1. The camaraderie.
I ran my first half marathon last year. I was really nervous so I got to the shuttle buses early (about 4 a.m.) and took the first one out to the starting line. A woman sat next to me on the bus and we chatted like we'd known each other forever. She told me about other races she'd done and we discussed goal times and the best trails to run in Missoula. We ended up hanging out until the race started and then she found me in the crowd of thousands afterward to congratulate me. It meant, and still means, so much that she took the effort to find me.
|The finish line at the Missoula Marathon/Half Marathon.|
Who else but another runner (or an amazing friend that doesn't mind me talking about it all the time) will willingly hang out to talk about pace or form or how badass Shalane Flanagan or Anton Krupicka are?
3. Runner's legs.
Need I say more?
4. All the happy people.
Not to say that we're all sunny, positive people, but I've found some of the most upbeat people at the starting line at 6 o'clock in the morning. I've seen racers help someone up when they've fallen; I once saw a man carry his wife across the finish line.
5. All the neon.
Where else can I wear neon pink shoes and have no one give me a strange look?
6. The "Jurek Yell."
Scott Jurek spoke in Missoula to a near-capacity crowd this past winter. He taught us the "Jurek Yell" and we called it to him on stage. I got to meet him afterward and was a rambling idiot. It was awesome.
|Tongue-tied while Sam talks ACL injuries.|
More goes into planning a race than I may ever know or understand. Organizers work with businesses and restaurants, the police, the city, the racers, hotels, the media, and countless other people to give everyone the best experience possible. And most are volunteers. My hat (or my running shoes?) goes off to those who give up time with their family, friends, and themselves to do this for us. Thank you.
8. Anyone can be a runner.
It knows no race or ethnicity, creed, gender, orientation, or age limit. We all own the sport.
I guess mostly what I love is the people. When the two bombs went off near the end of the Boston Marathon, spectators Carlos Arredondo, Joe Andruzzi, Allan Panter and others ran toward the chaos to help. The first responders, who were only expecting to treat tired and injured runners, ended up saving lives. Some of the runners finished the race and then donated blood. Many residents of Boston are now offering their homes to those stranded.
Runners are a tribe, a community, and a family. We came together in a time of intense crisis and we don't waver. When the worst happened, I saw the best of people.