About a year and a half ago my older sister, Shannon, asked if I would run a half marathon with her in March of 2016. It seemed like a good challenge, and at that point was months away so I agreed. As it got closer and I started to run more often I was nervous of how terrible the experience was going to be. I’ve never been a runner, or an athlete or any kind for that matter. I maybe went on weekly runs of 4-6 miles that were a mix of running and walking. The majority of my “training” included things I already did on a regular basis (boxing, hiking, riding, walks). The morning of the race I still had yet to really push myself to even run a full 5k without stopping. The starting line was packed full of elite runners, DJ tents, volunteers, people warming up, family and friends there for support and people peeing on the sidelines because the lines for the bathroom are incredible. As everyone packed together like sardines for the countdown people chat, wish others good luck, swap encouraging words and offer advice to those that want it. There has yet to be a race I’ve done that I’ve met a rude or negative runner. People will talk to you, ease your mind, share experiences without a blink- at packet pickup, in line for the bathroom, at the start line, at the finish line, during the race…
During my first race I was slow. I’m still slow. Running with a thousand people does something to you though, it pushes you to your limits, makes you forget about anything but moving forward. It’s the best escape from life I’ve been able to channel besides reading. I love hiking in the woods to get away from people, but I’m still able to mull things over in my head and think about what’s bothering me. Not during a race. I think about running, I think about the pain, the drive, the need to succeed. Since that first race I’ve now completed 4 others, and each one continues to amaze me. I’ve seen some of the same people at all of them, to the point where we can recognize each other on course and wave or exchange “good job!”‘s. I see someone inspiring at every mile; whether it’s an Ainsley’s angels runner, a senior runner, a deaf runner or the person that has pushed too far and walks through an injury for the last mile of a race, refusing to stop. People help each other, sacrifice themselves, and rally together. People on the sidelines stand in their driveway with cups of coffee as they come out to get their papers and shout for you. As the world is slowly caving in on itself, it’s incredible to experience the high of running with such a positive group of people. Through the grimaces, the sweat, blood, tears and pain- everyone smiles. I’ve not seen one person cross the finish line in a bad mood. People stand and cheer for others they’ve never met coming down the straightaway and over the chip reader.
If you aren’t a runner, I’m sure this is true for many sports. People ask me often why I do it, what the draw is for me. It’s everything. Does it hurt? yes. Is it hard? yes. Is it worth it? yes. I will never be good, fast or have to be paced by a bike, but I’ll keep going until I can’t..and even then I’ll probably go for a little longer.
So many people are at a loss, stuck in their own heads and searching for an outlet. I recommend hitting the road, but not in a car. Hike, walk, run…do something that tests your limits and puts you smack in the middle of a situation you have to fight to get out of. Do something that makes you feel good, supports others and gives you a sense of self-worth. Don’t sit at home, complaining about the world. If you want to be saved, don’t wait for someone else to do it.