In April of 1999, five high school students were on spring break in North Carolina. They were driving at night when a drunk driver ran a red light and collided with their car, killing four of the five. After the incident, the families of the victims created The Precious Gems Memorial, an organization that educates NJ high school students about the dangers of drunk driving.
One of the five students, Amanda Geiger, was the daughter of my dad's good friend Mike Geiger. Every year for the past six or seven years, my dad and I have gone out to Seneca High School to run the Precious Gems Run For Our Girls 5k. This is a race in which I usually place in my age group, and this year was no exception. Unfortunately, this year comes with an asterisk.
It was a beautiful day for a 5k, and twelve years after the accident, it was the largest turnout I had ever seen. The race is heavily promoted in the area high schools, so the majority of the runners were high school students. Everything started off well, first with the typical stampede of overzealous and overconfident teenagers, then with me passing them after a hundred meters. I was in the top ten and passing the two mile mark when the few guys ahead of me turned left. I called out to them, asking if we weren't supposed to keep going straight, but no one knew. We soon passed a race volunteer who saw us take the left turn, and he didn't say anything, so I trusted we had gone the right way. The start of the race had been changed this year, so I just assumed there were other course alterations as well.
When I crossed the finish line in 17:46, I knew something was up. I've never broken 18 minutes in my life, and haven't broken 19 minutes since high school. I was incredibly annoyed at the lack of signage at the point where we went left, and the ignorance of the race volunteer. I ended up coming in 4th overall and 1st in my age group, but who knows how many people behind me ran the true course and how many also made the left turn. I feel like these are stats I didn't earn, hence the asterisk.
As a runner chasing down an old high school PR, it's easy to get annoyed, but it's also important to remember why we were out there in the first place. We were there to honor the memory of four young girls taken before their time, and to raise money to continue to educate people about drunk driving.
Afterwards we went to breakfast at L.B. Daniels, a restaurant I've been going to my entire life, where I housed a breakfast of champions: french toast, eggs, sausage, toast, hash browns, and a giant OJ.
Dad: Are you really going to eat all of that?
Me: Hi, I'm your son Scott. Apparently we've never met.