The marathon is a test of stamina, endurance and perhaps most of all – will. Even with all the ingredients needed to complete or succeed in a marathon, none of it matters without the one key ingredient... inspiration. Where does it come from, how do we find it?
Obviously, the answer is different for everyone. And it often leads to the why question... why do we run? Again, the answers are as varied as the people who wear the bibs. But both questions are worth some exploration, as the reasons often become contagious.
When it comes to the why, and those who have inspired us, I think of some of the many world class athletes that have joined us for the Vermont City Marathon. Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, Joanie Benoit-Samuelson, Deena Kastor, Jeff Galloway and Bart Yasso to name but a few. They all have stories to share about the obstacles, either on or off the track, that had to be overcome in order to become champions. I think of Meb Keflezighi's story of perseverance to escape the horrors of war in Eritrea on his way to becoming a world class athlete and one of the greatest ambassadors running will ever have.
I think also of the awful days in mid-April of 2013. When the attacks occurred on the fine people of Boston and the Boston Marathon, we were all devastated. And we all knew someone who was present at the race in one capacity or another, we all felt some level of very personal violation. The day after the race was a somber day as we all wrestled with what it meant. As the next big race on the calendar in New England, we didn’t even know if we were going to be able to conduct our race. Uncertainty ruled and a day that is usually quite busy in our office was unbelievably quiet, the phones were silent. And I’ll never forget the feeling the following day, the running community came together and spoke loud and clear with one voice... We Will Run! Our phones rang off the hooks. Running represents freedom and no one was going to stand in the way. We collected donations for the One Fund, we invited anyone who didn’t get to cross the finish line in Boston to run with us, “on the house” and despite some of the worst race day weather we’ve ever experienced, everyone came together to run as one, to run Boston Strong.
But when I think of stories that have provided me with inspiration, I think back to a simple email I received several years ago from a gentleman who was planning to run our race. It would not be either his first marathon or his first experience with our race. He wrote to tell me that he was running because his wife asked him to. It seems that fate had entered their lives most unexpectedly, his wife had recently been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer; she had only a few months at best. While he struggled with this news, he told her that he was going to suspend his running so that he could be present for her and assist with her care. Apparently, she told him that this was unacceptable; she wanted him to continue his training. Her final request for her husband was that she wanted to see him cross one more finish line. A couple who found their inspiration in one another.
If you believe, it can be true. Someone once said, if you ever lose faith in humanity, just go to a marathon.
If you have a story to share about why you run... pass it along, we may post it here so others can benefit as well.