No matter where you go, you’re welcomed here…
I spent much of this past week in Little Rock, Arkansas visiting family. My week-long trip fell during week five of Boston Marathon training which includes a 17 mile long run. I’ve run shorter distances in downtown Little Rock in the past but decided it would be nice to have some company for this run. I googled the nearest running club. Their website listed weekly runs including the free group training for the upcoming Little Rock Marathon. Rock City Running sponsors the free training program so I called the store to see what time they were meeting and make sure it would be okay to drop-in for a run. A woman cheerfully answered the phone, answered my questions and said “We look forward to seeing you Saturday at 6 a.m.” I hung up the phone very excited to have people to run with but less excited about the early start time… LOL, I was on vacation and hoping to sleep in.
Welcome to the Running Community
I arrived to the running store around 5:45 Saturday morning to meet for the group run. Pulling up to the parking lot, I noticed several people already standing outside stretching and warming up. I started to get a nervous feeling like a new kid walking into class the first day of school. Who will I run with? I walked up and was greeted by Bill Torrey the store’s owner. “How many miles you doing today?” he asked while I signed in. As I started to say “17” I noticed most people had written 18 by their names on the sign-in sheet. Bill chuckled and said “Aw, you might as well do 18 too.” That’s people in running community, always encouraging others to go a little farther, “It’s just one more mile.”
After talking to Bill I went outside to warm up with the other runners. They asked me where I was from, how far I planned to go and at what pace. One of the runners introduced himself as “The Pope” a nickname given to him by the group because he was known to attract new runners to the group through his enthusiasm for the sport. Once we took off, I was able to find another runner with a similar pace going the same distance. We started the run as complete stranger but by the end of 18 miles we knew a lot about one another. We talked about our lives, our families, our life/running goals as well as offered support to each other while running over the hills and through the more challenging parts of the run.
In the end, we are all runners
One of the things I love the most about running is the people you meet along the way. From weekly runs to race day, you’ll find runners/walkers giving high-fives and saying “looking good” to people who’s names they don’t know and who they may never see again. The running community is a place where folks of all ages, sizes, races and walks of life come together and show support for one another as they take steps toward one common goal – to finish. It’s a valuable lesson, I think we all can learn from. Despite differences, many of us have instilled in us one commonality – a desire to prevail.
On Patriots’ Day 2017, I look forward to joining tens of thousands of runners from across the world. Many of us will start the day with little in common except for the hope of ending the day as Boston Marathon Finishers.