18 Cousins Finish a Half Marathon to Commemorate Grandmother's Centennial
I wrote this one back in 2014. As the fifth anniversary of the event approaches, and I start this new blog, it is the perfect time to repost and update. Enjoy!
Given the fragility of the political situation and lack of personal security in our native Venezuela, the Araujos have spread around the world just as many local families in the last 15 years or so. Even though email, Skype, WhatsApp and other communications advances have helped us keep in touch, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction with siblings, parents, cousins and uncles, like in the good old days.
The time for a Family reunion was set for August 2, 2013, when the head of our family, my grandmother, would celebrate her centennial. But on March 15, she passed away four and half months before her 100th Birthday.
As the dust settled after her passing, the cousins started discussing in our WhatsApp group the best way to commemorate her Centennial. Not very many ideas were presented when we settled on a half marathon in her honor. Miami was chosen given that it is a central location. I had participated the previous two years, so I knew it was a good race.
It is important to note that at the time of the decision; only four of us were active runner/walkers. Three were former runners and 11 had never showed any interest the activity. 18 of us, all either first cousins or married to one, finished the race. Another, my wife, one got injured in training and could not participate.
We all live in different cities and countries. Through our WhatsApp group we encourage each other. The experienced runners coached the novices. We shared tips, we forced the lazy ones hit the road during rough long-distance weekends and we rekindled the cousin bond my grandmother always preached. Little by little a handful of cousins started doing 10K races as well as 14, 16 and 18K training sessions. Many of them had never run 1K before my grandmother’s passing.
These are people with jobs, young kids, financial and time commitments, just like anyone else. None of them are “real housewives of anywhere”, with trainers, maids and personal assistants. Some of them even trained in the snow. These are real people that had to add training for a half marathon to their already busy routines.
The big day finally came on Sunday, February 2nd. Cousins from Bogota, Colombia; Caracas, Puerto La Cruz and Maracaibo, Venezuela; Panama City, Panama; Toronto, Canada; and Miami and Houston in the USA; took position in the different corrals during a hot and muggy morning in Downtown Miami. All of our racing bibs proudly displayed “ABUE” under our numbers, which short for Abuela, Grandmother in Spanish.
It was amazing to start a race with my sister and my twin brother. To see the 5 Garcia siblings start side by side, to have three of the 4 Bradley sisters running the distance for the very first time, just as the Pernalete siblings. Throughout the race we all kept bumping into each other, telling stories, sharing tips and experiences. And then, it was the meet up at the finish line, where we 18 of us proudly displayed our medals earned with our efforts. It’s incredible what these pieces of cheap metal meant to so many of us.
At 75 years old, my Dad, a former marathoner, also started the race, but as planned, only ran 11K before stepping out of the course. I want to make sure kudos are extended to him, too.
A family party with 40 members of our clan took place after the race to commemorate the achievement. A centennial celebration and a half marathon on the exact date our ABUE would have turned 100 ½. Words fall short on the meaning of this event to the Araujo family.
With the exception of a couple of cousins stating “it’s done, never again”, the vast majority realized what running/walking can add to the quality of their daily life and plan to participate in a few more races. Lives were changed. One of us is running a full marathon on March 2nd for the first time in 18 years.
Thank you Abue for keeping the family united around you, even after you are no longer physically with us.
Five years later, as Venezuela sinks into a deeper chaos, many of our cousins have stopped running altogether and some have moved to greener pastures overseas trying to give their family new opportunities for a real future. But a handful of have kept going at it. Two graduated to their first 26.2s and a couple more revisited the distance after many years off. I stopped racewalking and restarted my running; even became a certified running coach. Despite things settling down on the athletic history of our clan, this day five years ago is still remembered as one of its most memorable moments in the history of our family.