My cousin ran in the Phoenix Half-Marathon today. She had planned to do so last year, but a broken something in her ankle during a training run sidelined last year’s plans. 2 hours 27 minutes was all it took her to run 13.1 miles. Is that amazing or what? It is to me. She’s my hero and I’m dang proud of her today.
Since she’s from out-of-state, and I’m the local, I got to do the driving. I also got to do the cheering. I made a double-sided sign to encourage her along the road a few times.
One side of the sign said, “YOU CAN DO IT!” in big block letters, each colored a different bright shade of marker.
The other side of the sign said, “GO KETTIE GO!” and “YAY” along with her race number. I highlighted her name in shiny sparkles, each letter a different shade of bling. This is funny because she is the least blingy person I know.
What she did today was all BLING in my eyes.
I came prepared to cheer. I’d read up on what you should and shouldn’t say to runners to encourage them. I’d looked up funny sayings for signs. I found some suggestions for good places to set up your cheering station. I had my driving route planned to avoid traffic. I also had brought a camp chair, a book, a drink, some snacks and a warm blanket.
My plan was to cheer for her at mile marker 4ish. Mile marker 8ish, and for sure at the finish line.
There were police officers at the intersections near where I’d decided to set up for my first sighting of my cousin. (Boy, do they have a tough job directing traffic during an event this big.) I set up my mini temporary campsite, leaned my sign against the chair and waited for the first wave of runners.
It wasn’t long before they showed up. A small, incredibly fast foursome, a long wait, a few more, a wait, a few more and then wave after wave of people. 2500 half marathoners! I clapped, I yelled, I got off my chair and clapped some more.
Then I picked up my sign and waved and cheered. As I did so I caught the eye of a few runners as they read the words, “YOU CAN DO IT!” Some smiled, some said thanks, some did a thumbs up or cheered back.
A little while later I saw my cousin in her neon turquoise shirt and hot pink running shorts and lime green shoes. I flipped my sign over so the words, “GO KETTIE GO” were showing. I jumped and waved and screamed and high-fived her. Then I watched her run down the road and out of sight.
Time to pack up and head out to the next stop four miles away.
But then I saw the next wave of runners coming. I held up my sign for a minute more. Some had faces that said, “What did I get myself in to?” Some faces looked like pain personified. Some kept their heads down and plowed ahead. Some smiled back and said thank you.
I stood there and cheered another 20 minutes for total strangers. Every face had a story in it. Every runner was suddenly someone I wondered about, would like to talk to, hoped the best for.
I stood there so long that I missed my chance of getting to the 8 mile area I wanted to cheer at. I showed up at the 11 mile spot. I held up my sign again, saw the same red faces, the same tutus and neon socks and sweat soaked shirts. Were they ever tired. The stories on their faces were more poignant by this time. The pain more prevalent. The wonder I had about each of them more intense.
I wanted to yell, “only 2 more miles” but there is nothing “ONLY” about 2 more miles at that point.
I saw my cousin. Switched my sign to her name. Cheered her on and saw joy and elation and energy on her face. I couldn’t stay longer for any other runners. I hurried back to my car so I could be at the finish line.
I missed that part. Too much traffic, too big of a crowd. But that’s okay. It was her race and her personal victory. I was just a face in the crowd watching and learning and wanting to know all the stories.
The finish line is just the end of a very long chapter in a story made of many more chapters.
Last night, when I found this quote, I didn’t understand it. Now I do.
Putting one foot in front of the other time and again, in spite of it all, is a miracle and a wonder to me.
To all those sore-footed, blackened toenailed, achy muscled persevering half marathoners: Congratulations and Thank You.