Posted in Good Ideas, Insights, Life, Life's Little Gifts, Light, Sincere Moments, tagged Accomplishments, Community, Family, Friends, Gratitude, Marathon, Race, Running, Supporters, Thanks on November 13, 2008|
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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.
Marine Corps Marathon Start 2008
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.
Mile 10 - Near the Lincoln
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.
Marine Corps Runners
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This weekend I ran the Charlottesville Half Marathon, with a few friends of mine.
It was a tough course but still really fun because lots of friends did it together. I ran mostly all of the race with a good friend of mine. This is fairly interesting since she is quite a bit shorter than I am. Every once in a while when we passed a few spectators I thought. That must be a funny image to see such an unlikely duo running in tandem.
At first glance, so I’ve been told, I have what people call a “runners body.” I’m 6′ 3″ and have skinny arms and legs, but what people don’t really know is that the magic of genetics and middle age don’t preclude “skinny people” from the proverbial spare tire effect. Good thing I wear shirts… most days.
Despite having long skinny legs, I’ve come to realize that even though my body looks like I have to run around in the shower to get wet, I’m still a fairly slow runner. Certainly it comes more naturally to me than weightlifting or sheer power sports but I don’t have as much speed coupled with endurance as one might expect.
Having spent a good balance of years of my life training for races I’ve never end up running I was determined to finish the Cherry Blossom 10 miler , when invited by another great but vertically challenged friend from work. I’m amazed and encouraged at those who determine to do things outside of their “natural” propensities.
Running with a partner is sheer joy in comparison to the mental difficulty of the boredom or singularity of thought one must have to run long distances alone. I tip my hat to the thousands of solo distance runners out there. As Sharyn and I battled the rolling hills that nestle themselves into the Blue Ridge Mountains, we discussed our own personal emotional obstacles we’ve removed in order to become “finishers” of what has become several races, runs, and triathlons over the last few years.
My Dad was a distance runner back in the late 70’s and early 80’s before it was mainstream and when the term “jogging” was popular. His response to questions of whether or not he was a jogger always came with a distinct and sure message “I’m a runner.” he would say. Personally, I’m both competitive and a chronic dreamer. A powerful combination if you add the right type of effort to the equation. But without giving it proper perspective in the face of the difficult of the reality of life’s challenges it can lead to a defeatist’s attitude. I’m afraid I misinterpreted his statements to mean that I had to always be competitive, or that somehow just being in it wasn’t enough.
It has taken me several years and as many failures before I was able to set aside my youthful pride to truly enjoy and relish in noble accomplishment of being a “finisher”. However I could not have done it without the support of my encouraging friends who have invited me to at least participate with them. The great thing for me about running with people is that we set the pace together. When running with a partner I let them set the pace, which chills me out enough not to burn up all of my energy for 3 or 4 short miles. These days, I’ve gotten to the point where I miss the days I can’t do something active and covet the days I do an actual workout/exercise. It would have been a lot harder to finish as well as I did in the last two distance runs without the companionship of both Tom and Sharyn. It’s true that the greatest gifts come in smaller packages. Thanks!
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