During my run this morning, my mind raced with the memories of three years ago today.
Indulge me, if you will. Three years ago this morning, I woke up bright and early to embark upon a journey. At the time I knew two things: where I was going and how I was getting there. I knew I was driving in my car to Hank Angus’ house. That’s were all the runners who had been selected to the Hope Express and Hope Express Extreme teams would be meeting for the first time. Ok, I knew a third thing: I was FREAKING OUT NERVOUS!
It was approximately 472 miles from my home at the time, in Northern Kentucky, to Hope Express Headquarters. I almost NEVER plan these things appropriately, so it took much longer than the forecasted seven and a half hours. I sat in the first part of morning rush hour in Cincinnati and the second part of morning rush hour was winding down as I trudged through Columbus. YUCK! After that, I remember little else than the electric nervousness that coursed through my veins as I sailed closer and closer to one of the most impactful weekends of my life.
Hank called me a few times during my journey to make sure I was still on track. He explained I would be getting there pretty early and would be able to attend an event at one of the schools. He also explained he was setting up and when I got to the house, I should call him and he would come pick me up. So, when I pulled up to the sprawling lot that sits on Spangler’s Mill Road and no one was home, I was not panicked. I didn’t panic until I heard Hank’s voice on the phone say, “I’ll be there to get you in a second.”
Breathing rapid. Pulse pounding in my ears. Hands clammy. HOLY CRAP WHAT AM I DOING? THIS IS REAL. THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING. I don’t know what I thought the whole nine-hour trip up there meant, but Hank coming to get me meant this was real. Applying what seemed like ages ago, wishing and hoping I would make the team, finding out right before my birthday that I was going to be one of the runners and then months of additional training all led to this meeting.
As soon as Hank got of his car and hugged me, all was right with the world. Anyone involved in THON understands the difference between a hug and a HUG. In my experience, individuals involved in THON and Four Diamonds Families are entirely incapable of giving hugs. They give HUGS. No light, prissy pats on the back. I’m talking both arms, wrapped all the way around, tight squeeze, “I have nothing more to give than this so this is going to be the best HUG of your life,” kind of HUG. That’s what I got and that’s what I gave.
I’m not going to go through the details of the weekend. I don’t want any newbies who are going to be there this weekend to read this and have any part of this experience revealed. I will; however, leave you with some bits of advice:
- Be completely you. You may be self-doubting a lot right now about whether you’ll fit in or not. DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. You’ll have a huge new family by the end of this weekend. It’s really amazing the magic bonds that are established in the Angus HE Headquarters during runners’ weekend, but it starts with YOU bringing and being YOU.
- Remember what you’re here for. With what’s lined up for this weekend, it’s going to be tough to forget, but it can happen. Hank’s said a bunch of times that you’re going to feel like heroes. He’s not wrong. You’re going to feel like you’re on top of the world. Just keep things like Jodie’s little tyke, Corban, Hank’s inspiration, Gabe, and the countless other child heroes we’re fighting for in mind while you’re up there. Makes it infinitely sweeter when you carry them with you.
- Have fun! You’ve worked hard to get here. The selection committee read something in your application, heard something in your voice, felt a passion you conveyed that led them to say, “They need to be here.” As such, enjoy the time. Leave any judgment or preconceived notions of anything at home. You’re going to meet some breathtakingly wonderful people. Some of those people are going to be in your life from here on out. I know. It can seem a little unnerving but it’s amazing. Just be open and ready for the enchantment of the experience.
There were three things I knew when I started this journey three years ago today. Two days later, as I was driving away from the Angus house on Sunday afternoon, I recall knowing one thing: my life was changed forever.