The race report from Lexington will have to wait.
Early this morning I was roused from my bed by two teammates. The time was about 2:00am. Like many who had run the race earlier I had been out celebrating (or more appropriately licking my wounds) and had fallen asleep in a sea of bourbon and beer. It took me a second to understand what was going on. The message was terse and direct: our teammate Lauren Woodall (Roady) had been struck by a car and killed. All of us knew someone had been hit just outside the bar where we had been drinking, but we never imagined it was someone we knew. I pulled off the covers and immediately began to get dressed. Outside my window I could see the entire accident scene. The flicker of the siren lights pulsating through my room. I was ushered downstairs where I saw the rest of my teammates in various stages of grievance. Some were hysterical. Some were holding back tears. Everyone was distraught. Everyone was shocked.
Earlier that night, just before 7:00pm, I had taken the elevator down to the "B" level of the hotel with Lauren. As she was getting off on the lobby, I cried out that she was exiting on the wrong floor; we were all meeting downstairs. She noted how she had dinner plans with her parents, who were in town from neighboring Tennessee, but that she would meet the team later. I told her I had no idea that she was from Tennessee and insisted to know more about where she grew up later. She walked away and I bid adieu and proceeded to the bar with the rest of the team. That was the last time I saw her.
Later that night someone on the team mentioned that some person had been struck by a car outside. I carelessly went on with my evening never once thinking about it again. Part of me didn't want to believe it, thinking it might have been a rumor. By 11:30, I had had enough bar fun and walked to a small Mexican restaurant (the only place open at that hour) to eat a much needed dinner. I noted to the cook how someone had apparently died. "So, that's what's going on?", he replied. I nodded and walked back through the rain with my meal. Within a half hour I was asleep. Meanwhile, suspicion grew at the bar that something wasn't right. Lauren had reportedly texted a teammate that she was on her way out to meet us, but never showed up. Someone eventually thought the unthinkable and approached the police presence on the other side of the tape. It soon became clear what had happened. A glum and sober teammate returned to the bar and began to spread the news, all while trying to control everyone's emotions. Everyone then returned to the hotel and convened in a conference room. The remaining teammates who had retired earlier, such as myself, were herded up and assembled there. Coach Jerry, struggling for words, announced what everyone in the room already knew. We walked about in shock and did our best to comfort one another. The bus driver was summoned and our departure time was moved up from 11:00am to 9:00am. Then we all agreed it'd be best to get some sleep, if that was even possible. The siren lights were still flickering through many of our rooms well into the morning.
It was a long painful drive back to Washington DC. We were returning with one less harrier.
I didn't know Lauren well, not as well as some of the women on the team, but perhaps a little better than others, but I knew she was a fighter. With notably less talent than some of the other women, she seemed totally capable of running with the pack, even if she might have been working a little harder than the others. Her running had been progressing extremely well under Jerry's tutelage. She was also extremely sweet, perhaps a tad shy, but very likeable. She seemed like the type of person who never made anyone hurt. She was suppose to be part of the contingent heading to Phoenix to run the marathon next month. Sadly, we will now run that race in her honor.
Coach Jerry and the entire team showed some real leadership today. Through all the sadness, I felt extremely proud to be a part of this group which provided real comfort today.
Rest in peace, Lauren.