In awe. Inspired. After watching the Twin Cities Marathon today at the midpoint of the race, the feelings I have about setting personal goals and getting out on the race course to attain them are stronger then ever. Thousands of people for countless months, days, hours trained for this day. They had it circled, highlighted, alarmed on every calendar they own. Their best friends, spouses, co-workers, grandparents, kids, boyfriends, girlfriends, roommates, parents knew about their training. Their commitment. The days they had to get their miles in – from 6 to 13 to 24. The days their knee hurt.
And the loved ones were all there today. With signs, cheering, whistling, watching. Hoping they would not miss their person run by so they could just get one look at each other and both know it was going to be OK. They were going to make it. All the work was worth it.
Then there are others that line the race course. The strangers. These are the people that can also help to make the race happen for you as an athlete. I know. I have experienced it out there every single time I race. You see, unfortunately the ones you love can only be so many places at once. Uncle Jerry can be at mile 6, while your best friends Kate and Cindy can station themselves at mile 15, and everybody rushes on to the finish line. You get your look, then they are gone. When you are out there, working through the mental gymnastics of it all, you never know when the rough moment is going to hit. May not see your sister or your girlfriend just then. In your mind, you talk yourself through it, keep it positive, but sometimes it just hurts. The littlest bit of eye contact and encouraging words from a perfect stranger can take you further then you thought you could go.
I remember the gals at the 2007 Life Time Fitness Triathlon in Minneapolis. I had just hit the run, about a third of a mile in, two laps around Lake Nokomis in my future. One said, “Looks like you just started the race!” The other just gave a “Whoot, whoot!” I smiled. It carried me. Far. And it has happened time and time again, race after race, never fails. Someone will look at me, and I look at them, they say a few words of encouragement and whoosh, the moment is over. They become a part of my story of the day, I remember them and am thankful.
The next time you get the opportunity to get out and be a spectator of a race, do it. Whether you know someone participating or not. Grab a cowbell and a coffee. Be ready to yell. Smile, and then just encourage people. Be that person, make that moment, and keep someone going. You will feel amazing. A natural high for days, perhaps. You may not know any of their names, you will probably never see them again, but you just became a part of the story that they will tell. The day that they attained their goal. The day they made it.
And it will all be worth it – far more then imagined.