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.
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.
So sad to hear this. We met her at that 24 hr race in Dallas. I remember her positive attitude about everything.
I hope you can find comfort in the memories she left behind.
Thank you. I remember you indie. You were an Awesome volunteer there manning the far out turnaround on the loop course around that cone. It was rough making that hairpin 180 turn as the miles racked up but you provided a pick me up with your cheerful positive attitude yourself. Yes Donna tried to remain positive, especially at races though it's not always easy. She even did several more laps after I had to drop out because she had spent most of her focus on Crewing me (with Glotz) during the day. So I waited at the finish line of the loop for her to cheer her each loop in spite of being Crushed with my bodies failure to allow me to continue. She was always a Great Comfort when we would get back to our room after the race and she was there too. In spite of my failure there that was a good trip/Adventure because of the people we met (like you), having dinner at Enid's (Schantzie) with her family and Glotz and his wife. But especially it was Good because of Donna.
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