The 2012 Buckelew Farm 5k was my first official run. Of course, I started off too fast and felt like I was going to die when I crossed the finish line but I surprised myself too when I found some gas in the tank for a healthy sprint past the clock and the little blue mat. My time, let’s just say, wasn’t anything to write home about. At least, it wouldn’t have been had this not been my first race. My wife was there to cheer me on and that meant the world to me.
After several races, it was time to do the New Years Resolution 5k and that’s where I met Karen. An older woman who raced easily and really challenged me, I spoke with her a bit after the race. She ended up telling me something I’ll never forget; When it comes to having friends who won’t race with you, “..then maybe it’s time to find new friends.”. Of course, she didn’t mean you can’t be friends with non-runners but she did mean that I could reach out and make new friends while waiting for the gun or just out and about in the community. This makes a lot of sense to me.
That’s pretty much how I met Steve. We were gearing up to go on Dave’s MLS 10k, standing there next to each other and sharing some small talk. He offered his hand and introduced himself, we wished each other luck and off we went. But it wasn’t what happened before the race that really set Steve apart – it was what happened after the race.
He found me after he crossed the line and invited me to come cheer with him. We backtracked just a little bit and started cheering on the runners still coming in. At first, it was uncomfortable for me. Outside of my comfort zone for sure, I squeeked encouragement and clapped a bit but overall, I was pretty unsure. That was ok.
I met up with him again at the Cross-Country 5k. When one of the guys complained that he got lost, we decided to backtrack a bit and cheer the ladies while making sure they kept to the path at some tricky spots. We split up a bit but could hear each other roaring out our encouragement; “You got this!” and “You ARE Awesome!!”.
And I tell you, when a runner smiles at you when you’ve been cheering them on, it feels great. You feel like you’re doing something to help them out, maybe distracting them for a second from the trials of running. Maybe you’re affirming who they want to be and the goals they’ve set for themselves. And you get excited, and you cheer louder and more sincerely – and as they keep coming, your smile just get’s wider and wider.
This last race we did was the Dr. Gann’s Diet of Hope 10k. I was slapping high-fives just after the finish line waiting for my buddy, Steve. When he came in, he needed some time to cool off and I met up with some other friends for a bit. Not too long after, I went looking for him; ‘Where could he be?’, I thought.
Well, he’s probably cheering people on – so I made my way back to the finish line and didn’t see him. Then it occurred to me, he’s probably further along cheering people down the final stretch.
Sure enough, I saw him there in the distance facing away and cheering the runners that were still making their way down that last leg of the race. We shook hands and started screaming our heads off; “You ARE awesome!”, “Way to go!”.. “You’re my hero!”.