Running through tragedy

I am one of those crazy people who loves to run. I have always been attached to this sport that brings people together in a spirit of team bonding. I love the feeling of freedom and bliss I get while I run, especially with my close knit teammates and friends. In fact, this attachment goes beyond team boundaries as the nature of the sport is closely associated with community and healthy competition. This was most prevalent on  Nov. 7 and 8, 2018.

On Nov 7, the Thousand Oaks community was rocked with the Borderline shooting. This tragedy opened up our normally secluded community to a torrent of media coverage and exposure to a terrible epidemic. Although on different teams, the 805 community of runners reached out to each other in a time of tragedy.

Fresh from the attack we were faced with a double blow. The Woosley fire started that very same evening only a few miles from Oak Park. Overnight, it nearly tripled in size and beared down on our already reeling community. Of the entire population of Thousand Oaks, over 75% had to evacuate their homes and flee the area. 

Not just did this put our homes and community at risk but it also came right before a critical Cross Country meet that was slated to occur. On Nov. 8, Cross Country playoffs were to begin in Riverside, and it was critical for the 805 teams to compete in order to move on to the next meet. Yet, the fire and the threat of evacuation put it all at risk. My team hastily tried to assemble themselves to travel all the way out to Riverside by whatever means possible. Some of them drove (including me), others managed to find a bus and astoundingly we were able to make it to the meet.

Even in the darkest hours of our community the cross country family managed to band together and compete. All of us in the entire 805 community performed extremely well, partially because this healthy sense of competition we had developed helped us cope with the immense tragedies that shook our community. The most memorable moment was after the meet. Together as “TO strong!”, we took a photo.  This photo symbolizes everything we had been through together and how as a community we had persevered. 

In the aftermath of these horrific events, the community has fundamentally changed but the connection that running gave us remained unbroken. In December, the community searched for a way to remember the terrible tragedy that had occurred just a month ago. They decided the event should be the TO strong 5K. Along the route, they remembered each of the fallen borderline victims with a placard. To no one’s surprise, the 805 teams came out to represent en–mass as they had been on the front lines of the tragedy.

Although the Borderline and Woosley tragedies changed my life and this city forever, I found solace in the friendship and comradery of my fellow Conejo Valley runners.