It’s not until you run a race that you realize how many amazing runners are out there in the world. Sometimes, it gets me down, especially when I’m trying to PR and one by one, I’m being passed.
Talk about feeling sub-par.
But, it’s a humbling experience. Humbling and motivating.
This weekend I ran my third half-marathon. I was so excited to have 13.1 miles to myself. To let my mind roam. To think about things and go to places I hadn’t gone in a while.
For me, that’s the beauty of running. While I’m not the best runner out there by a long shot, running has helped me overcome many mental hurdles and accomplish goals in all aspects of my life.
I firmly believe in the mental benefits of running, because I’ve seen how it’s shaped my own life.
Back in college, I was still struggling with an eating disorder. I hadn’t yet fallen in love with running or realized the power it could have. As I was running in the half marathon and facing a daunting mile of flat, straight pavement I had a flashback.
I remember being at my boyfriend at the time’s house years ago. We were in a long distance relationship and I had spent about a week or so there. When I say we ate well at his house, I mean, I had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten with him. To someone without an eating disorder, it was a dream come true. To me at the time, I was ridden with anxiety.
At one particular moment during this stay, I couldn’t take the bad thoughts anymore so I said, “I have to go on a run.” He agreed. We laced up our shoes and hit the pavement. Almost immediately, I felt the anxiety, the worry, the “Oh my gosh, I’m going to get fat” thoughts slowly melt away.
While running in the race over the weekend, and thinking back, I believe it was at that point in my life that I started making the connection between running and how powerful it is for promoting a healthy mind and a healthy life. I was on the brink of something… I just didn’t know what. I smiled as I reflected and thought, “Look how far I’ve come.”
But, while that was powerful, something even more amazing happened during this race.
There was this boy who was severely handicapped. I saw him before the race. He had one of the biggest, most beautiful smiles I had ever seen. He was purely enjoying the Katy Perry song that blared from the speakers. There was a group of women in pink shirts who surrounded him – his support group. This would be his second (maybe third?) half marathon and he would be pushed by this group of women. All 13.1 miles.
At about mile 2 or 3, I caught up to this group. Immediately, I felt the tears well in my eyes as I approached the group. Music was playing from one woman’s phone and they were laughing and trucking along at a pretty fast pace. I was side by side with them, and I caught a glance of this little boy’s face. Glee. Pure joy and happiness radiated from his smile. I couldn’t hold my gaze for too long, because I was overwrought with emotion.
What happened next astounded me.
We were working our way up a hill. At this point, only one woman was pushing the wheelchair. Seeing that this was a tough feat for her to accomplish alone, without saying a word, one of the other women in the group ran up beside her and took on pushing the wheelchair up the hill with her. Side by side, as a team, they pushed this little boy – this angel – up the hill. No questions asked. They were going to work together to make sure he crossed the finish line.
I was on the sidelines as the team crossed the finish line and the cheers resounded loud as people came together to support and congratulate them.
That is what running is all about. Running is about coming together. Supporting each other on our journeys to healthy lives – body, mind, and spirit. Running helps us figure out our own ailments, while at the same time creating a strong community.
If you haven’t ran in a race, I highly suggest you do so. It’s enthralling. It’s addicting. It’s moving. It’ll make you feel feelings you’ve never felt before. And the beauty of it is, you won’t be alone.