Don’t judge me, but it’s been years since I’ve successfully ran a mile. I remember not too long ago, hopping on the treadmill with intentions of running a mile and .6 miles into it, I got a side ache, so I stopped. I know I could manage it physically if I absolutely had to, but it’s a mental game for me and I just couldn’t do it. Believe it or not, I used to be athletic. I played several sports in high school and I had plenty of endurance, I would’ve never imagined I would get to the point that a mile would be a difficult task for me. But it is.
Over the years, I’ve had several friends and family members try to convince me that I should train for a marathon. After laughing in their faces, I kindly reminded them that running was not my thing. But in the back of my head I thought maybe someday when I was older and more mature, running might be the perfect boring activity to participate in. After this weekend, I can stay with confidence – even when I’m mature – running will not be on my agenda.
This past weekend, Steve and I were asked to work as volunteers at the Phoenix Marathon. We were excited to be a part of such a big event and more importantly I was excited to take my picture at the finish line for the first and possibly last time. We were assigned to the recovery tent which put us right at the finish line. I handed out cold wet washcloths to runners after they crossed the finish line (which I found out later is not customary at all running events!) and Steve was the man that caught the runners as they crossed the finish line and collapsed from exhaustion.
We had a great and memorable experience. There was an excitement and energy that I’ve never experienced before. It was inspiring on so many levels. I remember seeing several women cross the finish line with shirts that read, “Team Jen : We do hard things”. I loved the idea of these women rallying together around “Jen”. Once they all crossed the line, they gathered in a huddle and hugged. I loved watching them and found myself wanting to be in their huddle to feel of their camaraderie. And then I heard Jen’s name and I quickly turned around to see a fit women in a baseball hat without any hair and tears welled up in my eyes.
I saw husband and wife teams crossing the line together, hand-in-hand and I knew they had spent hours training together and I longed for that time with my own husband.
I saw a wedding proposal.
I cheered on my brother-in-law and other friends who crossed the finish line and I knew how hard they had worked to accomplish it.
I saw older people who looked so frail yet managed such a difficult run and thought how in the world can they do this, and I can’t?
I saw grown men sobbing as they crossed the finish line and knew immediately that they had not qualified for the Boston Marathon after they had worked and trained so hard – they weren’t very far off.
I saw moms running in after the 6 hour cut-off mark with their children running the last 100 yards with them.
I saw so much good and I started telling myself that running wasn’t so bad. It was inspiring and uplifting and I could only imagine how I would feel if I ever crossed that finish line. And as inspiring as it was, there was also a stark reality that followed. People were carried off in stretchers. Steve caught so many people that had bodies giving out on them as they finished. I carried off a bag of throw-up for a man that was weak to move. There were hamstrings that were being worked on. I saw a man take off his shoe and realize his toenail was no longer attached. There were a lot of tears of pain and sadness. There was oxygen being administered. There was complete and utter exhaustion. And I couldn’t help but think the majority of the people that ran would have a hard time moving in the morning.
As inspiring as my experience was, I determined running a marathon is still not in my future. I’m not willing to put in the time it would take training for hours of running and I’m definitely not willing to put my body through the pain and agony. This will be the closest I will ever get to a finish line, and I’m totally okay with that!