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The Voice

The Voice

Running for Brooks- Grace Borhart

By: Grace Borhart
The room fell silent as the answering machine played senior Keith Eikre’s uncle Keith Paul’s tenor, and the words that Eikre had been dreading for the last two years echoed across the room.

            “He’s gone.  Brooks passed away today.” Paul’s voice cracked ever so slightly at the words.

            No, it can’t be.  Eikre had spent the last two months waiting, afraid every day that he’d hear this news—he would come home from school expecting to hear that the call came in when he was gone, had spent nights literally waiting by the phone—but not today.  When he woke up this morning he was sure today was supposed to be a good day.

His eyes filled with tears and his knees gave out.  Too much.  It was all too much.

            “That morning was the worst morning of my life,” said Eikre.  “Everyone was talking but I couldn’t hear a word.”

            Eikre’s cousin Brooks was diagnosed with cancer when he was 16.  It started in his leg, and slowly moved throughout his body.  The doctors tried everything to beat it, but once one step was taken another sign showed.  They amputated his leg, but by then the abnormal cells had moved elsewhere, each time the cancer became more serious. Throughout everything, Brooks never gave up.

            “He was fighting so hard,” said Eikre.  “You’d get rid of one spot only to find another, but still he kept going and going.”

Brooks took on anything with a smile, always an adventurer.  Every summer the family, stretching from California to Illinois, would get together a few times in Wisconsin to ride four wheelers and be a family.

            “He was always the one doing daring stuff; he’d take jumps, drive faster than any of us. It was inspiring,” said Eikre.  “Instead of being afraid of life, he’d go out and do his best even though there were great risks involved.”

Brooks came to every one of these visits he could, only stopping when the cancer had spread to his spine and lungs.

            The last time Eikre saw Brooks was in January 2010.  Unable to afford the price of chemotherapy anymore, the Paul’s threw fundraisers in Brooks’ honor at a local school.  Brooksapalooza it was called.  Brooks’ father had put it together featuring prominent local bands, iPod giveaways, anything to help raise money for treatment. 

            Brooks was there for it all.  Even though he was struggling physically—confined to a wheelchair, wearing an eye patch—Keith watched him smile brighter than anyone else there. 

            “If I knew that was the last time [I’d see him], I would have said a lot more, would have spent every second of the day with him,” said Eikre.

            Two months later, on March 26, 2010, Brooks passed away.  That day, Eikre sat thinking about the sorrow that came with Brooks’ death. After a few hours, the tears seemed fruitless, so Eikre decided he wanted to actually do something to honor Brooks memory.  He recalled the marathons people ran for causes and made a decision that would entirely change the way he looked at the world.

            “I couldn’t just sit there and cry for him, so I thought well maybe I’ll run for him,” said Eikre. “I promised him every day I’d run for him.  It’s the only thing I could do that would really show him that I love him.”

            That day Eikre thought out a simple route around his neighborhood and started his promise.  Having not previously ran much outside of the few days in gym, Eikre struggled.

            “When I first started, it was the hardest thing,” said Eikre.  “I had no endurance.  I’d jog a mile and a half around my neighborhood and halfway through I’d be breathing heavy, red faced with beads of sweat.”

            But he didn’t let the pain deter him.  The next day, he got up early and ran again, and again the next day.

            Some days, finding the motivation to run is harder than others.  For those days, Eikre keeps a picture of Brooks propped up on his desk facing his bed.  Whenever he’d start contemplating whether he would run that day or not, he just looks at the picture and it reminds him why he does what he does.

            “I look at it for a second and the grogginess just goes away,” Eikre.  “I think ‘You know, I feel like running’ every time.”

            Starting out without much physical base was exhausting, so Eikre went at his own pace taking it day by day, slowly pushing himself to improve.

            “I began just telling myself, ‘Okay I’ll jog one mile today,’” said Eikre.  “And by a couple months later, I was running four miles in half an hour.”

            Soon, equipped with proper running shorts and a picture of Brooks for inspiration in his wallet, Eikre was ready to start running longer distances.

            In the summer, Eikre ran to the school and back—9 miles—just to see if he could.  After school one day, he ran to the McDonald’s on 47.

            “Sometimes I run longer, try to reach a place to see if I can go farther,” said Eikre.

            On one of these farther runs, Eikre decided to make it to the railroad outside of his subdivision.  As fate would have it, Diesel Days was in full swing that day and the trains at the station were especially polished and showcased.

            “As I got there, there were trains coming by.  They were all silver and polished,” said Eikre.  “The way the sun reflected off the metal, it was beautiful.  I thought, ‘This is what I’ve been missing.’”

            Eikre has seen a lot of beauty on his runs since then—so much so that it’s changed his entire view of the world.

            There are so many things that people see but never notice,” said Eikre. “People think I’m crazy for waking up early in the morning to run but when you see the sunrise and you hear the birds sing, to me that’s amazing.  I’d never heard birds sing before this, just squak.  But if you really listen to it, the song almost has a beat to it.

            “Or late at night when you can see the detail of every star constellation, I’d always been taught those things but when you really look—really see it—it’s like specs of diamonds.  The kind of thing painters try to put on a canvas but can’t.”

            The experience won’t stop here.

            “I plan on doing it the rest of my life,” said Eikre.  “I’ll be 80 and still going.  I’ll grab an Advil and drink as much milk as I need and never stop.  Nothing’s going to stop me, except maybe an asteroid.”

            Eikre has become more healthy, seen more, and done more than he ever thought possible, all through a single promise he made to Brooks,

            “This is all because of Brooks,” said Eikre, “all on an inspiration.  It wasn’t for school or a team, wasn’t for a cause, it was for a person.  A person not known by many, but known by me and that’s all I need.”

Post Author: Tamara Funke. Tamara Funke is currently a sophomore at Huntley High School. She is a staff writer for The Voice. She plays tennis in the fall, basketball in the winter, and softball in the spring for the Huntley Red Raiders. Tamara is also an active member of Student Council. In her lack of free time, Tamara enjoys taking her dog on walks, watching sports, and hanging out with friends and family. Tamara is interested in studying Sports Medicine in college.

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    mark altmayerSep 27, 2011 at 1:59 am

    Great great article. Very inspirational! Nice job Grace!