Today is a special day for me. Last September, fifteen years of running finally culminated with my qualification for the Boston Marathon, which I will run for the first time today. I will carry Jack Grubbs in my heart as I run this race. Throughout that period of my life, Jack was one of my closest and most trusted friends.
I first met Jack in 2001 when I moved into his neighborhood. Jack and Susan were wonderful neighbors. As we passed them on the street, they were always friendly and kind, walking Chloe, their delightful little chihuahua.
In 2008 I began running. My runs were primarily solitary. I liked running from my doorstep and didn’t know any other runners nearby. Then one day, I noticed Jack out running. I asked if he wanted to go for a run together someday, and he agreed. Neither of us realized the deep friendship that would grow out of that simple conversation.
Running together quickly became a Saturday morning tradition for us. We both benefited from the added inspiration knowing the other person would be counting on us to roll out of bed. The miles flew by when we were together. And surprisingly, we never ran out of things to say.
Jack and I talked about our kids. I marveled at his experiences as a minister and his caring, compassionate nature. I shared my lessons in leadership. He loved to hear my productivity tips – I feel like I must have shared the same tips 1,000 times, and he never tired of them. We lamented our love of sweets and its impact on our waistline. He’d listen intently as I debriefed him on everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And we’d talk about running—a lot about running.
Jack was with me as I trained for my first marathon in 2010. Each Saturday, we’d hit a new record for long-run distance. I remember the day we ran 15 miles for the first time and discovered that you encounter a few rolling hills if you go far enough east on the incredibly flat W&OD trail. 15 was about as far as Jack was willing to go, but he cheered me on as I continued to tack on additional mileage. Throughout my running journey, Jack was my biggest cheerleader.
When I moved a few neighborhoods away, we continued to run together, meeting in the middle or driving to each other’s houses. Eventually, Jack moved an hour away, and our Saturday Morning Run Club closed down for a time. I missed Jack’s company on my long runs and our connection. So, I asked him to invest in a Bluetooth headset. He obliged, and the Saturday Morning Run Club was back in business. Each Saturday at 7 am, Jack would call me, and we’d both head out to run from our respective front doors, talking for an hour or more.
Jack closely followed my attempts to qualify for Boston. He would occasionally send me articles he felt might support my journey. Run Like a Kenyan was one of my favorites, particularly as he told me, “Josh, after reading the author’s description, it seems to me that you’re already running like a Kenyan!”
A year ago, Jack was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. It was an incredible shock to everyone who knew Jack. He was a healthy individual and full of life. While Jack could no longer run, he continued to call me Saturday mornings and connect with me while I ran. His cheerleading for me took on a new meaning as he told me he was running vicariously through me. I think no one was prouder of me than Jack when I finally qualified last September.
We lost Jack to cancer in November. I still carry him in my heart on every run. As I run Boston today, I have both Jack and another friend lost to cancer, David “SuperDave” Myers, in my heart and on my shirt, and I know they are still connected to me.
Jack was Chairman of the Board for Shade, a non-profit organization founded by his daughter Claire to support people with Albinism in Tanzania who face violence and discrimination. They have launched a Love in Action Challenge to honor Jack’s memory. Participants are invited to run, walk, bike, or do another exercise, totaling at least 26.2 miles for May. My goal is to break my previous monthly mileage record of 212 miles to honor Jack’s memory and raise money to support Shade. If you would like to celebrate Jack’s memory, please consider donating.
I realize this post has been a departure from my usual tips. The message for me is the importance of social connection and the support we draw from our deep, trusted friendships. I encourage you to reach out to your closest friends and share your gratitude.
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