A Christmas story by Will Jones
On July 18, 1983, I made this entry on the first page of a new spiral notebook: I started training for the Central Coast Marathon. The race is in December. Running a marathon had been a goal of mine for many years. My wife and I were celebrating our second anniversary, she was pregnant, and the baby was due in December. What better time and what better motivation would I ever have to put in the work necessary to run twenty-six miles? After all, wasn’t my wife training for a marathon of her own, giving birth? I dedicated my training to Melinda and our future child, and I maintained a thorough journal all the way through to two great events: completion of my first marathon on December 18th, and the birth of our son on December 21st.
Thirty-five at the time, I was managing a small restaurant and coaching a women’s softball team in a local recreational league. I worked long hours and it was a struggle sometimes to stay true to my training, especially on the weekends when increasingly long runs were scheduled. My goal was to run eight-minute miles and finish the race in three hours and thirty minutes. There was no way I could accomplish that goal without rigorous preparation, so, despite the devil on my shoulder tempting me to skip a day or stay in bed on Sunday morning, I usually came close to my weekly mileage totals.
As I trained I ran in local races from 10 K’s to a half marathon, matching my goals in most of them. But it’s journal entries like this one that kept me going: Felt the baby move in Melinda’s belly this morning. Not much, but enough to bring home the realization of what’s going on. My wife is a wonderful woman. What a fine baby we’re going to have!
On race day I lined up early in the morning with a couple hundred other brave souls, some of whom were friends. On instructions from me, when the gun went off a friend in the crowd shouted “Slow down, Jones!” and I quickly relaxed into the pace I hoped to maintain. Detailing the thoughts and challenges I experienced during the race are for another BOBB post. I crossed the finish line in three hours and twenty six minutes, met there by Melinda in her red maternity top. We embraced for a long time.
Three days later our son was born. A long labor ended in a caesarean, so my family didn’t come home until Christmas Eve. By then I had decorated a tree in our small apartment, and that night, to give Melinda a break a slept on the couch with our boy on my chest. The next morning I dressed him in a red sleeper, and when Melinda came out of the bedroom she found him in his baby seat under the tree. Twenty-nine years later, it’s still the best Christmas morning of all.
photo by Walt Stoneburner and Tammy Lewis
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