doug's last race was the 30th annual Woodstock 10K on Memorial Day 2010. He was proud to come in as the third Woodstock resident in his age group. He only had to walk for a bit up the two mile long "Heartbreak Hill" by the Woodstock Academy.
He received a medal at the awards ceremony. Later that day, danced around the back yard with it, singing "I am the Champion of the World."
Then we went upstairs and looked at the race results online. He checked all the Woodstock residents who would be turning 50 the next year, and thus moving in to his age category, to scope out the upcoming competition.
Doug felt great after that last race. He was convinced it might have something to do with not taking Benicar that day. (Benicar HCT is a high blood pressure medication that may have caused or contributed to his death if it triggered the malignant arrhythmia that appeared to have stopped his heart on June 8, 2010.) He said he wanted to stop taking it altogether. I cautioned him to talk with the doctor first, since he had a physical scheduled for June 7.
He died the following week, during a lunchtime run.
Doug always ran with a Road ID on his shoe. It was how the Emergency Room knew to contact me, since he didn't have his wallet with him.
When the funeral director allowed me to accompany Doug's remains to the crematory, he asked if I would like to drive by any place that was special to Doug. We drove the entire 10K of the route of the Woodstock race. Doug got to do it one more time....
The 31st Memorial Day race in Woodstock was dedicated to Doug, and other runners who are no longer with us. Doug's name was printed on the back of the T-shirts runners received. PS volunteered with me at the registration table, along with Doug's friend and softball companion Ed Higgins. Karen Fitzpatrick, Woodstock's recreation director, did an awesome job her first year managing the race.
The 2011 race was delayed for 15 minutes because it began to rain and thunder at 9 a.m. It had only rained once during the race in the previous 30 years. As TS noted afterwards, it was as if "the sky and weather expressed some of the inner emotions, almost on cue." I wondered if it was Doug indicating that he was pissed that he didn't get to run it this time. However, the rain cooled off the 91 degree day nicely for the runners.
Friend and neighbor Dirk Hansen fired off the starting gun. The rest of the 'hood was in attendance, and neighbors Keith Grassi and Trevor Hansen ran, along with PS's brother from RI and about 155 other men, women and children. Doug's CT DEP running buddies - Jimmy "Dynomite" Gotta, Ken Major, Rob Bell, and Kirsten Rigby - also ran. Kirsten was the first place female finisher. My friend Kim Reed came down from NH. She finished within 10 seconds of Doug's 2010 time. Many other friends and family were with him in spirit.
As I waited by the finish line with PS to cheer on our friends, I found myself looking for Doug to crest Heartbreak Hill....
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