It is with a Completely Drained Heart that I announce that Donna (known as mangoak on this and the old Runners World forum), my girlfriend (of 12 years) and Love of my Life passed away on Nov. 17th. From organ failure after a 4 month battle for her Life in a hospital in Baltimore mainly in Intensive Care.She had just turned 60 less than a month before. She had a trip planned for her 60th Birthday to Ireland since she was mostly Irish. She had never been and was Excited to experience it. She also had found out that her Beloved Seahawks were playing in London the weekend before her Birthday and was going to go there for a couple days and see the game then onto Ireland. But instead she spent her 60th and Last Birthday in a hospital. Even though I had worked a 12 hour nightshift the night before and was supposed to work another one that night I just couldn't let her spend her Birthday alone in some hospital where all she could do was lay in bed and watch TV (she couldn't even use her phone, computer or hold a book). I drove the 2 hours there after work and spend an additional hour and half trying to get to the hospital because of road closures because it was Baltimore Marathon day. But I spent the day with her bringing her some big balloons.
She didn't want a funeral but wanted a Bagpiper to play her Amazing Grace. She was at my younger brother's Full Military Honors funeral when he died of cancer in 2011 and was Very impressed and we both Loved the Bagpiper his wife hired. With his last song Amazing Grace.So after she was cremated (her request) we had a ceremony and I paid for a Bagpiper to drive 2 hours to Solomons Island Maryland to a gazebo on a boardwalk. It was a Beautiful Ceremony. It was only me, her daughter and son (here from Alaska), 2 of my daughters and I thought one guy from work. But he told others and about a dozen of them showed up, even some who don't work with me anymore). We stood in the open gazebo with the Bagpiper standing along the boardwalk railing with the river behind him. The sun was setting directly behind him like Magic.Before the Bagpiper started I asked if her children had anything to say, they replied that they had nothing prepared. I said that I did, most of it is below.
Though Donna's Life was somewhat short she definitely Lived it. She was in the Air Force. She got a 2 year degree while being a Mother and living on an island hundreds of miles off the coast of Alaska. Her friend had told her that they could make a bunch of money working in the fishing fleet in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. She had spent years on a small Crab and Fish Processing Ship sailing in the cold Rough waters of the Bering Sea. She had been plucked off the ship by Coast Guard Helicopter when the ships engines failed and it ran aground and was in danger of being torn apart by the pounding waves. She went to Russia a couple times during the Cold War on a Sister City Art Exchange with a remote area there. Which included an up close and personal encounter with the KGB. She was an avid scuba diver to warm up in the Caribbean Islands and had one of her Dive Reports published in a magazine. She was an artist, doing silk paintings of sea life on mens ties (she gave me a couple) and other large silk paintings.
She became a runner and ran 15 marathons with a PR of 4:14 with me pacing her. Ran the Paris Marathon with 3 of her girlfriends from Alaska a couple years after she left to move to Maryland to be with me. Plus some Ultramarathons.
After we got together we had Many Adventures. We traveled all over the U.S. doing races and to experience other Adventures. We did races in Jamaica 4 times. Plus went to South Korea, Italy (including Venice), and Switzerland when I was on the U.S. Team.
She was Instrumental in my getting on the U.S. National 24 Hour Ultramarathon Team twice and setting 2 American Age Group Records. She was my Crew for most of my Ultramarathons. She Crewed me (with John Glotzbach) on my first attempt to make the Team at the U.S. National Championships in Dallas in 2007 where I failed having to drop out early. Then 5 months later in 2008 at the Cornbelt 24 Hour in Iowa I tried again. It was raining and with sustained winds of about 25 mph with gusts to 40 mph (on a high school track so with a headwind much of each lap). She braved it all to keep me supplied with everything I needed. The rain lasted for hours and the wind for over half the day. It got down to freezing temps that night. I had told her that I was going to try to break the time to 100 miles and time to 200k American Records. 2 of many that Roy Pirrung had. After I had run the equivalent of 3 marathons back to back I told her to go tell the Race Director that I had 5 hours to get close to another marathon and break the 100 mile record. She came back to me and said "he says you don't have 5 hours you have less than 4 hours but I told him you could do it". So I sped up and gave up my short walk breaks. I set the Record and was so spent that I told her that Roy can keep the 200k one I wasn't going to get it. After struggling to keep going for hours more she came to me and said that she and the Race Director think I can still get the 200k record if I can pick it up some. So though I didn't think I could her belief in me got me to and I broke that Record too. She helped keep me going till the end of the race and ended up with the mileage to put me on the U.S. Team.
People say that CREW stands for Cranky Runner Endless Waiting and it's true. I tried not to be a Cranky Runner to often. But I remember one time in particular. In the 50th Running of the JFK 50 Mile (my 2nd) I was Literally Almost completely untrained and 30 pounds heavier due to injuries. I was running it on pedigree only yet still wanted a sub 10 hour time. At the 31 mile Aid station after struggling for miles thinking I would never reach it, she met me. I had told her I would want a change of shirt at that Aid station. She had my replacement bottle of my drink and was also hauling a bag filled with all my stuff I might need. I asked for the shirt and she went to hand me the bottle. I BARKED "I didn't ask for the bottle I asked for my shirt". She didn't deck me or throw the bottle at me, like she should have but calmly tucked the bottle under her arm so she could fish around in the bag for my shirt saying she only wanted me to hold it while she did that. I told her I wasn't sure I could even finish let alone get under 10 hours. That shirt and her words while walking with me through the Aid Station revived me and at next Aid Station 7 miles from the finish she told me I looked a lot better and was there way before she expected me. I told her she had been a big part of the turn around. I beat the 10 hours and collapsed into her arms.
She was a Dreamer like me and Embraced my Dream of Living on a sailboat and sailing the world in spite of the fact that neither of us know how to sail yet. Though she said that she would NEVER sail in the Bering Sea again. That's one of the Dreams that we haven't been able to fulfill.
She was a Mother to you (motioning to her children), a friend to you (motioning to my daughters) but to me she was My Charm (I ended it there because I was breaking down as I said that).
Then the Bagpiper played several songs. But we could tell that everyone was getting Very Cold and the Bagpiper was Trying to warm up his hands a little between every song (plus he was in a kilt) so her daughter told him to do the 2 songs we had requested for the end Danny Boy (which I requested because I knew she loved that song because her Dad who had a great voice sang it on a tape she had) and Amazing Grace.
She wanted her ashes scattered in Dutch Harbor Alaska where she lived for 30 years and the Caribbean.
It's been a Hard Month and even Harder Christmas. I'm not sure how many of you knew and remember her but I know some of you did. Not even sure how many post here anymore but since I have never joined facebook I can't post on the new Runners World Forum for any of those from over 10 years ago knew her still hang out.
While it's good to see you here, I hate it that it is under these circumstances.
I am glad that you were able to have someone so well matched these past 12 years - I can't believe it's been that long?! - who could share your adventures with you. I hope you are able to find some peace and happiness in the times to come.
FWIW - I always keep your "collect adventures" motto in the back of my mind. Since 2011 or so, we have (as a family mostly) been trying to do that. I've even done upside-down ziplining in Mexico and flown my own plane (once - an intro lesson for my 40th bday)
Thanks you for letting us know. I certainly remember her and will keep you in my prayers.
Thank you Colt. Yes time goes by faster and faster every year. Which makes My Collect Adventures motto more important to me. The ziplining sounds like fun and I always wanted to at least take a flying lesson if not get my pilots license (very Expensive). When I was younger I learned to scuba dive but didn't have the money then to continue it. I would like to learn again. I also always wanted to jump out of an airplane, maybe when Dakota is an Adult. He's 17 (junior in H.S.) now and this year I decided to spring for an expensive kayak that comes in 3 pieces that go together in seconds and has a rudder controlled by foot pedals. It rides like a dream. If you use the bow and stern pieces it's a solo kayak and it becomes a tandem one with the middle piece. We got to go kayaking a bunch of times this year. I can fit the bow and stern into my old Toyota Camry which is fine for me so I can get out of work and be paddling away 20 minutes later in Solomons. Like Dakota says, "it's so Relaxing". We kayak around then paddle right up to a restaurant to eat which he thinks is so cool. Unfortunately I brought the kayak too late for Donna to ever get to go with me in the kayak. She was still at home then (we didn't know what was happening yet. Just that she got sick, GI distress etc, often), but she was always having a bad day when I was able to take her. But once years ago we took my youngest daughter to DC to rent kayaks. Ally got her own and Donna and I rented a tandem. That was something she had booked so she could try kayaking and liked it too.
As for your tag line, well you know my opinion of Summer and how I would limit it to the 4th of July weekend if I controlled the weather. Donna never understood that view or people complaining about the high Humidity, WHEN she lived in Dutch Harbor they had High Humidity all the time and it was no big deal, There where it only got into the 80's THREE times in the 30 years she lived there by her memory. But when she moved here she had a LOT of Trouble with the Heat and Humidity and it was a big part of her running suffering a great decline.
I agree with what PC said. Sorry that you are here due to these circumstances. I remember MangoAK posting though that's also been quite awhile. I'm very sorry for your loss. I know the exact spot you held the memorial. I didn't realize you and Donna had been so physically close to where I used to live.
Thank You. And thank you for pointing out that it was MangoAK not mangoak like I wrote out of habit since when I wrote her email address that is the way it was. Yes we live in Southern Maryland as I have worked at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant for 28 years. I've gone back to that gazebo several times since the Ceremony and always throw another rose into the river after talking to her. I did it on the way to work on Christmas eve (again with the sun setting) and repeated it on Christmas Day on the way to work another nightshift.
Geetah, I'm very sorry for your loss. I remember MangoAK, and though I didn't know her well, she sounds like an amazing person.
Thank you and MangoAK was an Amazing person. Though my memory lets me down (and my body too Big time) with age I seem to recall your forum name also.
I'm so sorry for your loss.
I remember you and I remember Donna. I am so sorry for your loss.
I just got up and poured a glass to raise in memory of Donna. Thinking of you, Bill.
Thank You. If you're Remembered then you Lived and aren't really gone.
I've raised a glass to her many times, even her preferred drink Merlot which I'm not terribly fond of.
I'm with you on that. I'm sure Donna would understand if we raise a glass of preferred tipple!
In one of the Outlander books one character says to another:
"A person is not forgotten as long as there are two people under the sky, one to tell the tale, the other to hear it. So. I am one. You are the other. S/he is not forgotten."
I know that most of us will be forgotten eventually, unless we do something extremely memorable, but it is good that someone should be remembered for a number of years after they die.
Wonderful line and thoughts. She won't be forgotten as long as I'm breathing, that I know.
I just remembered some more that I said at the Bagpipe Ceremony:
Though we ran Many races together, with me staying with her on her last ever race just a year before she passed she ran it alone. She had a fear of bridges and didn't like driving over this big tall one in our area (several people have used it to end it all). There was a race across a much bigger, taller and longer bridge a couple hours away. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge 10k run, it had you start at one end in Annapolis and run to the other side across the Bay. She wanted to conquer her fear and run the race alone. She was very scared and told me that she would try to run in the middle of it to help. I was waiting for her at the finish like she had done for me so many times Crewing for me. She was Thrilled she had conquered the Bridge.
She loved Nature and this is Not Goodbye. I still talk to her Everyday. I talk to her looking up at the moon and stars, or while looking at the moon shining off the Chesapeake Bay while at work, and every time I see flowers or a soaring eagle at work. I hear her answer in the wind, rain, the rustling of leaves, and our neighbors wind chimes. She runs soaring with the eagles she loved now. And I'm sure she will finally get to run Boston this year (she got to experience some of it when she went with me when I went back to Boston 10 years after I last ran it, in 2014 the first year after the cockroaches bombed it. I managed to get her a MVP pass to be in the Grandstand at the finish).
Though I didn't say this at the Ceremony I will add that I also talk to her when I enter or exit our town home apartment. She brought with her from Alaska (which she took me to a few years ago. I told her that Dutch Harbor gets into Your Soul) a wrought iron lawn flamingo that is more rust colored than pink now. I tell her Good Morning Charm or Good Evening Charm and run my hand over it from head to tail and say "I still Love you and you still have a Great Tail". I can see her smiling with shining eyes and saying Thank You, every time I do that. I'll repaint it when the weather gets better.
Good for her for running that race across the bridge!
Say goodnight, not goodbye. She will be with you wherever you go.
You're right. I say Good Morning, Afternoon and Good Night to My Charm every day. Yes she was proud of her last race across that bridge in spite of being so afraid and wishing she hadn't sighed up for it when the day came. I was Very Proud of her too. She loved to brag on me and I loved to brag on her. Still do.
I am so very sorry - not only a loss for you but a loss for the world.
We had a bagpiper that is a wonderful tribute to her from you as well. I hope you can find peace in the coming future.
Thank You. The world will go on but just won't be the same for anyone that was blessed to know her.
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