[Mom]: ...your great uncle, Ray, whom you haven't seen in 35 years, is dying of pancreatic cancer. He's a runner too, and has been following your running career with great interest. It would be great if you could touch base. He only lives about ten miles from your house.What? There's a 90-year-old trail runner, a blood relative no less, that lives just a stones throw away?!? How could I have not known this?
But with some reflection, I recalled memories of Ray from my pre-teen years. Walks on a beach north of Mendecino, stories of his retirement, little tidbits my Mom would mention as we caught up over the years. I did know of Ray and Helen, and now that I thought about it, I was aware they lived nearby. I'm not sure why I had never reached out over the years...convenience, out of sight/out of mind, or perhaps it's just that he and his family were just far enough out on the fringe of the family tree. But I don't recall even knowing he was a trail runner. That feels different. That feels like an opportunity missed.
So this time, I paid Ray a visit. I was so glad I did.
Even in the grasps of cancer, Great Uncle Ray was quite a gentleman. We were able to share stories of family, running, and Silicon Valley. Ray was one of the original engineers of Hewlett-Packard, inventing a light beam diode that is now commonplace in our flat panel TV's. This was back in the day you had to write the design out by hand and convince people a diode could actually be built. His drafting charts would fill all the walls of his room like cave drawings...such a change from the charts my 9-year-old can crank out on her iPad today.
|(Ray on the cover of a 1988 HP newsletter, complete with Dipsea shirt)|
Ray ran the Bay to Breakers over 10 times, and the Dipsea Race 17 times, including two Black Shirt finishes (#28 and #35). As he recalled the groundbreaking crowd of 2,500 at his first Bay to Breakers he ran in the 70's (a race that now has 30,000+ runners), I began to understand why he loved following our generation of trail runners online. In his day, runners were pioneers, rebels. Now everybody gets it. Perhaps the thousands of trail runners are similar evidence as the TV's that housed his inventions once thought crazy.
|(I love how this bio of Ray refers to his as a "determined jogger")|
His wife, Helen, and surviving kids Mark and Monica, left me his array of Dipsea finisher medals and a hearty thank you for making his few remaining days more pleasant and full of smiles. With the 17 medals in my grasp, I knew I had to run the Dipsea someday soon. Once wasn't even enough. Even beyond the grave, Ray is getting to me onto the trails!
|(17 Dipsea medals, legacy of a bygone era)|
Actually, that doesn't sound like a bad way to go. Not bad at all, in fact.
Thank you, Ray, for showing me a legacy worth striving for.
Dipsea Race, I will see you next year.