I have a bunch of friends, and they are great.
They are supportive, cheerful and optimistic. They like my posts about my SLRs. They leave comments of encouragement and they think I’m speedy! And yet, I’ve met none of these people.
Granted these are just a subset of the many people I have encountered through running, but they are a huge reason why I do it. After I received my congratulatory email about my acceptance into the 2014 Marine Corp Marathon Class, I joined the FB group for the race. There are 2,890 members in the group, a small minority considering that the marathon fields 30,000 participants, but these folks are active both physically and socially.
Every day dozens of posts go up, everything from pictures of GPS watches with distances and average pace to questions about plaguing pains to thoughts about the best race day nutrition. A mix of newbies and multi-marathoners in the group, there is no judgement to be had, just camaraderie and encouragement.
As I began to run new personal distance records (PDRs), I also started sharing my excitement my posting to the group. What’s remarkable is how a simple photo of a Garmin watch can clock upwards of 60 likes from complete strangers. Although I often don’t know a single person liking my photo, the simple fact that people are recognizing my efforts is incredible! The comments about my speediness, which I’m still not totally convinced about, are making me even more ready for race day. Maybe then I’ll finally have convinced myself that I am, dare I say it, speedy.
Come October 26, I’ll be running past thousands of strangers standing on the sidewalks with cowbells and poster boards. I won’t know but a few faces in the crowd, but there is nothing like the energy from race supporters to keep a runner motivated and working hard.
I remember my first half marathon and how much the crowd impacted me. I had no one out there on the course holding up a sign or cheering my name. Yet it didn’t matter. I didn’t need the personal attention; the thousands of strangers watching me was plenty. Crowds and their support are a big reason runners can see a boost in their spirit, and their speed, while racing.
As I conquered the infamous Calvert Hill during the Rock N’ Roll half marathon this past March and began to settle back on the flat course, I ran past one of my roommates cheering my name with a sign that said, “Run Happy. Go Bethany.” At that moment, I know my face lit up a thousand watts. I was only halfway through the race, but the sight of a familiar face was all I needed to motivate me to speed up so I could get to the finish line sooner to hug and thank her.
For my marathon, my parents are coming down to watch me check this baby off my bucket list. Along with a core group of friends who are still plotting what to write on their signs, I will have more than enough support on the 26.2 mile course. I’m anxious for that moment when I can run by my parents and my best friends and show them what I have worked so hard for these past four months. Even though I’m not doing it for any of them, it is amazing to know how much support will be to watch me challenge myself and strive to accomplish my goals.