I’ve always loved training for races. But actually doing the race? Not so much. Practice is a peaceful time, where conversations with friends mingle with the thwak thwak thwak of shoes against pavement in an A Capella workout tune. Breathing is controlled, rhythmic, and relaxed. Everyone finishes around the same time, and we stand around for a while, exchanging high fives (still allowed after doing something athletic and/or outdoorsy) while congratulating each other on our collective awesomeness.
Racing, on the other hand, conjures up images of a gruesome battle; generally I frantically scramble after the person in front of me, gasping for air, praying for a miraculous burst of speed to propel me towards the finish line at the end. All to win…what? A victory over someone else going for the same goal? The knowledge that my good race could equate to someone else’s loss? No…I don’t like racing.
At least I didn’t, until last March where I ran the Moab half marathon and had one of the most amazing (and tiring!) days of my life! I ran it with this group called Team in Training; a group of people that train for races together and raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. My six-month experience with the group changed the way I look at working out; I’ve always been an exercise fanatic, relishing the emotional high I get from moving and pushing my body in ways I never thought possible. I’ve always made time in my day for exercise; it’s truly the best form of therapy, and it’s free! I know that after a long run or a particularly grueling round of Insanity (awesome workout! You have to try it!) life’s challenges become clear, and I know I can maneuver through the small and large obstacles of daily existence. I’ve always wanted my exercise habit/addiction to go towards something bigger, and Team in Training offered a way for me to do that.
What I took away from the experience more than anything was the support that the team offered each other. It was about raising money for a good cause, but it was also about community, friendship, and unconditional encouragement. Racing in Moab, I ran next to people from Team in Training around the country; they recognized my shirt and automatically cheered, or started a conversation, or offered words of encouragement. How cool is that!! It wasn’t just the people from Team in Training though; most everyone at the race was friendly and conversational, undaunted by the fact that we were standing around in 32 degree weather before the sun rose getting ready to run 13.1 miles. We were just a bunch of crazy people doing something kind of silly, and I thought that was monumentally cool. Running for a good cause shifted my focus from myself and killed 90 percent of my pre-race jitters and the long distance made my goal simply to finish, rather than a time goal. At the end of the run, I purposely looked away from the clock; the race had been so awesome I didn’t want to attach a number with it! Later that day, my uncle ended up text-congratulating me, including my time and placement in the message, spoiling my fun…but he didn’t know my plan, and I definitely appreciated the encouragement!!
That day unleashed the charity monster in me; I want to keep running/racing for something I believe in, so I can do something I love while helping others! I’m running my first marathon on May 16th and plan to do two things to help others on my long distance journey; first, I’m going to wear my No Meat Athlete t-shirt (it’s the coolest looking shirt with a running carrot on it! Go to nomeatathlete.com to look for your own.) to show that it’s totally possible to be fit while eating a plant based diet, saving animals, and helping the environment. Also, I’m going to donate my medal to this foundation called Medals4Mettle; a non-profit organization whose mission is to (I’m going to quote the website here because it explains better than I can) “celebrate and reward the individual and collective courage of all human beings by facilitating the gifting of marathon finisher’s medals from marathoners to people who have demonstrated similar mettle, or courage. The recipients can be any age and might have exhibited such mettle by dealing with disease, handicaps or any similar challenge. Marathon runners around the world, and others who have won medals, give their medals to Medals4Mettle. Then our nationwide network of physicians and others award these medals to those who might not be able to run a marathon, but are in their own marathon to continue to live their life. As marathoners run through the streets, large crowds cheer the runners for their effort. Medals4Mettle lets these runners, healthy enough to compete in such an event, to return the cheers to those who have supported them.”
I don’t know that I’m strong enough to complete a marathon by myself, but I feel like these organizations I’m supporting are actually carrying me along in my race, and I feel so grateful for that. Plus, it gives me another excuse to wake up at 4 in the morning and run 26.2 miles.