Her name was Hobbit. She was not the typical runner or even a typical walker. Physically that is, her heart was the heart of a competitor, and her mind the mind of a calculating, cunning, courageous runner. As she neared the finish line of the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon, as she glowed and smiled her way down that brick paved, fans lined, heat seared historic street, I watched my stoic husband stand with legs apart, arms open wide, just the other side of the finish line banner. He let her make her painful triumphant way to the mat, step across, then, unmindful of the tears that lined the dust on his weary face, he bent to envelope her in his long arms; she had just completed a nine hour and thirty-two minute marathon. Now that…is a hero. She for taking it on, he for letting her try; a gamble for both.
I have a litany of heroes in my life, in the athletic venue I’ll mention some very special ones, just because they bring me up short in my own life and remind me to appreciate the gifts I have.
Katherine Switzer, the first woman to brave the mores of the times and enter the Boston Marathon under the name K. Switzer. Women were not allowed to run the marathon, it was thought too difficult for their fragile female body and psyche. HA! She was discovered, shoved off the course, got back on, finished in a respectable time and didn’t faint at the end. Showed them… in so doing she opened the door for women in marathoning.
The Achilles Athletes. The Achilles Club is a group organized to link physically challenged athletes with able-bodied runners for support in completing a marathon; I have had the privilege of running with three of these remarkable athletes.
Charlene, a blind lady from Los Angeles ran the LA Marathon with me. A short, hand-held tether connected us; if I saw a pot-hole, a slight tug and a quiet, “to me,” altered her direction but not her pace. Phenomenal.
Jery Munro, a tough little Scottish man from Boston, recovering alcoholic with MS, ran with us in Boston and again in the New York City Marathon. He cheered everyone on, yelling, “Pain is temporaaary, pride is faw eva!” His legs were always numb by the time we finished, but he never complained.
Sarah, a perky, petite blond in her mid twenties who had only one leg; we ran Los Angeles and Chicago together. She did so well with her prosthesis that I made her keep the conversation going just so I could breathe.
And anyone who finishes a marathon. Until you have run one, you can’t know the physical, mental, emotional, and psychological challenge. The marathon is a microcosm of life, and those frustrations, challenges, opportunities that we meet daily are all there in a marathon. There is always the option of quitting, that’s not the problem. It’s dealing with yourself if you do.
We live far below the energies we have, and the marathon takes us to a level that taps those reserves we didn’t realize existed. Even with adequate training, after mile twenty, the training is for the head only; hope and guts are what get you through the last six-point-two.
As I stood at the finish line of the marathon this year and greeted every finisher, I saluted my heroes. The tall ones, short ones, chubby, skinny fit ones, old, ones, young ones, black, red, white ones…ordinary people accomplishing the extraordinary. A humbling and exhilarating experience; heroes have that power.
So Hobbit, as the representative of all that the marathon is, all that perseverance is, and what making FT HPNZ is…thanks. You made a powerful statement.