On Sunday, I had the privilege of lacing up and heading out onto the Chicago Marathon course as a coach of a charity running team. One of my favorite things about Team In Training is the course support that runners receive. There are coaches at every mile cheering on runners, hopping in to run with those that are struggling and offering words of encouragement to anyone that needs them.
As I left the hotel Sunday morning and escorted participants to Grant Park, I found myself thinking about what a sacred, vulnerable space marathon miles are. Individuals find themselves at the starting line for so many reasons — running in remembrance of a loved one, on behalf of a cause that is near and dear, in honor of a personal transformation or in pursuit of a goal that once seemed impossible – and this quest for a marathon finish demands nothing less than a commitment and offering up of our whole selves. Regardless of pace or finish time, this resolve is something I find to be incredibly beautiful.
On Sunday I hopped in with a first time marathoner near the end of the race. She was moving forward, but was quite clearly in a lot of pain. Well into mile 25, I knew she would finish, but as she started talking to me I could tell that she was on the verge of tears. I reminded her that she was making progress by walking and that in a matter of a few minutes she would complete the race. She started to cry and told me she didn’t think she could run anymore. I reassured her that this was her race and she got to finish it on her terms, but regardless of how she got there she would most certainly make it to the finish line. I was mid-sentence when she took off – she just started running. She turned over her shoulder to look at me, then pointed and shouted, “My family!” Sure enough her whole pack was just at the side of the road and she ran over to be greeted by hugs, shouts, tearful cheers and all manner of hoopla. Then, off she went with a huge grin on her face, running along to complete her first marathon.
We commit, we run, we push, we feel as if we are on the verge of breaking but we are not broken. We are sustained by the endurance we’ve built, we hold tight to the reasons that led us to the starting line in the first place, we are tucked in by spectators, and we are held up by our pack. What sacred moments, indeed.