The local race begins at the bottom of the Summit mountain in Hopwood, Pa., and climbs uphill for 3.5 miles. It ends at the Historic Summit Inn Resort, offering a beautiful view of the city below, and, for those who've run the course, a welcome relief that this monster of a race has ended.
If you've followed my story, you know that this race has significant meaning to me beyond winning first overall female in 2016 and second overall female in 2015. It is the first race tin which I competed after the birth of my first son and the first race that my deceased father began sending me his love from above.
It all started with a number.
You can read the full stories covering the divine messages my deceased father, A.J. Cunningham, has continued to send me not only at the Summit but at every single race I have done (or not done, in the case of this year's Summit Challenge) since his death on June 1, 2013. The story begins with Spring Race Recap.
Spring Race Recap: How Injury, Childbirth & Death Made Me a Stronger Runner (June 2015)
Running My Fastest 10K in the North Face Endurance Challenge Trail Race (October 2015)
Running My Fastest 5K After Three Weeks of Yoga Teacher Training (December 2015)
Dad, I Won the Mount Summit Challenge For You (April 2016)
Magic Number Marathon: Running 26.2 Miles with My Dad's Spirit (May 2016)
In today's post, I'll give you the short story. It might give you chills. You might cry. And you might even begin believing in something. You'll probably even want to read the full stories above. Here goes:
Since age 11, when I began running, my dad has been my number one running fan. He died in 2013. The last race we talked about was the Mount Summit Challenge.
When I began racing again in 2015, I showed up at the registration desk and picked up my bib number (important note - bib numbers are randomly selected). My bib was 52, my dad's birth year. I won second.
One month later at another race, my bib number was 252, his birth month (February) and year. Again, I won second overall female.
At my third race, upon pulling into the parking lot, the last song that came on the radio was Jewel and Dolly Parton's "My Father's Daughter." First I cried, completely overwhelmed, and then I took fourth overall female.
At my fourth race, I took second overall female for the third time that year. Though I had no magical bib number at that race, the message was clear: BELIEVE that you can win first. My dad always believed in my ability to win before I did. So I summoned his confidence and made that my goal for the 2016 Mount Summit Challenge.
One week after the Summit, my husband and I went on our honeymoon to Pittsburgh to run the full marathon (me) and the half (him). We picked up our bibs the day before the race. Mine was 2517. My father's birth date (15) and year (52) in reverse. When we checked into our hotel, our key holders had written on it 5/2, our checkout day.
This year, pregnant with my second child and due very close to the 2017 Mount Summit Challenge race date, I knew that I would have to forgo racing. But that didn't keep my father from connecting to me via the Summit.
On his birthday, my Mount Summit Challenge race registration form arrived in the mail. That evening, I dreamt that I gave birth to a boy (we didn't find out what we were having, and it turns out that dream was accurate).
Though I was pregnant, racing was tempting. After all, I remained quite active during pregnancy and had run until the 24th week (6th month). I even ran the day before going into labor!
Often, I held the race registration form and thought, "What if?" But I was due March 31, and the race was set for April 30.
Grey Gibbons Harder arrived on April 2 at a healthy 8 pounds, 13 ounces and 21 and 1/4 inches. From then on, as each day in April passed, Summit thoughts resurfaced. Would it be possible to run? Yes. But compete? And that's where my decision was made. If I couldn't compete, then I wouldn't do it.
And yet... I recovered from birth rather quickly and began running at 20 days postpartum. I toyed with the thought of entering.
You see, I didn't want to miss another message from my father. Though I know he's always there, truth be told, he is VERY OBVIOUSLY THERE when I race. And I like the obviousness of his presence. Can you blame me?
How would I see or feel my dad if I sat out?
But it turns out I did not have to run up that hill for my dad to arrive.
Eric, Avie, age three and a half, and Grey, our newborn, and I made our way as spectators as the Summit finish line. We got there just in time to see last year's reigning champ, Matt Lipsey, cross as first male again. Eagerly I awaited first overall female.
When she rounded the bend, I recognized her as last year's second overall female and 2015's third overall female. This year she was first! I cheered as she crossed, knowing how elated, relieved, exhausted and happy she had to be.
Then I saw it.
Pinned to her hip was 152, my winning bib number from last year. My dad. Showing up in unexpected places. Connecting me to her. Ahhhhh. I could hardly breathe. Then I wanted to scream and hug the winning lady, but I waited for her to catch her own breath.
She was amazed, too. We knew each other from last year. She offered me her bib, but I wrote her a note on it instead.
Congratulations, Belinda Adamec!!! You deserve it!! Thank you for caring about my story and for representing the strength of a woman. Much love on the running road :)