DAY 71: The Final Chapter of RACE ACROSS AMERICA-Louis Rodriguez

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Posted by Gail Marino on August 27, 2004 at 08:30:35:

In Reply to: RACE ACROSS AMERICA-Louis Rodriguez updates posted by Gail Marino on August 02, 2004 at 09:02:43:

Congratulations to Louis Rodriguez and Agnes Oquendo, who returned to New York last Saturday after their 71 day journey across America! Here is the final installment of their diary.


The finale to this journey begins with a muggy & humid morning from West Orange, NJ to Central Park, NY for 33.3 miles with a cutoff of 9hrs 30min. Today is not considered a race day, so all the runners are to run with or behind Taka. The crews are split up into 3 groups that will accommodate the runners with 2 mile aid stops & the crews will aid all the runners during their stops. The 1st group consist of Bobs, Russell & Luc's crew, the 2nd is Olivier & Kaz crew, the 3rd is Ryota & myself. Ryota & I are responsible for aid stops at miles 6,12,18 & 24. At our aid stops, the crews of Olivier & Kaz came & hung out with Ryota & I, as Alan showed his disapproval by scolding Ryota for setting up his aid station on the street & then attempted to scold Oliviers crew for playing sort of a bacci ball game on the lawn as we waited for the runners. Ryota quickly moved his aid station to the sidewalk & Dario & Jeff continued playing as they ignored Alan.
The runners are moving at a 16min/mile pace, I wonder how Bob, Luc & Russell feel about running this pace for 1 day, when Lou did it for many weeks. Lou could have stayed running in the 4th position all along but chose to run with Taka for many weeks, in order to help him make cutoff. Rather than thinking of his own needs, he knew the sadness & pain personally, of not making cutoff & was determined to shield Taka from this. When Lou arrived at the 18 mile stop, he had a large bleeding scrape from under his left eye that extended below the cheekbone. Sophie told me, that after Lou fell, he jumped right up, kept running & said that he was alright. Taka had seen a large poodle sitting & watching the runners & Taka tried to get away from the dog by running into the traffic. As Lou tried to stop Taka from running into the street by getting in between the 2, he tripped with his hands extended & fell on his face. I can see Taka felt bad about Lou getting injured by protecting him from the dog, but Lou joked with him saying that Taka hit him in the eye when he told him to run faster. Taka laughed & said, "no". I then patched up his wound & sent them on their way. At about mile 27, Alan told Lou, " I know that this may sound unfair but could you let Taka cross the finish line alone".
After crossing the George Washington Bridge, Takas friend from college showed up. Taka told Lou, "you run for you today". Takas friend told Lou, Taka wants you to run your pace today, I got Taka today. At some point between the GWB & Riverside Drive, Alan told Bob to move. Silly me, I forgot to give Lou the final directions to the finish. Of course Lou knew the area but he didn't know the turns to the finish, so he went as far as he thought & sat & waited for 1 of the runners to show. Shortly after, Luc showed up & told Lou that he wanted to finish alone & told Lou which way to go. So Lou left at his own pace toward the finish.
I found parking across the street from the finish & my sister Tina met me at the car & told me that some people were mean to them, telling her & our kids to move. As we made our way to the finish, she pointed them out to me. It was Bobs family & crew. I saw a look of embarrassment on Rogers face as we passed by. As Bob came into our view, the heavens came down in a rage. The sun had been shining briefly & now disappeared as we stood in darkness. The rain came down in a fury as Bob arrived & crossed the finish line. Alan took pictures as also the press, that Alan had summoned to cover the story, took pictures & interviewed Bob & then later Luc & Russell. Then I heard someone yell, Luc is coming. We can see Luc on the other side of the wall about a 1/4 mile away. But then coming toward the very large group of people from Jetblue & Polar Air, was Lou with his face lit up like a Christmas tree in pure excitement written all over his face, scrape & all. Then Ryota with tears in his eyes, grabbed Lou & hugged him & told him, "that way", as he pointed him to the finish line. I took a picture of this, as I thought it strange that Alan & his press did not. In the pouring rain, that did not seem to phase them 1 bit, the Jetblue crew & Polar Air crew, family & friends, some who had arrived this morning from Florida to welcome Lou from this long arduous journey & enveloped him with flowers, champagne, friendly smiles as well as hugs & kisses. Soon Luc then Russell arrived & then surprisingly, a teary eyed Taka. We found out later that Olivier & Kaz found shelter from the rain under a bridge. It was the 1st time in many weeks that Taka was not the last 1 to cross the finish line.
After all the runners were in, Dario walked over to the Jetblue crew & said pointing to Lou, "This is a great man" as he hugged & kissed Lou. Sophie came over to Lou and said, "you finally saved yourself". Then Taka came over to us to thank us for all the weeks of supporting him. With little help from Ryota & tears in his eyes he said, " if no Lou, no NY for Taka, & 16secs". We all hugged for a very long time. Then Olivier came over & told Lou, "you are a very good runner but most importantly a greater friend, thank you for helping me get here". Roger & Jan, Bobs crew came over & hugged & kissed us, telling Lou that it was a pleasure as well as impressive watching Lou run & that they were glad to have met us. There were many hugs & tears also from Kaz & Satoko. I told Satoko, lets not say goodbye but see you later as we did so many times before & that's what we did.
This run is truly challenging & an accomplishment for all, but for us it was more. It was an experience that we will never forget & most importantly, out of the 15,430 women that are estimated to die of breast cancer this year in the states we passed through, all the women & people we spoke to personally, as well as the 35,000 pamphlets that we left in mailboxes, stores, hotels & restaurants, perhaps that number will be less.
Thank you for hanging in there with us, it helped us to go on. Lou & Agnes

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