Shortly after the bombing at the Boston Marathon, I read a post on Facebook that left an impression on me. The marathon is one of the few places left where the human spirit thrives. Runners accept water from strangers. We eagerly accepted orange slices and bananas from people we’ve never met. Hugs and high fives are welcomed by all. Human compassion is the driving force in the 26.2 mile road race. It may be the individual who runs every step of the race, but it would never be possible without the community. It would never be possible without loving husbands at home who watch kids for hours, for parents who cheer you on, and for the strangers who want you to succeed. Although it is a competitive sport, competition does not exist in the heart of a runner.
These thoughts echoed through my head in Richmond on Saturday. The community of Richmond showed up with open arms, endless cheers, and unwavering support. Every corner was lined with a smile.
Even though my race wasn’t the race I had dreamed of since the day I registered, it deepened my love of this sport, this distance, and this community. It’s been five days since I’ve raced. If it wasn’t for my race photos reminding me of my “do not throw up” feeling for 16 miles, I doubt I would remember that I was sick. This race filled my heart. It’s the tiny moments of compassion that I will always remember when I think back to my second marathon.
• The start line and the sea of runners. During one of the first miles, we turned down Monument Avenue and the stream of runners was visible for blocks and blocks.
• My husband’s face when he found me before the first bridge crossing. I was floating at this point. The race was perfect.
• The laughter I found after I got sick at mile 10. For the first time in my life, I didn’t panic. It was going to be okay.
• Seeing Bob at mile 11. If you know him, you know how amazing he is. His eyes have a softness to them. He is like a walking hug.
• The stranger who rubbed my back at mile 13. He just wanted me to be okay.
• The friend I made along the river. Neither one of us were having our “A” day, yet we were in it together. It was going to be okay.
• My friend Sara standing along the course cheering me. She is the reason I love running. She is my running inspiration. And even though she can’t run right now, she showed up to cheer.
• The stranger who gave me a strawberry. “Ask and you shall receive,” was her response. Nothing has ever tasted so good.
• Every single person who cheered me on by name. I can’t thank you enough.
• Richmond knows how to welcome its runners. The crowd support was amazing. Every single neighborhood welcomed us. You all are amazing.
• Bart Yasso cheering me on by name at mile 4.5 and 18. Thank you for the high five.
• At mile 23, the Lululemon cheer team helped me round the corner. This was the first time I let it soak in that the finish line was around the corner. Happy tears flooded my eyes.
• The stranger who handed out Coke. He purchased this on his own. He set up his own table. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You settled my stomach.
• The stranger who texted my husband from the finish line. I couldn’t find him, and I needed him. She told him exactly where I was.
And then there are the people who weren’t on the race course who cheered me on from home.
• My parents who kept my boys. There support has been amazing.
• All my friends who sat by their phones waiting for the next text. I felt my heart swell every time I crossed the timing mat.
• My running coach who has believed in me from the day I met him. He didn’t flinch when I quit back in October. He didn’t question when I changed my mind again a day later. He’s helped me do my best no matter what. Anyone who is willing to bike with me for hours and hours while I run deserves a medal.
And then there is my husband. I don’t have words for how much I love him or loved having him with me on the course. He stayed when I needed him. He went ahead when I asked him too. He thought for me when I couldn’t think anymore. When I found him at the finish line, I wanted nothing more than to hug him forever. 26 miles is a long distance to run. It’s even longer when you don’t feel good. My husband, who isn’t the most compassionate person, was filled with compassion on that day.
The marathon is where the human spirit thrives. We live in a society that is quick to turn it’s back when people struggle. We are quick to shame people and cast judgement when people don’t live according to our own standards. We forgot that we are all in this together. On the road for 26.2 miles, there is no judgement. Shaming doesn’t exist. The community is a safety net for every single runner ready to catch them if they fall. The community is there to make sure our dreams come true.
Thank you Richmond for being my safety net! I truly love your city!