This past Saturday, three of my friends and I ran a team relay in the Baltimore Marathon. The four of us ran track together throughout high school and we like to get together every now and again for some kind of running activity. Two of the girls live in New York, one lives in DC, and I'm out in Arlington. It was a great excuse for us to get together and spend some time together.
Members of the relay team will each run a portion of the 26.2 mile marathon. For this race, the legs were divided based on difficulty. So the two legs that were mostly downhill (and therefore easier) were 7 miles each, and the two legs that had more hills were 5.7 and 6.3 miles each. Since this was the first time I ran a race this big, the other girls let me run the last leg, so that I could run through the finish line.
As the last leg, I got to my exchange point (mile-marker 19) early in the morning and was able to watch all of the elite marathoners pass by. Watching them run by, it was obvious how hard they each had trained to come to this point. Once the 3rd leg runner of our team reached me, I left my warm up clothes with her and started my 7-miles. Although I think there's a limit to how much fun you can have while running 7 miles, I really enjoyed it. The weather was gorgeous and the spectators were awesome. Almost the whole race route was lined with people and volunteers cheering and handing out gummy bears, beer, Gatorade and water.
The elite marathoners are certainly an inspiration to see, but for me it is much more incredible to watch an average person finish a marathon. It is such an enormous accomplishment and I know they will remember that race for the rest of their lives. The people running are just so normal. If you saw them in the grocery store the next day, you would have no idea that this person just ran a marathon. The end of the race is very emotional for some people. People are crying, limping, bleeding, and whatever else, but they still manage to get across that line.
I ran next to this Marine for the last few miles, and of course it made me think of Justin. He is in California right now, in the middle of the very last deployment training he and his battalion will complete before they leave for Afghanistan. Justin is one of the people that keeps me motivated to run. He runs and trains almost every day, even if he's in the middle of a war zone.