No matter what, the finish line of a race is a special place, one of memories and feelings of accomplishment. Rarely do runners have the chance to immediately share that moment of crossing the finish line with someone. For some, they may have trained alone and run alone, wanting to finish alone and have that special moment all to themselves.
That is usually me. Aside from a couple miles a week with my husband, all my miles are solo miles. I’m ok with that. Running is my time along with my thoughts. I problem solve, allow myself to get lost in an audio book or podcast, or simply to just daydream about whatever is on my mind that day. And because I’ve been the one putting in the effort, it makes sense that I run my race solo (I’d probably be an overall lousy running mate in a race scenario, to be honest) and I finish solo, enjoying the moment that I have worked for.
Except when my races take a slightly different turn. But let me go back to what prompted me to share these thoughts.
I was recently asked by a friend to run her in for her first marathon. Of course, I was deeply honoured, knowing that she was asking me to share in her moment. I told her to think long and hard about whether she wanted to share that moment with me, or if she in the end preferred to have the full spotlight of the marathon finish line on her. I’d be ok with whatever she decided because, you know, it is her race.
Immediately, she came back to me and said she had already thought about it and definitely wanted me to be there the last mile or so (I would be running the same race, and based on my typical marathon times, I would have time after my finish to go back out and catch her for a mile or maybe a little more), not knowing how she would be feeling, but thinking that having a friend to run with will help her power through the soreness, physical and mental fatigue and anything else she may be experiencing at that point.
How wise she is.
Her message gave me something to think about. In all my now 15 marathons that I’ve run, most of them have been solo finish lines. But a few haven’t. And those weren’t by planning or design. At some point in a handful of races, I made a friend along the way – usually in the last 6-8 miles of the race. And at some point during our run together, we decided that we would finish together. Seriously, I didn’t know these folks other than we happened to be struggling a bit around the same point, and decided to join forces for at least a while on the course. So I think back, and the three that stand out to me were Tulsa, when I met Ryan and he videoed my finish for me. Little Rock where I met ‘Batman’ who insisted that Batman and Robyn finish together, and more recently the Bay of Fundy, where the vortex of fun swept across the finish line to some high five’s and hugs together. Which was then followed by seeing my girls Lashell and Sharon waiting patiently for me to finish. Even though I really didn’t know these folks, I shared a very memorable experience with them. We were the first to congratulate each other. To high five each other. To snap that first selfie with our medals. To let the other person get a tear in their eye while simply patting them on the back for a job well done. To share in an accomplishment that only another runner could truly appreciate and understand what the moment means.
And while I’ve never run across the Richmond finish line with someone, the Meg’s Miles cheer section right before the finish line is special. I know many of those in the epic cheer squad also have taken the opportunity to run in with friends, allowing them to share that moment with someone important in their lives.
While these three finishes still seem so fresh in my mind, I really have to dig deep to remember my solo finishes; not having someone to share that moment with definitely makes it a much more fun experience as well as a memory that bubbles as the surface with little prompting. The races where I haven’t had someone to share the finish moment with seem a little anti-climatic. I have to search the crowds to find a family member or friend. Or worse, when I’m travelling alone, I have to make my way back to the hotel and get on wifi so I can Facetime my husband to let him know how I did. The time from the finish line to my next point of contact has a way of reducing the shine from a finish a bit more than I would like. That special moment seems to get further and further in the rear view mirror before I can share my excitement with another. It doesn’t make it any less of an accomplishment, but the feelings associated with the finish can be very different.
Maybe going forward, I will try to make more friends in that last mile with whom I can share that post race satisfaction. Add some more post race selfies with new running friends. And have some of those really special memories to bank in my brain and draw from when I need a reminder of how much fun the sport can be.
So, after all that thinking back on my experiences, I’m all in to share that moment with her as she makes her marathon dream come true. And it is special to be the first person to congratulate her on her new title of marathoner. I only hope that I will be able to keep up as she charges down the hill to earn that title!