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The Best Thing Most People Miss At A Marathon

The Start Of The Buffalo Marathon (Clay Moden)
The Start Of The Buffalo Marathon (Clay Moden)

I had the pleasure of witnessing my first marathon this past weekend at the Buffalo Marathon.I love to run, but have not been ready for the challenge of running 13.1 (half) or 26.2 miles (full) marathon, until what I experienced at this race.

An athlete determined to finish crawls to the end
An athlete determined to finish crawls to the end

My “job” on Sunday was to announce the times and names of the top finishers of the race.Like most races, there are some elite runners and outstanding athletes that show up. I was blown away and inspired by a few things that I saw at the finish line. Including an 85 year old man that ran the half marathon in just over 2 hours! Or the guy I saw CRAWL to the finish. I was super impressed by the guy that finished first in the half with a time just over 1:05:00! I spoke to him after the race and he considered that a “little off the pace.” These all were so incredible to witness and was going to be the basis of what I was gonna blog about. Until I was heading out to leave for the day.

Like I said, my job was to announce just the top finishers and be gone. That’s as easy as it gets in our profession. As I was walking out of the Buffalo Convention Center just over 5 and a half hours after the start of the race, I saw that there was hardly anyone waiting at the finish anymore. Some of the vendors had started to pack up for the day and even the city crews were loading up the cones and fences. Then I saw something that blew me away.

It was an older woman. I’d guess in her late 50′s/early 60′s? She had on a polo shirt, long sweatpants and what looked like older running shoes. No fancy LuLuLemon clothes or shoes.  She was making the final turn toward the finish at a pace I could walker faster than. She looked flat out exhausted. Her face was bright red and her strides were definitely shaky. I stood and watched her make the finish line in complete amazement. She did it! Was it the full or half? I have no way of knowing and honestly it doesn’t matter.

Our society has a fascination with winners. Those that finish first get the accolades and I get that. It’s something special to be the best. But perhaps we should be more focused on the stories and moments like what I saw with that woman.Nobody will ever see her name on the front page or hear me announce it from a stage. But isn’t life all about her story of perseverance? Shouldn’t we show up to watch and be excited to see “the last finishers?” That moment when she crossed the line had to mean everything to her. It had to be the one thing she had been “training” for. That had to be the one thing she had been telling her friends and family she wanted to do someday. It had to be the moment that kept her up this past weekend worrying if she could do it. It had to be the one thing that she will be talking about for the rest of her life. When she tells people she will most likely be humble when she says” yea but I was so slow.”

In my 34 years of being around sports and tough athletes and people trying to be the best, I  have never been so emotionally impacted by someone or something like that. It was the single thing that defines why people do marathons and is the perfect example of what we should be striving for in every single thing we do. Finish! That’s what it is all about. Not giving up. Not worrying if anyone will be around to see it happen. Not caring that you may not have the best equipment or talent. Life’s goal should be about trying as hard as you can to achieve something you want even if it means being a little slower. I have no clue who this woman is that I saw yesterday. But I have never been more proud of a stranger in my life.

If you ever get to a marathon, stick around til the end and you’ll see somethings that may inspire you like nothing else has before.

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