In case you missed my previous post about the slant-y, wild 13.1 mile half marathon my running-partner-in-crime Jen and I ran this weekend, you’ll want to read that for a bit of framework for this piece. It. Was. Insane. And I will totally do it again next year, even though it hurts to go up and down stairs today!
One thing I have enjoyed during the past two years of running is the company of other runners during the race. In fact, with each race, I’ve found myself increasingly chatty. There are those who run insanely fast to win. Then there are those who run to compete against themselves and their own previous times. That’s me. And then…there’s trail running where each mile is an adventure and you never know what mountain you will have to climb (or slide down) or what stream you may have to cross. In those races, it’s even less about the time and the competition, and about conquering the nature adventure in front of you.
Since trail running affords more time to talk (because it takes longer to run and you have to slow down more to walk or climb), I’ve loved to find out where the other runners are from, how long they’ve been running, if they’ve done this race before, and what their story is. Often times, it’s rather inspiring. During this race, I learned that a 60-year-old woman has very little competition in her age bracket, even in the big races. So I guess if I just keep running for the next 25 years, I might actually be able to win my age division at some point!
I also learned that you can still be a “hottie” at 35 years old, which is good news for me since I will be approaching that half-way-to-seventy milestone in a few months. There were a few guys coming up the trail behind us who were chatting rather loudly about “British Bill.” British Bill was not with them, but they had apparently passed him awhile back and apparently he is a bit of a legend, as is “Marathon Don.” As these two men were discussing British Bill they said he had stopped alongside the trail to wait for his wife. They were wondering who she was and what she looked like:
“Is she about his age? Or is she some 35-year-old hottie?”
“I don’t know, but of course, she’s British, so even if she is 35, she may have bad teeth.”
“Well, when you’re British Bill’s age you take what you can get!”
“That is, if he even has a wife, he’s an experienced enough runner to know when he needs to get away from someone, that could have been just an excuse to get away from us!”
Um…yeah, wouldn’t doubt that!
A little later, Jen had her own encounter with British Bill. I was trailing behind her and this strong, even-paced man in his 60’s passed me and then matched Jen’s pace for a few minutes. He started asking about her Vibrams and chatted with her. I knew he was British Bill by his deep English accent, and then after a few minutes, he paused by the side of the trail…. to wait for his wife. When I checked the race results today, I saw that he had indeed finished side-by-side with his wife, who is only a couple years younger than him. Then I told Kedron, “That could be us someday, running marathons together in our 60s!” Just without the British accent. And I’m not a few years younger than Ked. I’m *cough* older (but only by half a year!)
Then there was the thyroid guy. I heard a him breathing very hard behind us and turned around to see a young guy, red-faced and looking about ready to keel over. I chatted with him a few minutes to make sure he was ok. This was his first half-marathon, he’d never run more than 9 miles, he didn’t have a hydration belt or any goo energy packs, AND he was just diagnosed with a slowed-down-thyroid and hadn’t been able to run for a few weeks. In fact, his thyroid was so bad he’d made a trip to the emergency room. Oh my goodness. He was a recipe for disaster.
I sympathized because I have a slow thyroid too. I ran pace with him for awhile (to make sure he wasn’t going to die on us) and did my best to encourage him. I told him that this was a bear of a first marathon and that all road races after this would seem like a cake walk. Then I gave him one of my goo energy packs. I told him he would probably need it around mile 8 or 9 when he started to feel an energy drop, or shaky or goosebump-y. He continued to breathe heavily but he kept pace right behind us for most of the race. He said his goal was to keep up with us, so that if he died someone could witness to his last moments and that he died well! Towards the end he fell behind (I found out later that he tripped and fell, which on that course is quite easy to do!) He finished just a few minutes behind us, and we were there to congratulate him. He thanked me for the goo which he said came in handy.
There’s something unique about willingly experiencing something so challenging, and the bond that can happen so quickly on the trail. Everyone is quick to encourage, lend a hand to help, offer a kind word, and commiserate with you. No one is out to be famous – it’s about finishing well, whether that’s 10th place of 86th place. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you made it.
What a picture of how we should live our lives with each other – unselfishly reaching out to help one other, slowing our pace in order to walk with someone for awhile and to get to know them and encourage them on their journey, to not be concerned about making a name for ourselves, but be concerned about getting to know someone else’s name and their story.
Reminds me of something I read once in Philippians 2:
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
On the trail this week – whether it’s the office, your neighborhood, your home, or at the store – will you slow your pace a bit and get to know someone around you? Will you hear their labored breathing, will you see the load they carry, will you walk with them awhile? Will you offer your resources to help them finish their task well?