We have been so touched by the stories that others have shared with us about the Reindeer Fun Run. This past year I realize I have my own story to share as well…
In the first years of the Reindeer Fun Run our volunteers were mostly family and friends — taking registrations or stopping traffic along the course. My mom was one of those eager to help, always taking up her post along the original course on the corner of Oldfield and Highland in Southern Pines. Back when the race was smaller, and I was still able to run the 5k, I remember prancing by with my daughter in a stroller dressed as a little reindeer. Both of us waving and smiling, and excited to see Grandma cheering on all the runners and walkers. She would especially beam at seeing her granddaughter. After the 5k she would venture down to encourage the Egg Nog Joggers at the finish line. We would share stories of the first, fast athletes still wearing their antlers as they sped by, of the many costumes, and especially of the kids running and walking past “her corner” on the Reindeer Fun Run course.
When we moved the race to Aberdeen in 2011 my mom would keep cheering, but not from the course or finish line. At the age of 77 she decided to enter her first 5k. My daughter who had left her stroller behind
long ago decided to enter right along side, and entered her first 5k at age 7. It seemed fitting that my mom, who was the 7th child born on July 7, would attach another memory to her favorite number. That morning my mom, dad & daughter all conquered the 5k course together, and my wife and I shared with our son (also born on 7/7) his first race in the Egg Nog Jog. It will remain one of the happiest and most complete days of my life.
The following summer my mom was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. She said she planned to participate in the Reindeer Fun Run again, but as her health deteriorated she revised to saying she planned to be there to cheer on all of the runners and walkers, and see her grandkids race. Unfortunately, when the sun rose the first Saturday of December she was not strong enough. But that morning we sent her a photo of our son wearing his Egg Nog Jog bib #7, and it made her smile.
It was a melancholy day for my wife and I as we tried to take in the splendor of so many happy families, both secretly knowing that this was the day my mom had been holding out for. And that it was likely to be her last. After the run, my wife, kids and I shared stories of the run with my mom — how our daughter ran the entire 5k — how we held our son’s hand through the whole Egg Nog Jog — how it was the largest turnout ever. She listened to our tales, and her eyes lit up. Only a few hours later I had the horrible privilege of holding my mom’s hand as she passed away.
I am so sad to have lost my mom, but so blessed to have so many wonderful memories. The Reindeer Fun Run will always be wrapped in those memories for me. The photo of my mom, dad and kids on that perfect Saturday morning just one year earlier is displayed in our family room. You can tell they are each so proud of their accomplishments and so happy to have achieved them together. And as I always do when I run through the streets of Southern Pines, I make a point of running up Oldfield to “her corner.” I imagine my mom standing there, beaming and clapping and cheering me on. It always puts a little spring in my step and makes me smile.
We’ll see you there for our 7th Reindeer Fun Run on December 7!
Written in 2013