Race Recap: Race or Reunion?

17 Mar

Once I asked my uncle for details on the marathons he won.  “I may have won some races” he said laughing “but when your aunt ran a marathon, she won friends!”

That comment made me pause and realize how alike my aunt and father are: they never go anywhere without making friends.

I don’t feel that’s true of me.

And yet…I once spent a day doing my civic duty and made friends with a guy that I still keep in contact with.  We went sledding this winter.  Our jury duty was 2 1/2 years ago.

So I didn’t run a fast race but if I had…and if there had been pace groups and mile clocks and headphones…then I wouldn’t have met the people I had.  And expanded my belief that the world is made up of interesting, unique people.  And some of them run.

On the way to the race, I sat next to another woman my age.  It was her second marathon as well.  She was running it with her father.  We talked about her 4 year old daughter and our jobs and running long runs in snow and she was the brave one who got up and stepped around the vomit pools in order to open all the bus windows for ventilation.  Later, I was walking away from the bathrooms when I heard a woman say “I sat next to the most interesting woman on the bus! And its her birthday and…” after a few more details, I realized she was telling her Dad about me!

Warming up for the race, I talked to a woman in her 50s, preparing for her first marathon.  And a guy in his teens who was running despite injury.  He hadn’t trained more than 16 miles for it and was nervous (but he still managed to be sitting at the finish line icing his leg when I arrived..so I guess he did just fine.)

I ran the first 3 miles with a first-time marathoner who used to live in Boston and attend Tufts.  She was hoping her husband had dropped off their toddler with her sister and made it to the finish line but she was uncertain when exactly she would cross the line. Despite the fact she wore long running pants and a long-sleeve shirt, she was enjoying herself.  She stopped every 3 miles to walk and refuel but managed a fast pace despite the walking breaks.  We continued to hopscotch each other throughout the rest of the race (never assume that someone who takes walking breaks will finish slowly…if they run 8 minute miles and walk 2-5 minutes every few miles, sometimes that break fuels them up to run faster).

I ran with a church group who were praying for sick friends and family.

I ran with a couple who were getting married the next day. It was a second marriage for both of them and since they had 5 sons between them, they used long runs and marathons as their date nights.  They were planning a small vineyard wedding (another running couple and their parents) and they were incredibly happy. Since they met running races after their divorces, this marathon seemed appropriate.

I ran next to an Asian guy wearing a shirt with a picture of his wife and the phrase “I will not rest until I rest in Thee” followed by “In Loving Memory.”  He carried a single white rose for the entire race.  Well, I passed him at mile 13 but I assume the rose made it to the end.  I had seen him at the starting line and thought “Who brings a rose to a race?  Wouldn’t you wait and give flowers to a runner after the race?”  Another good reminder to not judge something you don’t understand.

I ran with a middle-aged guy who was so excited to complete his first marathon. But he was too fast for me so a group of us sent him on his way, we were determined that he finish strong.

I ran besides a coach and his track team for a while. One member was dealing with an injury so the team spirit was part rowdy (distract her with laughter) and part truth (you’re still running faster than everyone not doing the race) and part somber (sucks to be injured at mile 18…you’ve come so far, you want to finish…but that doesn’t make the pain any easier.)

And then I ran into the arms of my family and they had their own runner stories to tell.  I plan to race some in 2013 – to block out everything but my goal and push hard.  But I also plan to run some reunion races – where you listen to people’s stories and cheer each other on and celebrate each mile completed and feel a part of a giant mass of healthy crazy people inspired by different reasons and from unique backgrounds to join together and beat the 26.2.

Maybe I am capable of making friends wherever I go. And maybe winning a friendship and laughing mid-race and making memories is just as valuable as the time on the clock when you finish.

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