The running community is a fraternal bunch. Perhaps its the endorphins that make us exceedingly (annoyingly?) happy to be kind and supportive. Perhaps its the giddy feeling that we can eat dessert without guilt. Perhaps it’s because we understand one another in ways that others (dare I say ‘outsiders’) don’t.
I don’t mean this to sound exclusionary in any way. I find it helpful to know that I have the support of others who understand the sensation of just waking up two miles past your front door because you so automatically rise before the sun, dress with eyes closed, lace up shoes robotically and just go before your brain has become aware of what your body is doing. It’s good to know that others understand that the phrase, “a pain in my ass” is literal, and just kind of the norm. Stuff like that.
The point is, it took years of quiet dedication to my love of running to realize that if I let others in, there was an incredible community attached to it. This community supports and cares unlike almost any other I’ve seen, save the ‘moms’ group I was in when my kids were babies.
Between the second week of October and this coming weekend, the holistic, experiential nature of the running community is so clearly evidenced – thought it might inspire you to join in, whether as a runner or a supporter. This is a 360 degree, multifaceted, vibrant thing.
It began when I ran the Chicago Marathon. Like everyone, I have a handful of days that I consider highlights – graduations, engagement, wedding, birth of my kids – I would put this day on the highlight list. The sheer accomplishment of it and the ability to do it are great, but the fact that other people so excitedly and willingly support you in the effort makes it shockingly great. Why do other people care that you’re running a marathon? Why do they go out of their way to congratulate you on your speed, ask you what you saw, support you in your fundraising efforts? Why would your husband ride a bike around a city, just to see you, when he knows full well he’ll be the one holding you up at the finish line? People are amazing in their capacity to support others.
Last weekend, during the New York Marathon, I got to be on the support side. On the way to church, I was tracking my friends who were running, checking Facebook to put a ‘like’ on their start corral photos (I actually, honestly LIKED them!) Sending Bible verses and words of encouragement via text messages so that they would get them just before and after the start, to know they had a cheering section who was spending time in church, talking to God on their behalf. As soon as church was over (I’d missed more than an hour of tracking time and people would be well on their way!), I was tracking them again and genuinely getting excited (and concerned) for those who’d finished or not finished, met goals, or missed them. When you’ve had some part in a big race, whether as a runner or as an on-site cheering section, you can’t help but feel a connection to others putting it all out there.
This weekend, I get to accompany my team of third, fourth and fifth graders as they run the Girls on the Run 5K. These girls have been training for 11 weeks. For many (like my own daughter), a 5K might as well be a marathon. It’s a big, unimaginable, scary and exciting test of strength. Getting to cover three miles alongside the girls (and my son, who is joining in, which I love) may be the best race of the season. Bearing witness as these children join the running community is an amazing thing. During training, we’ve seen them become BRFs (Best Running Friends), push and encourage one another, and in some cases discover incredible speed and giftedness – and in every case, encouraging and celebrating that in one another. I hope these three miles will be the starting line for them in a lifelong relationship with the racing community.
In the spirit of this post, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that weekend is the Savannah Rock and Roll Marathon, and my own marathon kickstarter, Gail, will be dominating that course. If the Silver Comet Half Marathon we ran (part of) together on October 27 is any indication of her abilities and training level, Sunday may go on her list of highlight days. Go Gail Go! I’ll be cheering for you!
Oh, yeah, I did a half marathon over Halloween weekend. In lieu of a race recap of the Silver Comet, suffice it to say that it was two weeks after my marathon and I did it only because it is a race that has beat me down, year after year. I signed up because I knew I’d be well trained and it might be my chance to finally do well. Nursing slightly worn muscles and a sense of dread that this race always brings, I dragged myself across town to run it in FREEZING temps. The result was that I finally managed a course PR, a first place Age Group win and finished with gas in the tank, feeling good, despite the 32 degree weather. It’s an idillic rails-to-trails course, with lots of happy runner people, so that was nice. But that damn race still got the last word. The top three women earned beautiful blown glass trophies. I came in fourth. Clearly, this course is not part of my supportive running community. Moving on.
Do you have a community like this one? If not, why not? Let me know if you’d like to join mine. We’d be glad to have you.