As someone who grew up the slowest runner in my class, and the least athletic in my family, it came as a complete shock to me that running would ever be an activity I enjoy. A few years ago, inspired by one of my co-workers, Phil signed up for the full Baltimore Marathon on a whim. I started attempting smaller runs with him in training to keep in shape and try to understand how it was possible to run 26.2 miles (verdict: it's really not. I think everyone's cheating, or maybe part-machine) and caught the bug a little...but I was completely hung up on speed and after some frustrating training with my (far faster) husband, I figured I'm just not a runner and let him be one on his own.
It wasn't until I got to witness my first marathon, and all the people cheering, and proud runners finishing their races that I realized the point is not the win the race at all (in fact, only a handful of the 20k people running in a marathon are actually expecting to come close to winning).
You really can't explain the extreme joy of running in a road race unless you do it. What other activity - in which you try your hardest, feel your worst, and rank (at best) mediocre - do you get to experience so much positive energy and encouragement from complete strangers? When else does it feel so safe and healthy to be out in the street in any neighborhood in Baltimore? When else is everyone cheering for everyone?
What would we do differently in our small businesses, or our lives, if the sentiment was like a road race? "Yes I look like shit, I feel like shit... and everyone else is going faster & doing it better... but I might as well smile and keep going, because holy crap, there are a lot of people shouting to tell me I'm amazing at this!" (not to mention, they've made really amazing banners: "You run better than the government"; "If marathons were easy, they'd be your mom" "Worst Parade EVER" or my personal favorite: "RUN!! Omar Comin'")
Despite the entire city having to shut down this weekend, and stay put because Baltimore marathon routes close roads- there REALLY are not that many angry people in Baltimore on marathon day. It's the one time I find all Baltimoreans incredibly patient and kind. In fact, most people have just given up trying to make plans for that morning, and instead pull out their noisemakers, instruments, and shouting voices, and just scream and cheer for the runners. I decided to go a step further this year, and join a relay team. I ran my first 7 mile run (please ignore the fact that this is 1/4 the distance a lot of people ran that day. These are the cheaters I mentioned earlier. They are insane. Don't mind them.) Our team finished a hilarious 302nd out of about 1500 teams, but I wouldn't have cared if we came in 1500th. I felt good, I was still standing, and in the end of the race, a very giddy & good natured bride (see above) doing a photo shoot in Remington asked if she could have a photo with a "real runner" because her wedding had accidentally become marathon themed.
She grabbed my relay medal, and gave me her bouquet. We all congratulated each other, laughed, posed, and mutually agreed it was the best day of the year in the greatest city in America.
Then I mentally signed myself up for next year's half-marathon, and erased 30 years of athletic self doubt.