My friend Yolanda sent me this picture an hour before she and her brother Mike crossed the starting line of the Houston Marathon. She is a runner who has coached groups at Luke’s Locker for — well, for eons. She runs marathons and half marathons; she doesn’t walk them.
But this one, she didn’t mind walking at all. In fact, walking it was her idea. Back in April, to be quite blunt and to the point, Mike almost died. He had necrotizing fasciitis (a.k.a. flesh-eating bacteria) and ended up losing — from just below the knee — his left leg.
When Mike was finally out of the woods and ready to be fitted with his prosthesis — sooner than that, actually, come to think of it — I remember Yolanda telling me she harbored a dream he could walk the Houston Half Marathon. It would be, by the way, on her 50th birthday.
She went ahead and registered…just in case ya know. She started training; Mike started training. A couple of weeks ago, she sent me a note saying he had a blister on his remaining foot, and the doctor didn’t think he should go. But Mike did.
Sunday morning, right after Yolanda sent me the photo of her shoes, she sent these words: “He’s nervous and I’m trying not to cry.”
So was I. But I believed in my heart — as she and he and the rest of their family no doubt did, too — that he would make it. Heck, what’s 13.1 miles to someone who has almost died from necrotizing fasciitis (which affects one in a million people; Mike was that one).
I tracked them; received text messages when they crossed the 10K mark, the 15K. They finished in — well, you can see here. And they were (as you can also see here) ecstatic.
Here’s what Yolanda wrote me that evening:
“I have to say that today was and still is just amazing. From the time we made our way to the corrals, till we finished, random people were coming up to Mike and wishing him luck. Runners are a good lot.
“Water stops were super fun too. When the volunteers saw Mike, they’d start chanting ‘Mike! Mike!’ I think it kept him going and well, it brought tears to my eyes. You should’ve seen the look on his face when I told him we were at 11.5. He said, ‘That’s just two laps at NorthPark..let’s do this.’ ”
Which they did and, yes, even more: They flew. Unencumbered and free.
So for wings (and sisters) to take us where we need to go, and for those that let us soar, The Grateful Runner says thank you.