“We all know we're going to die; what's important is the kind of men and women we are in the face of this.”~ Anne LamottWhen we are tested, physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, our selves are revealed. For some of us, running is the path to that self discovery.
When you are in pain, and want to stop, and give up, what will you do? When you see others going through something, do you run away, or do you put a metaphorical (or real) arm around them, and tell them, go. You can do this. I'm with you. Don't give up. Or do you turn away. Afraid that you are looking into a mirror of weakness, doubt...the past...the future. Yesterday I ran the Colfax marathon. And there is always a story...
I am tired, mentally, physically, psychically for many reasons, and it is a hard time for me from the gun. The last two times I've run this race were just for fun, thrown in at the last minute. But this time I want to see what I have in me, even though I ran Boston just under 4 weeks ago, and spent two long days on my feet working at the expo - and then there's the rest of life. And so, I run, and it feels like a push the whole way. The paces I can usually just click along at, feel like an effort, but I can still do it, and so I do. But there is a weariness that keeps surfacing, and I push it down.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Around mile 20, passing through the last relay point, coming out of Sport Authority stadium (always a bit of an energy boosting point, and I notice my pace picked up to 7:25) a woman turns to me, baton in hand;
"You actually look like you're running the whole thing."
"Oh. You are??"
"How fast are you running? 9:30?"
"Ummm, no. Mostly between 8:45 and 9:00ish" (we are running 8:27 as we are having this conversation)
"I'm on about a 3:55 pace right now. I'll see how things go from here."
"So in a mile or 2 things will get really hard, right?"
"Ummm, no. I hope not. Not if I've run it well."
"I ran a marathon and everything was fine until mile 22"....
So for the next mile or so we talk about running (she asks if I was a professional runner when I was younger. Bwahahah), kids, nursing and running, etc. And at this point I need to stop talking. And we run on. We pass miles 22, 23, 24...we run...she's ahead...then I'm ahead....and on...
Miles 24-25, the route goes through some residential streets, first a little downhill, then an up hill before turning into City Park on to the finish. I am surrounded by 10 miler and relay bibs. As we turn onto the last uphill, a young woman in yellow shorts catches my eye beside me. She has on a green bib - marathon. We round the curve at the top of the hill step by step together, and I edge ahead, and turn and say, "Come on. That's the last hill. Let's go." And she takes off ahead of me. We weave through the park. My watch says 8:06.
I catch my relayer friend first, and say, "You've got to have more than me at this point. Go. Push this. You've got half a mile to go!!!"
And she goes!
Then I see the yellow shorts ahead, and catch those. She's struggling. We are passing the cormorant rookery, and I say, "Come on. One more turn and we're done. Come with me.", and we run hard, our legs and feet completely in step with each other...through the finish area, weaving around people, and I lose her for a bit.
My relayer friend waits over the finish, and thanks me for pushing her, and we make our way through the crowds, grabbing water, food...and then just as I am about to leave the finish area, I feel a hand on my shoulder, and turn. I see the yellow shorts.
"Thank you so much for helping me. There's no way I would have gotten that time without you."
"Have you run this before?"
"No. This is my first marathon."...
And these two women, these two total strangers, made my race, my day. They made this what I will remember and carry with me.
So, once again, this seemingly individual, selfish sport of running, is anything but. If that were all it was, we would all probably give up. For me, it's as much about others as it is about me, and about me among all the others.
With every race, I am enriched, not because of my achievements, but because of my human interactions along the way. And what is so amazing about all of this is that it is always a gift and a surprise. It greets you along the way, if you are open to it. You can never know what it will be. What it will become. It makes you and you make it. For me, this is how I experience grace, whatever that may be. Lots of people ask me why I started racing again, at my advanced age, five years ago, after almost 20 years away from racing. And, over time I've discovered that THIS is why I race. And that's why I will continue to race for as long as I can.
“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”~ Paulo Coelho