Saturday, April 12, 2014

Just Keep Running

One look at the selfie K took of he and I in the early a.m. quite honestly betrays the thoughts going through my head at the time:

It's been a hell week...what possessed me to want to skip the Saturday sleep-in to schlep to Ward Parkway just to participate in the Rock The Parkway Run? I do not feel mentally or physically ready for this 5k run.

The gloom and fog soon lifted from my brain and then run we did. And it felt great. The day was spectacular; I could feel the warming sun on my skin; the people-watching was in full bloom. Live music and cheers kept us all going strong. I kept telling myself..

Just keep running.

 The run, astoundingly, got better as we got further into it.  We blasted through our last mile and crossed the finish line.  We were spent and done, but felt energized and elated at the same time. We grabbed waters, bananas and these awesome mini-bowls of pasta and cheese that Noodles and Co. gave out.  Not only was that little treat a surprise, but they offered up Sriracha sauce to kick it up with ...a nicely upgraded version of the boxed mac and cheese my college pal Lee taught me to douse with tabasco long ago.

 We sat and chilled and let the soreness in the muscles ease a bit before moving on.  On our way out, we picked up our stats and I have to say...I was a bit dismayed.

The run indeed felt terrific. but the stats weren't all that encouraging. My placement was worse than I thought. That said, our time was our best yet.  I weighed these in my mind as we walked back to our parking spot. Once there, we realized we had blocked ourselves in and had a long wait to be able to depart, so we chose to hang out on the curb and watch the good folks running the half-marathon.  We were alternately amused and awestruck by the participants and watched intently for some time. Some of the runners bounded through like gazelles; graceful and lithe, others ran like wild people; all flailing arms and legs and tongues. Running outfits ranged from sedate to over-the-top.  Self-dialogue was prevalent, both recrimination and praise were heard. Some laughed and joked their way through; others ran for clearly more deeper and determined reasons. I realized that I was truly starting to relish this running scene, but for reasons I hadn't previously uncovered.  Everyone running today ran for their own reasons. Some reasons might be to become healthier or to assist a comrade in becoming healthier. The reasons could be personal challenges, or in honor of a lost or suffering loved one, or to overcome adversity, either physical or something not so easily seen or grasped.

Whatever the reason, it was clear many were running for individual reasons and how great is it that they all gather together like one enormous family and run through whatever they're going through together?  And that the money spent to do so generally goes to a worthy cause to boot?  We continued to watch the half-marathon runners with growing fascination.  I bore witness to the physically impaired runners grimacing with every painful step and I found myself clapping and cheering them on.  I watched with tears in my eyes the elderly couple quietly encouraging each other through every stride.  I watched the young child on the side of the road hold out flowers for his Mom as she approached and she scooped him up, flowers and all to share in the dash to the finish line. We applauded the 78-year-old runner who was holding his fist up to the sky, defiant to the stereotype of what aging is supposed to look like. Another man and his young son ran together, each sporting T-shirts depicting a photo of a bald woman and I surmised that might be the missing wife and mother in this picture. We watched as a participating couple walked in front of us after the race, hand in hand, and each with a missing leg (photo below). What an enlightening experience these running events have become.

When we finally left, we went to Waldo Pizza for the post-run nosh (more on this in the next post). I sat and reflected back on the morning.  I realized that, yes, everyone was running for something, but the reason I started today's run and what I left with were two decidedly different things. We started running to get healthier and to reach specific athletic goals. These goals remain, but what we have gained from these running events have given us so much more. The perspective and inspiration that we have gained has become the most gratifying gift of all.

Of course, what more pristine inspiration can there be than the Boston Marathon bombing victims that are preparing to return to the race in 9 days, on April 21st?  Buzzfeed featured an incredibly moving pictorial of these champions and by all means, check it out here.  The photo below of some of the returning runners is one of these and the message says it all:

Just keep running.


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