One year ago, on February 10, 2008 the New England running community sufferd a tragic loss. Bill Paradis died of a massive heart attack while running the Hampton Half Marathon. He was 55 years old. When he was in his forties Bill was 50 pounds overweight and was borderline diabetic. He decided to take control of his life and began running and eating correctly. He became fit and healthy, running many road races, marathons and a few ultras. He wasn't slow...I remember a 3:26 at Boston and a 7:50 or so at the Nifty Fifty. He became a bicycling enthusiast, particularly interested in Randonneus. Bill was an active member of the Rochester Runners, Randonneus USA, The Bicycle Coalition of Maine, and the Granite State Wheelers. He became an advocate for living a healthy lifestyle and spread his enthusiasm through words and by example.
Bill and I first met many years ago on a long run arranged by our mutual friend, Tom Littlefield. Bill was not a shy man and I recall he kept a lively and entertaining conversation going throughout the run. As with almost everyone who took the time to get to know Bill, I soon considered him a good friend. I had the privilidge of sharing many training runs, races, hikes, and bike rides with Bill over the years.
Bill was my true supporter when I made the transition to ultrarunning. As soon as I announced that I wanted to try an ultra, Bill said he'd do it too. We trained for and then ran our first ultramarathon at Rhode island's Nifty Fifty. A few years later Bill was my patient and tireless pacer at my first 100 mile race at the vermont 100. By the time Bill joined me at mile 68 or so, I was grumpy and tired and wanting to stop. He kept his usual good cheer but also became uncharacteristically tough. Running through that night with Bill, quitting just wasn't an option. He was just what I needed to make it through.
Bill was enthusiastic about tinkering and repairing things. He had a bike shop in his basement that was a sight to behold. Along with an impressive assortment of classic road bikes in various stages of repair, he had some conversation pieces like his "tall bike" and his "sideways bike". You wouldn't catch me on either of those, but Bill could ride them both! When I suffered a back injury that kept me from mountain biking, Bill rebuilt a tiny antique pink woman's Peugeot Racing Bike and presented me with my first road bike. He affectionately referred to that Bike as Miss Pinky. As I became more serious about my cycling I purchased a new road bike and gave Miss Pinky back to Bill. He tuned her up and passed her on to another Rochester Runner and then another. Thanks to Bill and Miss Pinky, there are several new women road cycling enthusiasts in the Rochester Runners Club. Miss Pinky is still on the road today, I believe Amy Lindsay has her at present.
When I was newly divorced, in financial trouble, depressed, and the new owner of a 150 year old home that needed a lot of work, Bill, Tom, and Fay were my first guests. We had a run and then some breakfast. During the tour of my house, Bill noticed that my big heavy Bowflex Revolution was out in the barn and asked about it. I told him that my son and I had been unable to carry it in, so it was just going to have to be stored out there. Bill sized it up with his mechanic's eye and announced, "The four of us can get this into the house." Fay and I added together were about 180 pounds of weakling and Tom was just recovering from a serious heart condition. This piece of equipment weighs about 300 pounds and is very awkward to move. We were skeptical. But Bill expertly disassembled it into manageable pieces and directed us as to where to stand and how to lift. Before long my home gym was set up and ready to use. And nobody was injured! I was feeling so hopeless at the time that this small accomplishment gave me a huge lift. I hope Bill knew how much that meant to me.
Bill and his wife Kathy were the type of couple everyone envied. After thirty-three years they were still so in love that it showed to everyone around them. I remember one outing several years ago where we were cross country skiing on tough black diamond trails with a small group from the Rochester Runners. I was thinking, "Bill must be loving this," because he was quite a dare devil. But when I looked back I saw he had taken off his skis to walk hand in hand with Kathy to easier trails because she wasn't comfortable on those black diamond trails. It was a sight that touched my heart and stays with me to this day. I am so happy to see Kathy is still out there running and snowshoeing and going on with the business of enjoying life. I know Bill would be very proud of her.
Tomorrow on the anniversary of Bill's death, I will be out celebrating life with a long run. Bill will be with me.