Last Spring a co-worker of mine asked me if I wanted to train for a 10 mile running race together. A 10 miler led to a Half-Marathon with some other friends and just recently I finished the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. Prior to that I had participated in various small triathlons and small running races.
It’s only a been a few weeks and yet, I look back and I can’t believe that I actually did it. I’ve fantasized about it time and again, but having done it, I can replace those hopes or figments of my imagination with a real memory. I know the strength of community everyone feels at the start, the friendship along the way of miles 4,5,6; the joy of catching a glimpse of family and friends on the side, enjoying the friendly support of perfect strangers at mile 16, the loneliness and pain of miles 20-21, the shear will power over pain of miles 22-26 and the satisfaction of completion, when you don’t even really care to celebrate because you’ve got absolutely nothing left to actually use on emotions. Dreams can fuel you do to great things, but be sure you’re doing something everyday to make them happen or you will always be stuck in the vault of your own mind.
Truly the unsung heroes on race day are the countless numbers of supporters and race volunteers who give their own time just to support others accomplish their goals. It can’t be all that fun, to stand around for more than 4 hours and cheer on perfect strangers you’ve never met. I wish there was a way to adequately let each race supporter know how much their cheers, chants signs, and presence helps. Every high school band that played kept me in a cheery mood. People’s signs of encouragement kept me thinking of things other than my gradually slowing body. My favorite sign was posted on a 20′ stick, it read, ” The Kenyans are Just Ahead!”, Occasionally I caught someone’s eyes and instead of being odd it was almost as if I had known them.
After a particularly long stretch over the 14th street bridge on mile 21 where there were no spectators, and the wind started to whip over the Potomac, it felt as if you were crossing the Sahara Desert. Seriously. The muscles start to contract and you feel like a lost member of the French Foreign Legion. Coming back into Arlington to a crowd of spectators was the just the catapult that was need for those final but lonely 2 miles around the Pentagon to the finish.
Thanks to Friends and Family, who made the trek to support me. I really wanted to stop the last 4 miles but just kept thinking that if I could just keep going they were there to see me finish well. Running maybe a singular activity but truly no one, can stand alone. We are as strong as the community we are a part of.
The runner’s rewards are endless; views of the early morning sunrises and golden sunsets, glimpses of cardinals and blue jays, an occasional run in with a deer, a brief “hello” shared when passing by a fellow trekker on your daily route, hidden wildlife that only come out for those dedicated enough to run in the rain to see, views of twilight stars, the feeling of accomplishment and physical work, the runner’s high. But none are as great as the unexpected feeling of being a part of a larger community. Thanks to everyone who’s volunteered their time to support their communities.