“Thanks for having me” is a phrase that has been in my head for a long time, begging for a story to accompany it. As a National Public Radio addict, I hear it again and again when guests are interviewed. No matter who they are, almost without exception, when they have finished speaking, they respond to their interviewer with those few simple words.
On April 19, those words took on a whole new level of meaning for me. I had such a good time being inducted into the Colorado Running Hall of Fame. I wanted to thank everyone … to the Hall of Fame for having me … to Alan Lind, an old friend, who I know had a big role in this … to the people who interviewed me … to those who sent cards and brought gifts … to my children, who gathered from all over … to my cousins who came from the UK … and to my feet, for holding out long enough for me to receive this incredible honor.
It didn’t start out as a very big deal. At least I didn’t think so. On a Wednesday afternoon in early February, I got a phone call from Maureen Roben, whom I remembered as an outstanding runner from the days when I did the Denver Marathon. She asked if I would like to be inducted. Despite my surprise, that was an easy question to answer.
Not so easy to answer was why in the world this organization had chosen to honor me for something I love to do. I’d been running for 40 years, and over time I’d had my share of age-group wins and, in the past few years, some age group records. They must be into persistence, I reasoned. No matter. I was thrilled.
Maureen explained that tables at the Denver Athletic Club seated 10 and I could invite nine people to join me. The first thing I did was send my four kids an email, figuring that the two who live close by would join me with their spouses. I invited a couple of running friends. I figured the grandkids would not be interested.
Little did I know how this thing would grow. Before I knew it, my daughters were making decisions. They assured me the boys, who live in Florida and Tokyo, would come. They wrote to overseas cousins. They planned a big party. My brother suggested we all ride to Denver in a limo, an idea that I thought silly at first but ended up agreeing was brilliant.
I asked my daughters to introduce me at the ceremony, then got concerned when I learned my sons were coming, as well. They worked it out, electing Kristin, the oldest, to share the words they had worked on together. Jeni, the youngest, stood by her side, and sons Kurt and Jeff came to the podium to meet me when I was finished with my five-minute talk.
I spoke about “aid stations,” not water and Gatorade, but all the people who have supported me in my running. Hearing the stories of the other inductees was a fascinating journey into the Colorado running community. I felt so honored to be a part of this group of dedicated, talented runners.
Every card and note is going into a little book so I can remember the details of this occasion. Recently, I helped with a race organized by a 15-year-old high school student to fulfill requirements for her International Baccalaureate personal project. All proceeds went to the Food Bank for Larimer County. Perhaps I would not have volunteered if I hadn’t been so grateful for what the running community has meant to me.
I intend to keep on running for as long as I can, but I have a new awareness of the importance of giving back, my way of saying “thank you for having me.”
Libby James runs because it's simple, challenging and conducive to special friendships. Over the past 40 years, she has raced everything from a mile to marathons and has become old enough to hold some records.