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My Brother

Six years ago, my family and I traveled downtown to cheer on my older brother in his first triathlon. The bright sun shone down upon the buzzing crowds. After parking, we made our way down towards the lake to catch the corralled swimmers free stroking their way through the choppy Lake Michigan waters.

We knew he had begun the race, but knew not his pace so our eyes were peeled. As we navigated our way through the crowd, we were suddenly surprised to see him walking towards us. With a look of agitation and a towel around his shoulders, he must have spotted us first because as soon as one of us shouted out his name, he put up a hand and kind of shooed us away. He didn’t want to talk. We all gathered this immediately.

We didn’t talk much that day, but his wife filled us in shortly after that during the swim portion of the race, he had underestimated the effects of the icy waters and without a wetsuit, his body basically went into hypothermic shut down mode. He was forced to forfeit. He knew if he took the necessary precautions, he could have done better.

I remember driving home, the sullen atmosphere in the car a stark shift from the excited anticipation we all felt earlier that morning. Knowing he had trained for months, his defeated spirit stood at the forefront of all our minds.

I wanted him to know I was still proud of him. I wanted him to know that I recognized all the hours of training he clocked in and that that time mattered. The next morning, I sent him a text, “Thinking of you and this quote came to mind. Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’ – Mary Anne Rodmacher. Love you.” He thanked me, said he loved the quote, and try again he did.

The following year he trained for and killed his first half marathon. Granted, he almost killed himself, having refrained from stopping for water even once and finishing the race with a colorless complexion akin to Edward Cullen, but he had something to prove to himself. He proved it. He went on to complete several more half marathons that year.

In 2013, he ran his first full marathon. Reminiscent of a few years prior, we all made signs and nervously drove up to the city to cheer him on. Judge away, but we even made t-shirts for everyone to wear to encourage him and so he could spot us more easily in the dense crowds. We mapped out the course, divided and conquered; A set of us stationed throughout the 26.2 mile course roughly every 2 miles. We’d arrive at a mile marker, wait for him to run past, explode with shouts and some, “whooo hooos!” as he passed us with a thumbs up and a smile. Then we’d hustle back to the car onto our next mile marker and repeat. I don’t have his exact time in front of me, but he absolutely slaughtered it, coming in with a time around 3:20. The heightened excitement, energy, and love from the day was palpable.

Fran Marathon pic

The next year, he trained harder. He ran the marathon again and performer even better, running 26.2 miles with a time of 3:12. Again, we went out to cheer him on. Our hearts swelled with pride each time he passed us. Keeping his swift stride, he’d throw up that familiar thumb up or wave and flash us that wide grin, while we jumped and screamed like maniacs.

Fran marathon 3

The following year he decided to run the New York Marathon. While his lovely wife, Mary, accompanied him there in person to cheer him on, the rest of the family was tracking his time and cheering him on from afar here in the hometown. When Mary gave us all the link to watch the start of the race online, I logged on thinking it would be cool just to see the runners pass and gain some insight as to the route and atmosphere my brother was experiencing. I logged into the link, while still lying in my bed under the covers, laptop appropriately on my lap. The race started roughly around 7 am, which was an hour ahead of our time here in Chi. Within nearly 30 seconds of opening the live link, I spotted my brother running past the starting line. I shouted and immediately shot up out of bed. Out of thousands of runners crossing, I was lucky enough to spot him at that exact time. He finished the race with an unbelievable time of 3:06, qualifying him for the Boston Marathon, which was his goal.

In less than a month, he will run the Boston Marathon. He will be taking his son. His wife will be staying at home to care for their youngest and because she is expecting their 3rd child the first week of May. I guess she gets a pass on this one :). My parents, my son, and I will join my nephew and brother to cheer him on along the course once again.

I chose to write about him today because I want him to know how he truly is one of my heroes. Not only due to his ability to crush a marathon, which is extremely impressive; He’s a hero of mine because of the unyielding virtues he possesses. His integrity, perseverance, and determination. Once he sets his eye on a goal, he does not waiver, taking every step necessary to accomplish and achieve. He doesn’t allow a setback, fall, or stumble to deter him. All the while, he is humble and has a heart of gold. He encourages. Two years ago, I ran the Chicago marathon myself, largely inspired by him. He ran miles 21-23 at my side and kept me afloat, reminding me to, “Stay in my mile,” informing me of the route and which of my family members would be around the bend, waiting to cheer me on. Now, I didn’t finish with a time nearly as impressive as his, or impressive at all for that matter, but I finished. I have him to thank for that motivation. He’s taught me what it means to push myself. Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right. Just show up. The only person we ever need to prove anything to is ourselves.

Next month, in Boston on April 17th, he will rise in the dark, early morning hours of dawn and all of the training, hard work, and sacrifices made will come to fruition. Every moment, every choice, all the courage… right there on the starting line. And we will be there. His five-year-old son will be there; Proudly watching his father chase and accomplish a dream. My parents and son will be there, lovingly cheering on their son and Godfather. My sister-in-law, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews following his route and cheering him on at home. All of us inspired by his example. He may be driven intrinsically, but his efforts are a gift to us all. The quiet roar of his courage reverberates and motivates us all to persevere after the fall, to be strong, be committed, to be better. 

Fran Marathon 2


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5 replies

  1. What a beautiful, detailed love letter to your brother. Your love and support – and indeed the love and support of your whole family shine through this slice!

  2. This was a marvelous tribute to your brother. He sounds like a man of impeccable character and strength.

  3. This was precious! I have a brother who is very dear to me too. He wrote me a letter when I turned 50 which still brings me to tears on how he prayed so hard for me during my battle with cancer because he didn’t want to lose me. Your post has inspired me that I need to write one to him! Thanks for this detailed post!

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