Finding The Good In Races
My God, Boston. What an unbelievable day yesterday was. What a tragic, painful, and sad day it was. My heart won’t soon heal from this, and I can’t even fathom the pain and sadness happening right now in Boston and in some people’s homes.
I could write many words about how I hope from the bottom of my soul that they find the person(s) who did this. Or, how my thoughts and prays have constantly been with the victims and their families since the moment I saw the news. Or, how it felt like a personal hit because of my connection with marathons, and the obvious realization that it could have been me or my loved ones. Or, because I was asleep while a major tragedy happened, which made me feel so disconnected from home. Or, how the images I’ve seen will stay with me long after the last media words are written about it…
But so much has already been written on the even - so many angry and sad words said - that instead I thought I’d tell you about my favourite moments of running races, because there is so much good, love and happiness in running races and the running community, that it shouldn’t be forgotten.
- The Wait Before The Race Starts. I left my hotel bright and early on the morning of the Chicago marathon and slowly walked to the start line. The city was quiet, but if you looked between the office building streets, you couldn’t mistake the thousands of runners quietly walking to the start. And then complete strangers, hustled together in their corrals to stay warm, taking photos of each other, and wishing each other well. The air was electric with anticipation! 3, 2, 1… GO!
- Seeing runners see their loved ones. This surely has to be up there for anyone. Even thinking about it now, I can feel tears forming in my eyes. The moment a runner sees their loved ones, is truly something special. Their tired, sore, bodies suddenly get a surge of energy, their faces light up, and off they bound to hug their people - the people who showed up to support them. Photos, hugs, and tears of joy are guaranteed.
- Running through the different areas of a city. I have been fortunate enough to run in the Chicago, Las Vegas and Berlin marathons, and in turn got to run through some pretty awesome areas. My favourite was Chicago’s gay & lesbian crew – who were out in full force that morning dancing, and encouraging runners. And Chicago’s Chinatown drums; you could hear the beat a few miles away and although I didn’t know what it was then, it was so encouraging to run towards it.
- Seeing runners being encouraged by complete strangers. I felt like a celebrity when I ran the Chicago marathon in 2010. Thousands (actually) of people must have yelled my name, hoping to give me a little something-something to finish my race. And you better believe they did. All of the friendly smiles, waves, and high fives from children keep you going when you’re at the 35k (21 mile) mark. I’ll also never forget the houses that had their water hoses out that day, spraying the hot, sweaty runners, and helping them cool down.
- The moment you realize this is a HUGE deal. It happens to everyone. At some point, somewhere along the course you’ll have the, “whoa, I used to be a couch potato, and now I’m running a marathon” feeling. It’s unavoidable, wonderful, and guaranteed to make even the strongest folks tear up.
- Seeing the signs. Oh Marathon signs! I love love love them! From “Chuck Norris Never Ran a Marathon,” to “Run Like a Kenyan,” or simply “You Got This,” they are so much fun to read, and so appreciated by a tired, exhausted, I-just-want-to-stop runner.
- Seeing the finish line. This has to be a separate point to “crossing the finish line,” because this is one hell of a moment. The spectators are at their loudest here and you’re at your peak exhaustion mode. It’s a wonderful equation and one that tests your marathon spirit.
- Crossing the finish line. This moment. This is your moment. You’re alone, and you’ve done what you set out to do. You smile for the cameras. You try not to collapse. You self high five yourself, because you sir, just ran a marathon. And my God, that is a HUGE deal.
- Getting your medal. Volunteers wait for the runners to come through the final chute, and congratulate them, and then hang a medal around their neck. I hugged and cried into the teenage boy’s arms who placed my medal on my neck. I apologized for my behaviour, and he smiled at me and said, “no, it’s a huge deal! congratulations.”
- After the marathon. The afternoon after the Chicago marathon I took the guided river boat tour with my parents (not recommend right after a marathon ps). The whole boat clapped for me, and they announced me on the loud speaker. Everyone was so impressed, and I beamed with happiness. I also went shopping the next day, and was waiting in line to pay at Banana Republic when I was told to “skip the line, you ran the marathon!” by the manager. Also, the security guard at the airport asked to see my medal, and high fived me. See? It’s so awesome. There is also a wonderful smile and head nod when runners recognize each other – it’s like you’re both saying, “yup, we’re awesome (and sore, so sore).”
I don’t think anyone will ever understand why yesterday’s awful event happened; it was a horrific and senseless tragedy that affected and broke so many innocent lives. But what I don’t think it broke was the running community’s spirit. If anything, I think the outcome will be a more united, tight-knit community. Because for me, as a marathoner, runner, and spectator, its made me want to run harder, go faster, and support louder and be proud to be part of such a supportive, strong, and awesome community.