I know the rules. When you are building a brand, you stay on message. You stick to the program. You stay consistent. You remain steadfast on things like “We will always hold our 5K on the first Saturday of August.” Except, this year, we aren’t.

This year is our 10th Annual Spencer C Duncan Make It Count 5K. It is so difficult to believe it has been ten years since I kissed that rosy-cheeked boy and waved goodbye as he flew off on his grand adventure. For ten years we have been doing everything we can to honor and assist our nation’s veterans. For ten years we have gathered on the first Saturday in August to show our support, run around a bit, and raise a bit of money to help veterans. That has been the plan. That will always be the plan. Except, this year, it isn’t.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic changed last year’s plans for our 5K, we had some conversations with the Johnson County Fair board and talked about joining efforts on our race day, the day of their parade. We thought of doing some cross-promoting and of encouraging people to do both events. Their parade theme fit really well with our mission as well. There were going to be benefits to both organizations joining forces, including a potential special surprise from one of our favorite flying machines.  And then there was Covid-19, and we went virtual with our event, and the fair was cancelled, and that was the end of the discussions last year.

But now it is a new year, and we are in discussions again with the JOCO Fair gang, and things are really exciting. Their theme is HEROES UNITE, which we believe dovetails nicely with our mission. We believe it will be an awesome opportunity for folks to participate in our event and then head over to the parade route. (Details coming later about all the exciting opportunities there will be for food and such.) And we are still hoping that joining forces will give us opportunity to see a special surprise from our aviation friends. But there is a catch. The parade is Saturday, July 31st, and, this year, so is our run.

I understand that it is part of human nature to have some level of discomfort with change. I mean, I just spent one hour on the phone with our internet/tv provider and nearly cried as the nice young man assured me that all TV will be through streaming services in the near future, and I don’t understand streaming services. I have a specific order at each restaurant, I walk the aisles the same way each time I go to the grocery store, and I cannot make a road trip without gummy bears and Cheezits. I will tell you that, for me, discomfort with change has been magnified by Spencer’s death. I have not wanted people to move away or friendships to wane or (and this is a big one) ANYTHING ASSOCIATED WITH SPENCER TO CHANGE. I mean, Spencer had moved out of our home a year before his deployment, so we have not kept his room as a shrine in our home. But other things have been resolutely held. Like his Jeep taking up precious real estate in our garage because the four of us cannot think of letting it go. Or like his dog who has aged a decade and is beginning to decline in health to the point where we have had to have some serious talks about what measures we will take to keep her alive. Or like my profile picture on FB that is Spencer kissing me goodbye when he left for Basic Training. I don’t like to change the Spencer things.

But even I have to admit that there are times when change is a blessing. This would have been the first year of having our run AFTER August 6 (the anniversary of the loss of Spencer and the other brave heroes of Extortion 17).  We have had the run once on the actual anniversary, and we have had the run on every other day of the first week of August, but never after the 6th. There is a kindness in that. August 6th is a very, very difficult day for our family. We have done different things to help get us through the day, but it is just flat out difficult. Honestly, I cannot imagine getting through August 6th the day before and then pulling off a 5K the next day. I just don’t know if I could do that. (Please note: I am not in any way saying that this event depends on me. It absolutely does not. We have the world’s best volunteers, and they can and do run our event like a well-oiled machine. We just show up.) But it will probably be easier on our volunteers if I am only crying at the run and not actually curled up in the fetal position at the starting line.

So, all of that to say that our run this year is on July 31. We are absolutely thrilled with our partnership with the Johnson County Fair board and the quality people there. We will make a tremendous effort to keep you informed of all our plans, many of them still unfolding, and many that will unfold only as we get closer to summer and see how this pandemic recovery goes. Some things will be the same—we will still be at New Century Air Center, we will still have the same route, we will still have the best volunteers and the best runners/walkers/leashed dogs/spectators.  We are just going to do it a week earlier than normal.

But next year, in 2022, we will be back to the first Saturday in August.  Unless we aren’t.