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February 13, 2007

Senseless Tragedy

I had a nice, lighthearted post in the works for today, where I planned on explaining my rationale for entering the Big Sur Marathon again this spring, and maybe even squeezing a little more mileage out of my whole triathlon/mistress analogy.

Then we had to write this Monterey Herald article, and all of a sudden I wasn’t in such a lighthearted mood anymore.

Somber writing isn’t really a strength of mine. This article took a long time to write and saw countless revisions, and I’m still not really satisfied with it. I could blame our deadline ... but even if we had all week to write this one, I still think it would feel inadequate.

Our words below don't nearly express the degree of shock and sadness that local people have, nor does it pay enough tribute to the individuals involved. I’ve come to decide that certain topics are just far too weighty for my writing skills to handle.

So we submitted this article for the newspaper, and I’m going to hold off on the trivial stuff for a few more days. And if you clicked on this blog looking for something uplifting today, I’m sorry to say that you’ve come to the wrong place.


Running Life 2/15/07: “Coping With Tragedy”

The running community on the Central Coast is like an extended family. We all share a common hobby and lifestyle, and spend a lot of time together. Many of us are close friends, and we all appreciate the different talents and personalities among our group.

Sadly, the last few weeks have been tough ones for this local family of runners, as two of our members were forever taken from us.

By now, nearly everyone around here has heard about the senseless murder of Mel and Elizabeth Grimes outside their Carmel Valley home, ostensibly over a boundary dispute and a large rock. The couple were prominent residents of our small town, with a very diverse circle of friends.

The running community took the news particularly hard, as Mel and Elizabeth were an integral part of the local running scene.

They were both members of the Big Sur Marathon Board for many years. Mel’s main job was to head the committee in charge of the starting area. But on race day, he loved to run the marathon as well – a remarkably difficult combination of tasks.

Mel would get no sleep before the race, as he would head down to Big Sur in the middle of the night to ensure that everything was set for the thousands of runners who would soon be arriving. He wore a race singlet and shorts under his clothes, and after overseeing a successful start of the race, he would tear off his blue sportcoat (worn by all Board members on race day), and chase the field towards the finish. He was the last to leave the start line each year, but usually passed most of the field on his way to one of his 15 Big Sur finishes.

His wife Elizabeth also dedicated many hours to the marathon. Even after leaving her board position, she volunteered every year in the office during the weeks leading up to race day. She could be counted on to do whatever was necessary to help race weekend go smoothly.

Elizabeth and Mel donated significantly to other local running causes. They were quick to offer their time and money, and gave generously to the Wednesday Night Laundry Runners High School Scholarship fund, The Big Sur Distance Project, and Big Sur Marathon charities.

Both of them were unpretentious, self-effacing, and a pure joy to be around – and our community will miss them terribly.

Mel and Elizabeth will have a memorial service this Saturday, February 17th that will honor their many outdoor activities. The memorial starts at the Carmel Mission at 10:00 AM. Afterward, their ashes will be carried by runners to Carmel Beach, and taken out to sea by the Outrigger Club. A Hawaiian surfing celebration will then take place as a way of paying last respects to the couple.

The Grimeses obviously had many other friends besides runners, and anyone who wishes to join their memorial service is invited to attend.

The deaths of Mel and Elizabeth illustrate a harsh reality for many runners. In most cases, endurance athletes believe that life is generally quite fair. When we train hard, we reap successful results. If we dedicate ourselves to a goal, we usually attain it. If we stick to our training regimens, we feel like we control our own destinies.

Because of our healthy lifestyles, many of us mistakenly feel immune to the slings and arrows of everyday life. It’s only when tragedy strikes that we realize that life can be very random and unfair after all - sometimes in ways that make absolutely no sense.

Mel’s participation in the Big Sur Marathon is an apt metaphor. He worked at the starting line for the benefit of others, then gave his best effort in running the race. Through the years, he ran many strong miles, but he could never have anticipated that his ultimate finish line would arrive nearly so soon, or so tragically.

As we mourn for Mel and Elizabeth, we’re more aware of just how arbitrary life can be, and reminded to make every mile of our own lives count.


stronger 2/13/07, 9:31 AM  

What a tragedy. You pulled together a very nice tribute.

olga 2/13/07, 10:21 AM  

Sorry about the tragedy. Sometimes we never know where the life end strikes us. These are very well written words for your friends.

Thomas 2/13/07, 1:46 PM  

What a horrible tragedy. To be shot because of a driveway! This makes no sense whatsoever.

Backofpack 2/13/07, 6:10 PM  

This is awful and senseless. You wrote a wonderful tribute to your friends, under difficult circumstances.

Taryn 2/14/07, 5:20 AM  

Prayers for you and prayers for peace for your friends.

craig 2/15/07, 8:15 AM  

The thought of runners bearing their friends to their final destination is moving. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

momo 2/15/07, 10:11 AM  

donald - this is a lovely tribute to your friends. i'm so sorry for this loss in your life and the lives of the those they touched. i will be thinking of you and mel and elizabeth on saturday as you remember and pay tribute to the extraordinary people they were.

thank you for sharing with us.

rick 2/15/07, 12:11 PM  

A tragedy indeed. I heard/read about it in the news but I had no idea they were runners and a big part of the Big Sur marathon. That marathon has a special place in my heart and I now know I owe a part of that to the Grimeses.

Megan 2/16/07, 2:04 PM  

donald - thanks for visiting me today - i came to check you out as well, and read this post. i am so sorry to hear this, and for your loss. It sounds like they were incredible, stand-up people that will be massively missed by innumerable people. I will keep you in my thoughts. megan

B. Matt Holmes 2/16/07, 8:57 PM  

I'm so sorry. Senseless.

Annette 2/17/07, 2:10 PM  

I'm so sorry. It's hard to believe that there are people out there that are so obsessed with an issue that they forget about the value of human life.

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