The Kandahar Marathon: Week Sixteen

The Kandahar Marathon: Week Sixteen

“We can’t afford to leave Afghanistan to the Taliban and the terrorists.”

~Condoleezza Rice

Monday morning we had meetings that didn’t start until 8:30, so I allowed myself an extra half hour of sleep before climbing out of bed to get my run in. I was scheduled for five easy miles, but as I moved through the cold morning air I felt good, felt the ache in my quadriceps slowly giving way, the tightness ebbing gradually out to sea, and I found that I was good for seven miles instead of five. The Boston Marathon would be run later that morning, though of course I’ve never come close to qualifying. Sonja and the kids and I had watched the New York Marathon on TV last year together and enjoyed it a great deal. Maybe in another life I’ll be able to watch—or run—the Boston Marathon.

Cindy and I corresponded by email Monday morning, and later by phone. Coordinating our schedules was tricky, but in the end we managed to find dates that worked for both of us. The next morning, after ten miles of hills and a bowl of oatmeal, I messaged the students about the new dates, and then made it a point to tell them in class as well. The time table was a bit tight for getting the house set up for these two families, but what was more important than finally getting this done? In the end, I just hoped the kids would be able to make the time to be there.

Wednesday morning, I ran eight miles at a leisurely pace. There was wind in my face at first, a haunting reminder of the latter half of last Saturday’s race, but once I got down on the trail the trees did a relatively good job of sheltering me from it, and it was so warm outside—above fifty degrees—that I comfortably wore shorts and a tee shirt.  At school that day, I let my students know about the new dates we had selected for moving the family into the house. I passed around a sign-up sheet and was gratified when so many young people committed to helping out with this again, despite our prior setbacks.

After school I swung by the new house to meet Cindy and check it out with her. Eight minutes from the school where I teach, my first impressions of the house were favorable. It was in a neighborhood that Sonja and I looked for houses in once before, and though the front steps were long and steep, it stood on a hill across the street from a terrific little park that I could envision the families’ children taking full advantage of. Inside the home had nice woodwork, a fireplace, and was well lit. It was an older house, not unlike my own, and in places it was certainly showing wear, though I told Cindy that were I told that I had to move into it myself I wouldn’t mind at all. I dropped off a few items and sent a photograph of the foyer to the students who are helping us set it up. “Much better!” I wrote.

Thursday morning, I woke to a thick fog blanketing the entire metro area. It was difficult to see, and so heavy in the air that I was quickly soaked and dripping like the trees. I ran ten miles in these conditions, at a very gradual pace, completing miles 26-35 for the week before my rest day on Friday leading up to the Garmin half marathon on Saturday. Thursday at school, I took a call from a number I didn’t recognize because it had a DC area code. 202 (DC) and 707 (Napa) are the only area codes I pick up if I don’t know the number. On the other line was a woman from the State Department with a warm voice. She was excited about the research I’m doing in Bosnia this summer and wanted me to speak at a conference for teachers. I enthusiastically agreed. Thursday after school, I stopped by the house on the way home to unload a carful of paper towels, toilet paper, a crib, a high chair, toilet plungers, toothbrushes, and various other items that had been donated by my students. There I met several of my students and introduced them to Cindy, who was there cleaning. A force of nature, she’s working so hard to make sure that these families have what they need, and I admire her a great deal. Several students arrived and got right to work; many delivered additional furniture and supplies. Together, we unloaded cars, carried baskets and boxes full of blankets, toilet paper, pots, pans, and more up the long flight of stairs. Then we started scrubbing, dusting, sweeping, getting the house ready for our new neighbors to move into.  Once I’d unloaded my car, I had to depart for a conference call with Fund For Teachers, the organization that gave me the fellowship to do my work in Sarajevo this summer. The next morning in class, students who had been there told me they had stayed late working, and Cindy texted to praise them as well. Looking back on it, I slept better Thursday night than I have in a very long time.

I spent much of the weekend in Kansas City with my family at the home of some close friends. Saturday morning I paced the 2:00:00 group at the Garmin Marathon in Olathe before spending the rest of the day in total relaxation mode, eating barbecue and going to the park with my kids, hanging out with our friends, and enjoying a nice bottle of wine. My co-pacer for Garmin was a guy named Scott, a sixty-something who picked up our sport in his late forties and realized he loved it. Scott qualified for and ran Boston a few years ago. Fit sixty-somethings who run inspire me, they’re who I want to grow up to be, and it was great to spend the time with him.

Sunday morning, I rant the Trolley Run with my friend Brian, my second race in as many days, a four-mile downhill run that he had told me about many times before. The race is a benefit for the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired; as a dad, the children’s center for just about anything has my full support.  The weather was beautiful and we trotted along at a nine-minute pace, stopping at the end for yogurt and coffee, and Sonja picked me up in the Plaza to drive us back to Omaha. Zooey turned five Sunday, and the rest of the day was spent preparing for her party or experiencing it. At one point I had the dubious honor of holding a pinata while kids swung at it with a stick. At another, my own two children, my nephew, and two neighbor kids used me as a jungle gym. It was a great end to a great week.

In all last week, I ran 52 miles. I feel strong, I’m running well, but if you’re still reading this blog then I have to admit to you that my momentum is fading. I’ve been deeply honored by those who have donated along the way, and if you’re one of them, thank you. Thank you so much. It just seems as if, predictably perhaps, Afghanistan and those from there are not on the forefront of peoples’ minds any longer, that much like the woman who once uttered the words I began this post by writing, Afghanistan is quickly fading from our minds. Ukraine’s war has definitely assumed a place of prominence in our media, in our collective psyche, and for good reason, as have elections ranging from the local ones to the big ones in places like France. That said, I hear little about Afghanistan in the media, and people aren’t reaching out to or donating the way they once were. I’d like to think that in the great vastness of the human heart and mind we must surely have room enough for everyone, but I’m not sure I can back up such idealistic notions with empirical evidence.  I think I’ll end this week with those thoughts, and pick things up again from there next week.  If you’re still reading, again, thank you.