Almost a week ago, I ran my 9th full marathon, the Richmond Marathon. Anytime I run one of these ridiculously long races, I have lots of time rattling around in my own head to do some soul searching, and this race was no exception.
Though I was out there on my own two feet and in my own head (oh, what a place to be!!), I did not run this race alone.
I ran this race with months of training and support from Charm City Run coaches and training buddies.
In the days, hours and even minutes before the race, I was flooded with messages from family, friends and clients sending me good vibes. Every single message was meaningful in my 3 hour, 45 minute and 46-second journey, and I thank everyone who took the time to send them!
I ran this race with my husband's voice in my ear, full of confidence in me, "You've had a great season--this is your race!"
There was the outstanding pacer, Mike, who led the 3:45 pace group. I slipped into the group and let Mike carry the burden of hitting our mile markers at an even pace.
Then there was that guy cheering just before we crossed a big, blustery bridge who called out to me. I was about 50 feet behind the pace group as we moved toward the incline, when this person who had never seen me before, had no stake in my success or failure, yelled out, "You're looking good, but you need to catch up and tuck in behind that pack to get over the bridge! Go! Go!" And he was right. I sped up and huddled in, shielded from the worst of the wind and pulled along by the energy of the tightly packed runners.
Volunteers at aid stations made eye contact with me even when I was at my saltiest (literally and figuratively) and most exhausted, and cheered me on as they handed off paper cups of water.
And I have to thank the coach hanging out around mile 22 who jumped in and ran with me for about a quarter mile when I was tired and achy and had a terrible pins-and-needles buzzing from the knee down in my right leg. This older gentleman was a stranger to me, but he had clearly run a few races. He saw me wincing and said, "Now's the time for you to get REEEAL UGLY with it! Just let it get ugly!" And he whooped. And at mile 25, having been given full permission to get ugly, I howled, I huffed, I spat, and I pushed. And I. Got. Ugly.
Qualifying for Boston has always seemed a distant goal for me, a pretty solid but not exceptionally fast runner. But in this race where I dug so deep and accepted so much from others around me, I almost achieved a qualifying time, missing it by less than a minute. This race was a personal best for me, and while I was the one moving the legs, it most definitely didn't happen alone.
Whether running a 100-miler or a 5K, joining a new gym, committing to a healthier diet or trying to quit smoking, this race reminded me we are so much stronger together than we are as individuals.