They did well (4 hours, 41 minutes) for their first marathon. They stayed together and turned out to be physically up to the challenge. As the finish line approached, they locked hands and raised them in victory. They even sped up a little in renewed energy as they ran over that finish line. "I didn't even see you there, I was so focused. All I could hear was everybody cheering," my son said. "Honey, that wasn't everybody. That was us!" Meaning his rather large and loud extended family.
Earlier we had parked our camp chairs near the 11 mile stop. We held up our posters with funny and encouraging sayings. One of the posters had the names of our two sons. Seeing the names on the posters, more than one person spoke to us as they passed by, telling us nice things about our sons and that they were not far behind. (Both boys have very unique names. So if you met them, you generally know there's only one of those with that name.) So I began to get a sense of the camaraderie that existed at this marathon (and I imagine at others). Obviously, for most runners except for the few that truly expect to take the first places, this cannot be a competition against others. It is a quest of one's own soul. (My son came in 1,321th!!! Woot!!)
Well, the way my mind works I began to take in a spiritual or cosmic meaning to this marathon experience. I knew I wanted to write a post about it.
We stood at the finish line waiting for our sons and cheering for the others. The announcers said the name of each runner and tried to make a unique or funny comment as well. I thought about how there were thousands of people in the marathon (and the simultaneous half-marathon). And as I watched the people go by, I got a small sense of the stories that were there. There were runners of all ages from younger than ten to in their 70s. There were men and women. There were seasoned runners, first timers, and every body in between. There were girlfriends running in high-fashion matching running outfits. There was a man with a leopard shirt that I knew he was channeling. There were significant partners running together. There was the woman we saw on a side street when we were trying to find parking who seemed to have walked off the marathon without finishing. There was a blind gentleman running the half-marathon with his guides. There was a man running--not with mp3 player and earbuds--but with a huge boom box over his shoulder. As the announcers mentioned a few details, there were runners who were running after coming through illness and other health scares, embracing a new body and new life. There were runners who ran in memory of those they lost. After a while I could see that these were not just runners, but these were carriers of stories. You don't run without a story. Even our sons, while their story was not tragic or anything, were bringing their youthful desire to commit and to excel and to experience life fully and to do it as best friends. I love that story!
And then, as I am wont to do, I widened my feeling from the stories of these thousands of runners on that one day to include you. A thousand more stories. Thousands and thousands.
You wake up every morning and you go. One way or the other. There are probably not going to be pit stops with energy food, and people with posters cheering, and a medal for when you finish. But you are the carrier of your story. You are so precious!! And your story is always evolving. Embrace the plot twists, right?
Like a marathon, life is not really about winning. If you have a taste for that, then by all means, enjoy. But like a marathon, life is about showing up no matter what your story is, being part of a group of people who all know what it's like to run that course (or will very soon). You're together and yet there is some silence and private things going on inside that only you can know and have to deal with in order to keep your feet moving. Life ought to have some celebrations similar to the energy of a finish line; where we do the victory dance for small and big things. Like a marathon, it does NOT matter what your story is, you deserve to be there and run. Like a marathon, the reward is not the external prize at the end it's about who you become because of your experience. The reward is the experience itself.
I honor your story, your running. *Holds up a poster with your name on it and cheers wildly!*