This morning, I ran the MAD 5K, which was sponsored by the Madison High School Track and Field Team. I registered on Thursday because I got this crazy idea in my head that I would run a race each weekend up until Miss Virginia (if you have one in mind, let me know!).
I am so glad I picked this 5K to kick off my racing "season." It really had it all: beautiful weather, a small but spirited group of runners, a fun course with some hills, and an awesome group of supporters (thank you, Madison Track and Field team!!).
It's been a rough week for runners. The Boston Marathon bombing hit close to home for runners everywhere for a couple reasons. First, the Boston Marathon is pretty much the pinnacle of distance running. If you're a marathon runner, somewhere, deep inside, you would do pretty much anything to earn that BQ (Boston Qualifier time).
The second reason is more important.
If you are a runner, whether you have run a 5k or ten marathons, you have experienced the emotional windfall that happens at a finish line. It's a mix of the joy of accomplishing what you set out to do with the pain in your feet and the eagerness to see those who have come out to support you. It is accomplishment and relief all rolled into one. To be quite honest, it's pretty much unexplainable (although I'm trying very hard to do it right now) if you have never experienced it.
And Boston could have been any race. It could have been any of us. The bombings broke the heart of every runner.
Today, I was reminded of how powerful and special the running community is. Running is amazing in that there are no rules, and, really, it's not about the clock. Runners are young and old, fat and thin, fast and slow. We are runners not because we BQ or don't BQ or because we've run a certain distance, and we're not really competing against each other. Each run - whether one mile or fifty - is about fighting to become the best version of you that you can be. It's about spending some QT (quality time) with yourself, letting go of the self-judgements and negative thoughts, and not allowing the voice in your head to tell you that you can't.
For 20 minutes or four hours, it's just you and the run.
Today was a great run. Runs like the one I had this morning are the reason I fell in love with running. I had a gigantic smile on my face from the first gun to the finish line, and I found myself being paced by an eight year old boy and his father.
They bombed the finish line of the pinnacle of distance running, and we are still running, with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts. I think that means that it never was - and never is - about the finish line.
It's about being paced by an eight-year-old, appreciating fresh air and feeling your heart beat, watching as people achieve goals, and celebrating the best that life has to offer. Running is the essence of what it means to be alive -- something violence and hate can never take away. In this way, our hearts may be broken, but the spirit of running is indestructible.
For what it's worth, I was beat by the eight year old boy.
The first thing I had to do when I crossed the finish line was catch up and thank him for helping me to achieve a 26:03 finish -- the fastest 5K time I've ever run in my short running life.