This past Fourth of July dawned strangely, by Grantsville standards. For 17 years, the city had one Ray Barrus 5k memorial race. This year, there were two, reportedly due to philosophical differences between the longtime organizer and the Barrus family.
Two sets of buses shuttling runners to different starting lines. Two race routes. Two shirt colors.
Our family decided to support the Grantsville City race, which I’ll call the family race, officially sanctioned by the Ray Barrus family. On my way to getting my kids’ shirts, I passed the other race on Quirk Street.
Last year, before my kids first ran that 5k, a crowd formed at the curb. This time, the lawn was eerily empty. About a dozen people huddled around a registration table and turned to watch me drive past.
At the fire station, where the family race would finish, there was more going on, thanks in large part to the nearby holiday festivities and pancake breakfast. The Barrus family wore shirts which indicated how they were related to Ray. There were balloons and people everywhere.
While we were waiting for the runners, I got an upsetting call. It was my mom saying that my dad, recently diagnosed with lung cancer, was in intensive care in a Salt Lake City hospital. That morning, he couldn’t breathe, and Mom had to call 911.
The balloons that seemed so festive just moments ago seemed gaudy all of a sudden.
I did my best to enjoy my kids’ race participation that morning, but my mind was elsewhere. As soon as I could, I drove to Salt Lake to see my dad. Dad was having trouble breathing, but at least he was stable. While nurses tended to his needs, I stepped out to compose myself in the waiting area. Worries pressed in on me from all sides. To distract myself, I looked at the ICU thank-you board.
Note after tender note, families thanked the staff for making their loved ones’ experience at the hospital as comfortable as possible. It was an outpouring of gratitude for strangers’ kindness during a patient’s time of need.
The notes were a good reminder we don’t have to go at it alone through this race called life, that family is priceless and a strong sense of community is important. I couldn’t help it, with Dad in ICU and the bulletin board notes, I got a different perspective on the Grantsville 5k races.
In terms of numbers, the family race won hands down, by a good 3 to 1 ratio. But it came at the expense of community. To an observer like me, the victory appeared a little hollow.
I don’t wish to take the shine off an enjoyable and inspiring race. Or presume to know all the whys and wherefores of how this close-knit city ended up divided. I just know as a Grantsville resident, I hope for one race next year. I don’t want to be put through that wringer again or have to take sides when good people are involved in both.
May I also gently suggest that in talking about the race, we avoid backbiting and assumptions, and instead look at the bigger picture of what’s truly important?
By working together, we can achieve more. Let the healing begin.
Jewel Punzalan Allen is a long-time journalist and memoir writing coach who lives in Grantsville. She blogs at pink-ink-pink.blogspot.com.