It was only last Thursday that Barbara Strong Borsack, deputy mayor of East Hampton Village and a recent addition to Southampton Hospital’s board of directors, set her eagle eye on me as I sat waiting to scribble my notes just prior to the East Hampton Village Board meeting.
I noticed, as a few people came into the room, that Ms. Borsack was handing out pretty blue T-shirts. I wanted one, and let my wishes be known.
“They’re for my Ellen’s Run team,” she said. “If you want one, you have to join my team.”
A little background here. In 2007, I participated in Boston’s 60-mile, three-day Walk for the Cure, which raises money and awareness for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and its involvement in fighting breast cancer.
Being somewhat — how shall I put this delicately? — fat, I spent almost seven months training for that event, and as soon as it was finished, took up residence again in my comfy chair and haven’t moved since. So a 5K, to my warped brain, sounded pretty easy, even though I had no idea how long five kilometers actually was. I just knew it was generally less than five miles. If I could do 20 miles a day (completely forgetting that I had ferociously beaten my body into shape and that four years of comfy chair-sitting then followed), less than five miles should be no problem.
A pretty blue T-shirt was bestowed on me. I signed up that night for Ellen’s Run, which was to be held on Sunday. Then I took up residence in my comfy chair and thought no more about it until 7 a.m. Sunday morning.
That morning, I met with my great good friend Gaye Campbell at Starbucks. I was in full race regalia (pretty blue T-shirt, fat girl yoga pants, socks, sneakers, and a powerful bra that could probably hold in the Hoover Dam). Gaye, as always, was dressed in an adorable workout get-up. This morning it was tennis wear.
“Oh, I’m doing it with you,” she said.
This coming from a woman who, in spite of the clothing, has told me that her idea of exercise was “having a brisk sit.”
“I’ll follow your car,” she said. Then she was off.
If Ellen’s Run were Ellen’s 500, Gaye would be the winner, hands down.
We arrived at the hospital and met with Barbara Borsack and the rest of the “Strong Connections” team, almost 80 of us all together. Sheila Dunlop, known by many from the East Hampton Library, took our group picture.
I was sweating buckets already. Not a good sign.
When Gaye got back from registration, she was number 921. I was amazed at the level of participation in the race.
There were over 1,000 of us at the starting line, ranging from ancient tiny women in straw hats to dog walkers, stroller-pushers, toddlers, people in wheelchairs, cancer survivors, those left behind by cancer, and regular folk.
When the air horn blew, Gaye and I were immediately passed by old ladies in straw hats, stroller-pushers, and, not long afterward, toddlers and dog walkers.
I haven’t decided yet which is more humiliating, being left in the dust by a 2-year-old or a Pomeranian.
Gaye could have picked up the pace, but she stayed at my side. Because of the good conversation with an old, dear friend, it wasn’t long before we passed the one-mile mark. Then the two-mile.
At exactly one hour, we were within yards of the finish line.
There was a photographer there. “Let’s sprint it,” Gaye suggested.
Using up the last carbohydrate in my body, I performed something between a sprint and a hobble across the finish line. Gaye looked the photographer head-on, flashing her pearly whites and giving a big thumbs-up.
The photographer almost rolled his eyes. “Okay ladies, you can stop now,” he said.
I’ve continued to use the somewhat nebulous phrase, “I finished Ellen’s 5K Run” to my friends, which is ever so much more impressive than, “I barely finished Bridget’s three-mile walk.”
But to be part of the camaraderie, the intention, the awareness, the help, the excitement, and the service of all the good people involved in raising money for Southampton Hospital’s Ellen Hermanson Breast Center was more rewarding than a trophy for first place (I can only imagine). And most rewarding of all was doing something worthwhile with a good friend, instead of filling our bodies with caffeine and pastries.
I’m going to start training for next year right now.
Just as soon as I get out of my comfy chair.
Bridget LeRoy is a reporter at The Star.