(on the Leading Ladies Marathon 2006)
“Never underestimate the power of a woman.”
Sylvia Doll (My Mother…the soul of wit and wisdom.)

All signs indicated potential danger. Cautions, flares, banners, and the ominous pilot car. Subtle suggestions of soft shoulders, sharp curves, sudden speed. Strange traffic warnings, cryptic signage, and mysterious tables of a strange blue liquid periodically positioned. Beware, was the message; be vigilant, was the feeling; en guarde, was the dictate. The canyon was tremulous with anticipation, trepidation, and expectation.

Yep, we did it again. Three hundred fifty sets of “soft shoulders” cruised down the canyon from the Lead Country Club through the wooden foot bridge in Spearfish city Park. And again the positive energy was stimulating, the joyful faces inspiring, and the pervasive attitude one of celebration. To witness women realizing they are so much more than they thought, that the impossible is only the untried, that pain really is temporary, and pride really is forever…that’s the real joy and reward of orchestrating this monumental venture.

And again they came from everywhere, women from 40 states, DC and 3 foreign countries; from across the street and down the street and off the street…some walked, some ran, some did a combination, all finished. They began as a group of runners and strangers, finished as a family... There is a tangible, transferable, immutable power in having committed to, trained for, and completed the prodigious distance of 26.2 miles or 13.1 miles…it was a new experience for some, a familiar endeavor to many, but a first time for everyone. Every marathon or half marathon is an entity unto itself; with a personality and an indelible stamp that makes it singularly unique. Each is to be celebrated, archived, and pulled up in time of need.

No extraordinary experience is obtained ordinarily. Those nuggets of ‘wonderful’ in our lives do not come cheaply; effort, energy and endurance pretty much identify the currency of a class ‘A’ memory. As the sun climbed over the tree furred ridge of Cyclone Hill, and curious deer puzzled at the colorful intrusion, I reminded the nervous torrent of women that many had been in labor longer, that there would be a tomorrow, and that the key to surviving is in knowing we can, we can, we can.

So another marathon is completed, we have another “Knot In Our Counting Rope”, another occasion of meeting life at the door, inviting it in, and fearlessly daring to enjoy it to the fullest. I am more than proud of my friends, eternally indebted to my volunteers, and humbled by the stellar support of my city.

Many brilliant vignettes flash in my mind, but there is one that exemplifies the totality of this journey. Ignoring recent knee surgery, a broken toe, and the uncertainty of never having attempted this distance; and after having assembled, encouraged, and hosted similar sisters and families of the famed ‘Blue Crew’, the courageous blonde capped her conquest with a gutsy dash for the finish line. From the sidelines a small dark eyed boy clapped his hands and cried excitedly, “Run, mommy, run! You’re winning!” And she was.

Congratulations to all of the athletes and to those who supported them. Obviously “soft shoulders” hide a lot of sinew.

Elaine Doll-Dunn

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