Saturday, December 5, 2015

The view from the sidelines

I have never been a spectator for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend.

Since 2007, the first year that I cared, I have run either the half or the full each year (with the exception of 2013, when there was a minor ice calamity that shut down the race). I have had good races, I have had bad races, I have had races where I left the course with a sunburn, and I have had races where I drove home seriously concerned about hypothermia. But I have never not raced.

Until today. As you may or may not have picked up on via the endless stream of blog entries in which I mentioned it, I sprained my ankle a month ago, and for the first time in my completely unremarkable running career, I was forced to sit out St. Jude because of injury.

Oddly enough, despite this being my longest running break since I started, I haven't missed the actual running part that much this past month. What I have missed is the stress relief and the feeling of strength that comes after a good run. I don't get a runner's high that often - a handful of times a year, at most - but I do get a feeling of accomplishment that I can't quite put into words. Even more importantly, I get well-defined leg muscles.

And maybe it's because I'm more attached to the side effects than the running itself that I wasn't too concerned about missing today's race. I stood in Overton Square, outside of Breakaway Running, just ahead of mile marker 10. And I was fine. And then, after thousands of runners had already gone by, I started to see the people who were running around my pace. It was then that I finally started to get a little emotional.

A big part of that emotion came not from suddenly wishing I was out there (although I did) but from learning something I maybe didn't need to know: by the time runners of my speed came along, a lot of the spectators had already moved on. I came away with a huge and newfound appreciation for all the people who have still been on the sidelines of any distance race I've run when I finally came shuffling by.

It's been a shaky few weeks for me, and not just because my routine was thrown out of whack. I'm a little off-balance right now. (Life pro tip: The best way to tell if I'm off-balance is if I start writing Zen-inspired and/or philosophical posts.)

But I watched a hell of a lot of people today who were pushing through all levels of pain, both mental and physical, to get through the extremely arbitrary goals of 13.1 or 26.2 miles. And some of them didn't even know that half of the people on the sidelines had left before they got there. And regardless, a smaller showing of support didn't stop a single one of them from moving forward.

Some things I've got together and some things I just don't even freaking know...but I have an ankle that's ready to (slowly!) ease back into it and an unused race bib that's already beckoning me to redeem myself next year. So speaking both of running and of life in general, it's time for me to get moving...


  1. Thank you for posting this. For me, cheering for everybody in the race means something. I noticed people starting to move on but didn't realize it would have been around your pace. And for that, it gives me a new perspective in what it means to cheer for everybody in a race, despite others who move on for 'more important' agendas.

    1. I certainly don't fault the people who moved on to other parts of the course, or those who had places to be. But I did feel a little sad that after the excitement of the fast runners was over, right when the people coming by were starting to look a little more dogged, the people on the sidelines were drifting away. A huge thank you to you and Jess both for sticking with it until the very end! Definitely was an experience I'm glad I had. :)