I remember when I ran my first marathon: wind running through my hair, beads of sweat dripping down my face, nothing in front of me but a finish line of fortitude, leaving behind all of my weakness and exhaustion.
Okay, so I’ve actually never run a marathon. In fact, I can’t imagine having enough stamina to run even half a marathon (or a quarter). In fact, the closest I have ever been to running a marathon is standing on the sidelines of the Boston Marathon, cheering on the runners while simultaneously giving them high fives and pats on the back. And this, honestly, is one of the most exciting things I’ve done in my past 2 years of living in Boston.
Witnessing a marathon and the runners isn’t only amazing, but it’s also incredibly moving and almost poetic. Runners of all ages train vigorously all year for this one moment when they put their bodies to the ultimate test. I usually stand at Mile 21, and the runners glide right past me, fully focused on their goal, their eyes filled with a fierce determination. Astonishingly, these are just ordinary people who are doing something extraordinary. You would think I would see staggering pain in their faces but I don’t; their passions mask the ache they’re feeling. It’s like standing witness to a battle in which everyone wins, in which everyone is rooting for one another.
I recently asked a runner friend of mine why he runs marathons and how he can stand the last few miles, which I’ve heard are the very worst. He just looked at me with a gentle smile and said, “I guess it’s the feeling. The feeling of knowing that if I finish these 26 miles, I can basically do anything else I set my mind to. Like knowing that no matter how depleted my body was, it could still carry me to the finish line. The thought of a cold beer and a burger at the end helps too, I guess.”
So there you have it, frank words of wisdom from a superhero among human beings. So go to a marathon in your area. Whether you’re running in it or standing on the sidelines, it’s an experience for the books.