I’ve seen running in a whole new light.
I had volunteered to assist in awarding the medals to the incoming runners this year. There were two shifts. I was on the second shift and had all the marathoners that came through.
I was delighted that I was able to place Lara’s medal on her person. She is our run leader at The Right Shoe, where I train and a huge inspiration for me personally. Her time was 3:16:11.
What surprised me was how emotional the day was. Perhaps because I ran the BMO Vancouver 1/2 Marathon last year at this time. Perhaps it’s because I am a runner that I connected so deeply with so many of the runners.
I had a woman approach me crying. I put the medal over her head and congratulated her. “Could I get a hug?” she sobbed.
I folded her in my arms and just held her while she sobbed for a good minute. I had tears in my eyes when I released her. She smiled and said ‘Thank you.’
And I get it.
I understand intimately the emotional connection to running. I totally get the emotions that run through you upon completion.
This was her moment and I was fortunate enough to share in it, however briefly.
I slipped the medal over this tall fella. He just swept me up and gave me a giant bear hug. I laughed, congratulating him then said “Go on and take care of those muscles. Have a nice long soak.”
“Can I take you home with me?” he grinned back.
“You really are delirious, aren’t you?” I chuckled.
“Hell yeah!” Then he slipped away.
I saw people staggering over the finish line. Saw the pain on the runners’ faces as their muscles began to seize up. Saw the joy and the elation. Saw some of them collapse. Medics moved swiftly to get them into a wheelchair and care for them. I saw people swagger on rubber legs with spent expressions on their faces.
And this triggered so many emotions in me.
A year ago I was crossing the finish line oblivious to almost everything around me. That moment of completion and the absolute joy that ran through me as I moved along on legs that were reminiscent of Gumby.
And how many did I see today that were reduced to tears? It was a humbling and profound to be at this end of the spectrum.
I left my wig in the car. It was raining, a drizzly kind of day. I got good and wet but just fed off the energy. My face was exhausted from smiling so much.
And each time someone fell into my arms or swooped me up, I was overcome with emotion.
I know the psychological battle that ensues during the course of a long run. Your legs will feel as if cement blocks are forming on the feet. Every muscle will begin to scream at you in serious protest.
But the mind will insist that you carry on. You’ll dig down deeper and deeper. You’ll become transcendent to some degree as the world around you fades at times. Everything hurts but you’ll maintain your posture having had this drilled into you. In fact you may very well give the appearance that what you are doing is effortless.
It is one of the most challenging thing you’ll ever do.
And you will learn more about yourself in these moments than in any other circumstance in your life.
I truly believe this.
For three and a half hours I offered up the medals and plastic sheets for the runners to wrap themselves in. The rain could easily rob an exhausted runner and cause even more pain for a too rapid cool down.
My admiration and respect for the runners increased as the day progressed. For everyone who ran this day, there was a story behind it. There was a motive, passion, a need and desire to do this thing.
And when the finish line is breached, most surrendered to the euphoria and ache that greeted them.
Some gazed at pace watches wanting to have bested a previous run. Some uttered expletives as disappointment was etched on their face realizing they had not succeeded.
Ah yes! The forbidding clock!
For the time we subject our bodies to the agony and ecstasy of the race the clock pushes us forward.
I needed to take a break and headed into the hotel. More than five hours had now passed since the start of the race. We had been incredibly busy awarding the medals but now the stream of runners had thinned out.
I only had 20 minutes left on my shift but called it a day. I had begun my shift an hour early.
All the volunteers were getting so caught up in the moment and this just made me smile.
I was tired, cold and quite hungry.
My daughter was heading over to meet me for lunch then we were going to head back and checkout her new place.
I had a great time yesterday.
Again I have been blessed as I experienced the fragility and strength of being human and the drive to succeed.
Why do we do this?
Our reasons abound as well.
To all the runners out there, congratulations!