Don’t be a spectator. Don’t let life pass you by.
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In every race that I have run, I have always been grateful for the people who come to cheer the runners on. Whether coming for a friend or family member, these people end up cheering everybody on. It is a great energy booster for me as a runner when random strangers cheer me on and even a bigger one when it’s from my family and friends.
Last Sunday was the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon. I had no plans of running it, but I had two friends who were. Had I not been nursing this knee, I probably would have shown up last-minute to run, however, I did the right thing and staked out a spot late in the race to cheer on my buddies (Josh – @bostoncardiovet and Alett – @petfxr…I’d find out later that Alett had suffered a minor injury and was not running). I got to my spot maybe 20 -30 minutes early. I asked a cop what mile marker we were at (just shy of 11) and then asked the spectators already there how many people had already gone by (maybe 10 at most). I looked at my watch. 90 minutes, shy of mile 11, 10 runners. I did the math. Damn! I wish I was running this. Given healthy conditions, I could have had a shot at being one of those top 10. As the runners began to trickle by, I cheered each and every one of them on. Some said thank you, others were in a zone and kept on running. I envied each and every one of them.
This was the first race I had been to where I wasn’t a participant, and I’ve got to tell you, it was hard. I’m not talking “oh geez, I wish I were running too” hard. No, I’m talking “pang in my heart, itch in my legs, must resist the urge” kind of hard! I was never a huge racing fan before I started running, and even after I started running, I didn’t get into races until I ran my first one. As great as it was to cheer on complete strangers, all I wanted to do was run.
When Josh came running by about 20 minutes later I kicked off my flip-flops, put my coffee down and began running with him. Yes, I know. I’m rehabbing and I’m not supposed to be running! But I promise I was forced to run lightly since I was completely barefoot. It felt great. Just being out there with the other runners felt absolutely awesome. After taking Josh up a particularly steep hill, I bid him good luck and jogged back to my spot, cheering each runner I passed.
So, what did I learn?
I learned that running a mile barefoot isn’t so bad. It actually got me thinking that maybe one of these days I’ll try a 10K or half-marathon completely bare.
But the biggest thing I learned on Sunday was that I don’t like being a spectator. I will continue to support friends who run local races, but I have a feeling that if I’m healthy, I’m a lot more likely to be joining them at the starting line instead of cheering them on. I think that I can apply this to other parts of my life as well. How many of us have spent a good chunk of our adult years as a spectators or watchers? While I try to figure out what that means, I’ll just have to start with a half marathon next week (anybody else running the Boston Run to Remember?) and some 5K’s over the summer.
I can’t wait to get back on the road.