I decided to volunteer at the CIM because a friend, Laura was running, another friend, Ellisa asked us to, and because I needed to give back to this community of mine that has opened so many doors and exposed me to so many great adventures.
Being a last minute volunteer I was excited and happy to find a slot in the “heat blanket brigade.” I showed up at 730 am and got to work. After personally tearing open and separating 800 blankets (4 boxes), I moved on to unwrapping medals.
I watched as first, the wheelchair winner came across the finish line, followed by the men’s first, second and third place finishers crossed. Then the woman’s winner.
I watched, while I pulled plastic from the gorgeous medals and I thought about how it must feel to run that fast. I watched as the runners continued to come in, all sweaty, most breathing hard, some wobbly. I listened as they talked about mile 23, about the perfect weather, about how happy they were to run together.
I had already talked to a supervisor and asked permission to look for my friend Laura so that I could give her her medal. Laura is more than experienced so I kind of knew when she would be coming in. I watched the gun timer and the third hour decided to move to the finish line to hand out medals until Laura came in.
At last, I saw her turn the corner. I grew excited and started yelling encouragement. She, of course, was in the moment and likely didn’t hear me at all. As she got over the line and headed toward the group of volunteers handing out medals, a group I had already warned not to give her a medal, I caught her attention. It took a second for it to register but she hugged me and said she was happy I was there to give her it to her. She went on to get a heat blanket and find some rest and recovery.
I thought for a bit that I should go back to my assigned station. But I decided to stay. We each handed out hundreds of medals. My arms ache from carrying bunches at a time and lifting them all to place one around the neck of each finisher.
We yelled and greeted each runner with the name printed on their bib. The sound of their individual name being said somehow brought the runners into quick attention and often to tears.
Some asked for a hug. Others just grabbed on. Medical staff helped those who couldn’t walk anymore. Families greeted their runners. The lady whose bib read: “112th marathon” crossed the line. The blind runners and their guides smiled to hear their names yelled out as we draped their medals over their heads.
As time passed, the great swell of the middle of the pack seemed to overwhelm us. And then the crowd observing and the crowd running became sparser. After five and a half hours we were seeing the last of the runners come in. Or were we?
The timer said six and a half hours. Still, they came. One after the other, one foot in front of the other. Husbands and wives holding hands, celebrating his 40th birthday. Twin brothers dressed exactly alike save their bib numbers. Very old runners. Moms crying and holding their children. Two unrelated runners asked me to say hi to their respective mother and son via FaceTime. I happily and loudly obliged.
Runners thanked us for “staying there” so they could get their medal. We yelled louder at the end simply because the spectators were now gone and those runners needed encouragement.
Finally, I had to leave because my family was waiting. I think that all the runners ahead of the course sweepers were already in. I handed a medal to a woman whose husband would not make it in before the sweepers. She said he won’t stop until he’s finished. She wanted him to be assured his medal.
I ran this marathon last year and as many of you will recall, I was very disappointed in my performance. I’ll tell you what. Not anymore.
I saw myself in those people struggling to finish. I saw that I didn’t give up. I saw that my accomplishment was just as great as theirs. I handed medals to 3-hour marathoners and 6:45 marathoners. The accomplishment was in some ways more amazing for the slower group than for the fleet of feet.
I wasn’t jealous either. I thought I would be, but it didn’t happen. I was just happy for them and for myself that I was in such a great place to witness the triumph of the human spirit; the will’s power over the body’s performance.
I am sore. I am hoarse. I am tired. It was a perfect day.
Congratulations to those whose goals were met or exceeded…. which is just about everyone who ran today. Well done.
CIM 2017….??? Maybe.