I always set my alarm for 5:30 for the morning of the Race For The Cure. But it's really a moot point year after year because, for some reason, I always wake up shortly after five after a night of not much sleep, thinking about what a great event this is and anxious to start my day. I immediately go downstairs, start the coffee make and begin my routine... rounding up my ball cap, running shoes, etc. I always aim to be out the door by 6 because I like to get to the park before the sun is completely up.
Now, getting my 13-year-old daughter up at this hour is another matter. It's not that she doesn't want to come with me - in fact, she insists. I've been taking her to the Race for years and she's grown to love the event too. But she's 13, in the middle of another growth sprit and, at this hour of the day, hopelessly unconscious.
With the first gentle shake I narrowly miss her angrily swinging arm as she pulls the covers over her head. I try again. This time she makes a face and mumbles something at me. The third time's a charm... well, kind of. She opens one eye and I ask her if she still wants to go with me. She slowly nods so I tell her to wake up slowly and meet me downstairs. Fifteen minutes later an entirely different human enters the kitchen. She's awake, smiling and talking about the day ahead. After getting our things together, we leave.
It's still kind of dark as we leave the house but dawn is definitely upon us. As we drive down a fairly quiet I-5 we admire everything. The beaches, the race track and the long shadows falling across it all. When we arrive at the park just before 6:30 the event is already in full swing. Tents are set up, sound crews are checking and rechecking their equipment and volunteers, walkers and runners are converging on the area. It's awesome!
We meet up with the rest of the CBS8 team and start the day... greeting people, handing out little station souvenirs and taking it all in.
The ceremonies are always a fabulous moment... especially when we honor the survivors as they make their way to the stage. This year's ceremony included the release of some white doves. It was one of those moments that almost took your breath away as the birds circled the field several times before flying off into the morning sky. Beautiful.
From there I headed to the starting line and awkwardly climbed the scaffolding to assume my duties as co-emcee of what has now become one big pink party. Waiting for me is Rudy Novotny... a race pro. This guy emcees a lot of race fundraisers and he knows how to get a big crowd all fired up. A few minutes later my daughter rejoins me with her friend Cassidy... who is there with her mother and the Rubio's race team. It seems every year we know more and more people at this event and it's all part of what makes it so much fun. After a few introductions and the singing of the Star Spangled Banner we ask all the runners to move to the front. The Race is about to begin.
Here's where what I like to call a selective parental bribe comes into place. Although not entirely necessary, I ask Rudy if it's okay if Kirsten blows the horn to start the race... because that's part the incentive I use to get her out of bed while it's still dark. He thinks it's hilarious and says "absolutely". He tells Kirsten that when he says "on your mark, get set..." he will then squeeze her arm. When it happens she unleashes and horn right beside my head and I feel as if my right ear has been blown off my head. I wince and turn to her but instantly forget about the profound ringing in my head when I see the sheer join on her face. Right now it's as though she's five-years-old again and that horn is the greatest thing since sliced bread! I love it!
Minutes later we climb down and join the crowd... walking three beautiful miles through one of the most gorgeous parks in the world on a sunny San Diego morning. As Kirsten and Cassidy move a little ahead of me I see my co-anchor, Carlo, limping in the other direction. Carlo played soccer in college and still likes to get in a few games on the weekend. Last week he scored what he says is one of the best goals he's had in ten years... complete with a crash landing that left him with a purple and blue heel. He's still in pain. When the girls ask him to join us he says he can't... but then he looks around at all the walkers, hesitates and says "why not!" And so the four of us set out together. Sore heel aside, I know Carlo loves this event too... for personal reasons. His mother is a 30 year survivor and I can tell that, like so many who join this effort, this walk is one little way of celebrating her victory and hoping so many others will win their battles until there is no longer a reason to fight.
When we finish the course we say our goodbyes and head off to finish the rest of our plans for the days. But I think we all have a little spring in our step... even Carlo and his no-longer-18-year-old heel. We know we just took part in something great and we feel happy and proud to have done it. Because running, walking or limping... that's why we race... for a cure.