When I was much younger, the song ‘All God’s Critters Have a Place in the Choir’ was one that our Sunday School group would sing during morning worship. It was a fun song, perfect for kids to understand that there was a place for all of us no matter our talents, skills and interests. God wanted us all to be a part of it and welcomed each one of us – whether we clapped our hands, or paws, or anything we had.
Last weekend, during the Richmond Anthem Marathon, I was reminded of this concept (and the song, thanks to a comment made by Melissa!). Our Meg’s Miles group had a very emotional inspirational weekend that ended in the triumphant marathon finish of our ‘accidental marathoner’ group member, Ken. See, Ken registered for the half marathon. He trained for the half, was ready for the half. Then bib numbers and wave assignments came out, and he realized (likely with a lot of panic) that he actually signed up for the full marathon. With much encouragement from the group, Ken decided to go for it and line up with the other marathoners on race day. To make a long story short (and I will elaborate on this in yet another blog because my weekend in Richmond was just so much to process), Ken pushed through his 13.1 miles he planned to run. He got another mile into the race, found a ‘Meg’s Miles’ bib that had fallen off of someone, got a second wind and continued on.
Meanwhile, close to the finish line, we were all checking the tracking like crazy to see where Ken was on the course. We cheered all other runners in to the finish while keeping an eye on his progress. When Ken passed the 20 mile mark, a couple of us remarked, ‘Oh my goodness, he’s going to do it!’ It was like Christmas morning in our group, waiting for Ken to appear on the hill and come towards us as he ran that final stretch. At some point, another runner who had already finished his 26.2 miles, ran backwards along the course to find Ken and run with him. Jorge, this ultra marathoner, was spotted by his wife; she saw the sunlight hit his finishers medal and said ‘There’s Jorge!’ Our group, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 people, proceeded to ‘jump the fence’ and waited for Ken to pass. There were more than a few tears shed for this accidental marathoner, who against all odds, believed he could do the almost impossible. We were front row witnesses, and you couldn’t help but get emotional over it. Our cheering filled the air; one of our own was realizing his dream. As he was only a few hundred yards from the finish line, we all ran behind him as a show of support for this amazing accomplishment, for this man who has the heart of a warrior. No one deserved that medal more than Ken. No one. Congratulations, Ken. You are a legend. (Video courtesy of Jorge and Mari-Chu Coria)
Oh, and I forgot to mention Ken’s back story. He posted this on Facebook on November 8th, speaking about where he had come from and how far he has come on his journey.
Tomorrow (Nov 9) will mark 3 years from the day that I finally went to the doctor’s weighing 424.4 pounds. I also have very high blood pressure (180/140) and severe Type 2 diabetes. I was 49 years old and though it was certainly one of the low points in my life, it was also the beginning of a change that I could not ever have imagined.
…After starting my running career three months after my 50th birthday in 2013, I have now completed 24 5Ks, 7 10Ks, a 10 Miler, 4 half marathons, 2 sprint triathlon, and an Olympic triathlon. Next week, having accidentally signed up for a full marathon rather than a half marathon and training for months for that half marathon I will attempt to complete my first full marathon with many other Meg Milers. Can’t wait to meet all of them!! I just hope I make it!
Are you inspired to run a marathon yet? How could you NOT be? Ken has an incredible story, and I know a few folks who made the leap and signed up for their first full as a result. I have run one, and I have several more on the schedule already, but I was ready to jump in and run this (and then run the Philly one the following week, to!). Wait! What?????
I took a deep breath and realized that I was getting swayed by such an incredible and inspirational event. I’m sure I could do it, but would I want to? Would it be the race(s) I wanted? Or would I find myself really stressed because I over committed and really didn’t care to run marathons in back to back weekend? So I got to thinking and concluded a few things that I hope others will realize before they get into a situation that is not right for them.
Running a marathon isn’t for everyone. Not everyone has the time or interest in doing the training that can be a 5-6 month commitment. Not everyone wants to run 26.2 miles (plus about 600-800 miles for training). And that is OK. If you are inspired by Ken’s story and feel it is the right step for you to also run a full marathon, by all means, get out there and do it! I’ll be one of your biggest cheerleaders along the way. However, if you are inspired by Ken’s story and feel that the best move for you is to run a half marathon, your first 5K or attempt a triathlon, that is OK, too. And for those who genuinely don’t enjoy running, you know what? There is an incredible place in the cheering squad for you, too! Some of my most rewarding moments this weekend, including running with Ken to the finish, came as part of the cheer squad.
What is the most important thing to know is that there is a place for everyone! Not any one race or effort is more important than another; as a runner, I want to celebrate YOU reaching your best potential – as the loudest cheerleader on the sidelines or when you achieving your PR or dream of running a new distance. All of us have a place in the choir.