|2 miles in and smiling|
I commented on it many times over the weekend, and I'll write it here too: I am more inspired by first-time runners who set a goal and accomplish it--often exceeding their own expectations--than I am by elite runners. Watching my friends smile through 5+ hours of running fills my heart with love and joy that others are sharing this amazing sport. My heart is filled by the camaraderie that is built by such an event. These two women had met only the night before (at Dangerous Man, of course!) and yet for 26.2 miles they pulled each other along. They talked the entire time, no music necessary. Each had worries and fears, neither had run more than 14 or 20 miles, respectively. And yet they did it. They ran. Together. And loved it.
I could write about being disappointed in my mediocre time (judged against myself) and my frustration with starting too fast, with wanting to PR too much, the sadness of realization and necessary goal-readjustment when pace groups passed me at miles 18 and 20. But how selfish! How antithetical to the purpose of running these events! How disingenuous to the support I received from a whole community of people who helped me help those furry animals who can't help themselves! A marathon is all about togetherness, support, assistance, love, caring. Because it is hard, because it is impossible to accomplish on one's own. We take time from our families, loved ones, jobs etc. just to train--and in the event, we receive the support of so many individuals on the course, and those in our memories and in our hearts. I was strengthened by a friend who ran up the St. Thomas-Summit hill with me, and by knowing where I would see my parents cheering and by knowing how many people supported my running and the cause.
How much better is that than being in one's own head for two or three or four hours? The elation that is knowing it's going to happen, that you can do it is so much more rewarding and motivating than worrying about numbers and splits and breaking (personal) records. What I witnessed with these first-timers is what running is about: Camaraderie, love, gratitude, strength, and assistance; sharing the experience of a challenge that not many individuals take up or accomplish.
I joined them briefly at mile 24. I will always remember seeing them before they saw me. I started screaming their names and telling them they were going to make it, they were going to finish, that it was less distance to the finish than we had run just the day before. I will always remember the smiles I saw break across their faces. They didn't even look tired. My heart was so full it was ready to burst. That's why people cry at marathons--both runners and spectators alike--because there is so much, almost too much, love.
Marathons remind me of a quote from Marguerite Young. I have used it to critique capitalism, but it also demonstrates community love as exemplified in running: "The individual is the one illusion."