Sunday, December 14, 2014

St. Jude Marathon: Watching for Gracie

These clowns ran by - one bad runner running at least.
A marathon is a great achievement, and so when Gracie said she was going to be running the St. Jude Marathon I decided I would go and cheer her on as she worked to complete her goal.

Determined.  Anxious.  Thrilled.  Perplexed.  Silly.  Befuddled.  Full of joy.  Painful.  These were the looks on faces as they filed by in a never-ending massive group.

I just kept hoping no one would spit on me as I stood impatiently in the leaves on the edge of North Parkway, fighting off the chill with my coffee from +Cafe Eclectic.  I was fairly certain no one would spit on me, at least deliberately, but I'm not sure I've never accidentally spit on a bystander myself.

After all of the races I have run I am still struck by the odd feeling of spectating, and without exception an unusual feeling of being out-of-place washed over me last Saturday.  While I watched the St. Jude half-marathon and marathoners run by I was also filled with one other overwhelming emotion, one of awe. Not only have I been recently watching some St. Jude videos (and they have been having their effects on me to say the least), such as the one posted on the side here, but as I watched folks go running by I know I am not the only one who felt as though they were a part of something truly wonderful, something bigger than just themselves.

The more I learn about St. Jude the more amazed I am by their mission, purpose, and most of all by the fact that their doors are still open.  According to their website (click here) St. Jude has raised more than 7.5 million dollars through this event!!  So when  you see the slogan for the race that states, "Get run for their lives," one can really stand back in awe, as I did on Saturday, at the countless runners who wound their way past me in search of a finish line.  A finish line not made of tape or marked on a street somewhere, but one that comes in the form of "life poured back into me" as Maggie talks about in the video.

It was fun seeing +Bryan Baddorf run by with Max.  It was spectacular to recognize so many others from +Feb Boswell  to +Charlie Duke to Olaf to Meredith to Ben and countless others.  I suppose there is still a part of me, when I'm racing, trained to ignore those watching the race for the hopes of better concentration (not sure if that was good coaching or not but it was always instilled by various coaches). So engaging and being part of a communal event like the St. Jude Marathon, where the contestants actively seek out crowd participation is still new to me.  I remember in the Boston Marathon watching a guy run to the side of the road to kiss a Wellesley student and thinking, "what?"  (when running past the university students line the course and scream - some with signs saying "kiss me runner") I feel like I'm trying to explain one of the most basic aspects of any large marathon and yet for me it feels so foreign.

How terrible it is to have an injury when the St. Jude marathon is happening!  But how proud I am to be a part of a community that not only supports St. Jude but is a home to it as well.  Somehow I never did see +Gracie Irby run by on the way to completing her first marathon.  I stared at faces until it hurt my mind to try and distinguish familiar from strange.  I did come away from the run filled with joy, however, and it is a great hope of mine to become more of a part of those who continue to fight against such foes as cancer.  Whether it's through a run, by volunteering, by donating, or in some other vein.