Running is one of the most individual sports.
The isolation of running struck me today, not at a moment on the course, but as I waited for the start of the Columbus Marathon. Around 15,000 people gathered together in the same place to run a half or full marathon. Yet, we all faced a journey we would travel alone.
While I felt alone and emotional at the starting line, preparing to run my first full marathon in the post-bike accident era, as I ran I connected with many of the people who have had an impact in my life.
I used this marathon as a fundraiser for our church, as we are taking 30-40 low-income people from Columbus’ South Side to the Holy Land in February. With the support of 31 donations, we raised $3,515. I made a list of those 31 names and carried them with me and thought of who these people are and the adversity that they overcame in their lives. In addition, friends held signs with my name and cheered for me as I ran. My family endured traffic and patiently waited for me at the finish line. I was surrounded by love and support the entire way.
I didn’t notice it before the run, but as I ticked off mile after mile it occurred to me that most of the names of the 31 donors were women, 26 of 31 to be exact. I not only noticed the prevalence of women’s names, but the strength of these women: women who sacrificed for their families, raised their children as a single parent, helped their husbands and sons overcome addiction, faced disappointments in life with grace, graduated with degrees after caring for others, deployed to Afghanistan, cared for aging parents, overcame cancer and pain, lived faithfully in difficult conditions, and shared the gifts of who they are with others. As we ran around Ohio Stadium, I thought of my grandmothers: one who raised my dad as a war widow, single parent in the 1940s and 1950s. and the other who faced a heredity of depression in herself and which tragically manifest itself in her son. I thought of the love of my life, Jennifer, and all that she has given me.
Running 26.2 miles never happens without pain. No matter how well-trained or gifted the athlete, everybody hurts. I ran a great 20 mile race, but unfortunately still had another six miles in front of me on an unseasonably warm day. In the last three to four miles, my calves cramped every time I ran. When I took my shoes off after the run, I discovered a large blood blister on the side of my foot. But in those moments when my tired body hurt, I thought of those strong women. The things they overcame are much more difficult than a leg cramp. If they persevered over bigger obstacles, I could continue putting one foot in front of the other.
I didn’t finish in the four-hour and thirty minute time I hoped. According to my watch, I finished in 4:43, more than 20 minutes faster than any other previous marathon. I struck the PR gong with satisfaction and knew I didn’t achieve any of this alone.