Friday, September 2, 2011

The day I became a runner

Last Saturday I became a runner.

In years past, I've run many races throughout the summer and fall, but this year I decided against it. Then last week I realized I needed experience pinning my bib onto my shirt, so on Friday morning I changed my mind about mid-training races.

That afternoon, I signed up for the Scheels Shoes That Fit 10K. I'm sure race directors everywhere love people who wait until the last moment to sign up for events that take planning, volunteers, details and money.

It makes preparation so easy and carefree, doesn't it?

This race was different in a way I noticed beginning Friday night because I wasn't nervous. I was so much not nervous I almost forgot to lay out my gear for the morning. If it weren't for the joke about pinning my bib onto my shirt, I might have forgotten completely. Everyone lays out their gear the night before! It's in all the running magazines and all the cool kids do it. How could I forget?

I gave almost no thought to what I would wear, then went to bed. I woke up on time, not early. I got dressed. I drove to the race. I remembered my watch, which is the real measure of my nerves.

Mildly curious, I wondered why I wasn't nervous. I've been nervous at every event I've ever done.

At the starting line, I found running club mates and gathered 'round. I looked about and saw people I know. I talked to folks who were standing right that moment at their first starting line ever. We talked and joked. I was having fun and that's when it hit me: I knew what I was doing.

I was with my crowd, my peeps from the running club, strange strangers who enjoy running and want to encourage and be encouraged. There we were that morning runners and walkers who had no idea what they were getting into mixing with those who know the brutality and glory of a beautiful long-distance run.

Where else would I rather be right at that moment?

In the past I have been intimidated by the runners who surrounded me at these races. This year, in my mind, I was one of them. Running with my IMT Des Moines Marathon running club has made such a difference. I knew these runners: their limitations, how hard some of them were trying. I knew that for some of them, this 10k was just a training run.

But for some of them, this was the distance they'd been working hard for in training.

Sometimes during previous races, I would be hesitant to call out encouragement but not this time. I encouraged even the runners who were struggling, but had their headphones turned up so loud they would have missed a nuclear blast.

I always applaud when the winners lap me, but this Saturday I led the applause. At the end of this race, this race that changed me, I stood at the finish line as part of a human chute to welcome across the finish a 65-year-old man with a cane.

After suffering a stroke, with a cane, he came in just under two hours. That's an amazing time for an amazing man, accomplishing an amazing feat. Watching him win this race made me feel giddy!

When you don't know, it's easy to think everyone at a race is a natural runner. When you don't know, it's easy to think you're the only one who struggles with running. When you don't know, it's easy to think there's only one winner at every race. When you don't know, it's easy to think you're the only person at the race running from something scary in life.

But look around: you're in a crowd.

Many thanks to my crowd. The runners and non-runners who have contributed to my little exercise in helping some children we don't know take a shot at becoming something better in the future. I feel so grateful for all the ways in which you've reached out to me this summer. Thanks for making it bigger and better than I knew to expect.


Rose said...

This is a good post, Caron....I am glad you enjoyed the race...glad you crossed the line from being nervous to it just being something you do.

Caron said...

Thank you, Rose! I am looking forward to catching up with you.

Cindy said...

Congratulations Caron! You are a runner! What a wonderful post.

Lauren said...

Loved this post. Sounds like something clicked. It turns out, by this logic, I'm not a runner b/c after all these years I get starting line jitters. Oh well, I still enjoy them.

Rambling Woods said...

I too loved the post...your a runner and a really great person with a big heart..who could ask for anything more...hugs..Michelle