BENEFITING: Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon
ORGANIZER: Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon
EVENT DATE: May 05, 2013
Patrick Zuza was a person I met because we had each decided to pedal bikes across the United States in the name of affordable housing. It was a few weeks after I had met him, that I really met him, out on Route 321 heading towards the Eastern Continental Divide where, with all the patience in the world and plenty of stories about his family, Pat spent all day affirming and reaffirming to me the part of athletics that I most love and identify with as we climbed the mountain -- the slow, constant, never giving up, ferocious savoring of endurance that was inside of me and at the essence of what was bringing us together - the adventure, the journey, the fire of self-transformation. In the weeks, and months that followed, Pat and I became great friends and then best friends, sharing philosophies about life, patience, self-actualization, the future, the present, the bad stuff, the good stuff. We talked about marathons, we saw our friends run Philadelphia, and then Pat decided he was going to run Pittsburgh. I drove all night to see him cross the finish line, and then he did the same when I ran Chicago, five months later. Pat was elated for me when I picked up my life and moved half way across the country shortly after he ran Pittsburgh. He listened to my uncertainties many times a week and told me about all the things I was doing right as I struggled to 'make it happen' out here. He always knew sixteen different ways to make me feel good about taking the risks and confronting the boundaries of my own courage. No one was happier than he was when I finally got a position in mental health social work out here, and began to continue the work that I had grown to love. And no one could have come out here to celebrate my place and belonging here in this city through a marathon that he decided on a whim to also run, the way he did.
Pat was a rower all through high school, and he understood so much about the body, and the body in motion through sport, and the body in motion in the sense of being proactive, engaged, community-conscious, and committed to making a difference in the world. To that degree, it felt pretty cool and appropriate to find the Three Rivers Rowing Association as one of the listed charities for the 2013 Pittsburgh Marathon. I think he would really appreciate their mission and purpose, so I decided to join their team and fundraise for them in order to run Pittsburgh, too. A couple of weeks ago, Pat chose to end his own life and the aftereffects are still rippling through me. I am still struggling to find words or thoughts that can describe the totality of this, but one thing I can say is that I will not, not for even a second, doubt that he lived a full, sweet, beautiful, and illuminating 23 years; his slice of what all exists here was at the intersection of the deepest feelings and experiences, and he was brilliant beyond words and heart. I am devastated, and deeply conflicted about the way life, in its many forms, continues after that kind of hole is burned into the existence of those still living.
Although one of the biggest lessons we learned together on Bike & Build two summers ago had to do with the concept that you are never the same person twice-- once you bike up a mountain once, you can't bike the same mountain the same way ever again because life and experience inherently changes you, I want to run and share this marathon with him. I want to run Pittsburgh so my feet can go over all the same places his did during an experience that had to do with locating the self within physical achievement and at the confrontation of one's own courage to take another risk even though we will have done this race at very different times and places from each other. I think shared experiences are dynamic though, and I want to share Pittsburgh like we shared Chicago, and further, do something good through it for others.
In the simplest terms, the rest of my life without Pat Zuza will be a marathon in its own rite, an act of patience in all the long days when I miss him with the same ferocious aching that I knew him and knew in him. So I'm running a marathon. And helping inner city girls learn some of the things Pat and I learned through sports, and I adopted part of the Appalachian Mountains, and planted 23 trees in the national forests in his name, and danced all night, and read him all the passages in my diary from our summer together, and keep trying to take deep breaths all the time and continue to hold my eyes open to see the signs of him in everything I encounter. And, although the lessons will continue to change, and nothing can fill the emptiness inside me, what I know right now is that I'm here, with two legs that still work and a lot of beauty to keep witnessing for both him and me, regardless. We're running.
Thank you for your support.
Founded in 2009, First Row aims to diversify the sport of rowing in Pittsburgh by including female students from Pittsburgh’s economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The lack of athletic programs for women in the urban population places these girls at risk for future health problems experienced by minority populations. First Row meets four times a week during the school year. During this time we work toward reducing participant’s risk for lifestyle-related diseases by helping them increase and maintain their physical activity level. Rowing also teaches them how to approach and handle complex tasks and projects which, in turn, helps to increase their self-confidence as they experience improvement in the sport and in their overall fitness. This combined focus on an active lifestyle along with learning life skills in a team setting, positions the girls for future success in the Pittsburgh community and beyond.
All funds raised by participants in the Dick's Sporting Goods Marathon will go towards one specific outreach program at TRRA called First Row. The mission of the First Row program is to engage Pittsburgh’s urban high school girls in a community rowing program that cultivates self-discipline, confidence, team-building and improved health. Money raised will go towards covering transportation, equipment, apparel, race/travel expenses, swim lessons and coaching staff for the team in 2013.