A little more Hope

(Please forgive the interior and occult references in the following account, an epilogue to Doc Bushwell’s post from Monday.)
A few of you “knew” Hope Machedon to varying degrees. If you knew her only as words on a screen, these were probably among the most bombastic, humble, crazed, poignant, unrepentant, apologetic, awe-inspiring and heartbreaking words you’ve read.

She died last March, and her sister Liz and husband Matei immediately started working to create a race in Hope’s own image. This was vitally important in two respects: Hope was always deeply moved by even the slightest efforts made on her behalf, by anyone, but she did have her strict standards. Ultimately Liz selected a 10K route in Gaithersburg, Md., near Hope’s home in Bethesda. Hope herself had covered this course on a different race in 2000 in 39 minutes, 30 seconds.
The first Never Give Up Hope 10K was held in Seneca Creek State Park on Sunday, October 29. After a bitingly windy and rainy Saturday evening, we 90 or so runners were greeted by clear, sunny skies. It was still windy and the course — though not hilly in any traditional sense — was roller-coastery and five-turns-to-the-mile tough, like a race held on golf-cart paths. This was also fine, as Hope was no fan of spoon-fed gratification.
Visitors to a certain message board emblematic of Hope’s indignantly straightforward personality would have noted the presence of people like “cricket” and “Dr. Joan Bushwell” and “meelar” and “Sue in NYC.” But the unexpected thrill was the arrival of Dan and Patti Dillon. 25 years ago, Patti was a favorite of the nonpareil Boston running scene and her style a perfect reflection of both the ferocious climate of her working-class South Boston roots and Hope’s own fuggit-it-if-I-can’t-take-a-joke mien. Patti’s 2:27:51 in the 1981 Boston Marathon broke her own American record, and a quarter century after the fact, only Joan Benoit Samuelson — another of Hope’s heroines — has run the course faster among Americans.
Patti’s husband Dan was a world-class runner himself, a 28:04 10K guy whose name was familiar to me during my formative running-geek years in the mid-1980s; competitive running encompasses a cozy world, and my and Dan’s personal few-degrees-of-separation aspect was his being a college teammate of J.P. Savoie.
The two of them are enjoying a mutual renaissance of sorts and becoming very involved in the sport after some time away. See Patti’s site at http://www.pattidillion.com and absolutely, positively read the linked article that originally appeared in the Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a vivid encapsulation of the human condition from both athletic and deeply personal perspectives: the themes of tenacity, loss, redemption and the search for ultimate peace are never clearer than in Patti’s travels.
Patti said after the race that she was in town visiting from Conecticut and that after she happened to catch wind of the event, she “had to run it for Hope’s sake.” The impact that this simple, earnest sentiment — shared, of course, by most everyone else who ran — would have had on Hope is beyond measure and description. It was the most striking moment of a stirring weekend, and everyone — save Patti herself — knew it the moment the words were afloat.
I can’t say much else other than that it was worth every one of the sixteen or so hours of travel this involved. I regret not being able to spend more time with Hope’s various family members, many of whom were appropriately busy with helping with and participating in the event. This was the first race I’ve run at more than half-steam in close to a year, and according to the results it went well, but there was a lot more in the tank and I intend to find out how much. I ran 26 miles the day after the race, more than I’ve done in almost two years. Hope always liked to claim that I taught her so much about running. If only she knew.
Thanks for reading and hope you can make it next year.

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