This Memorial Day Weekend I walked/jogged in our community of Chagrin Falls, Ohio 5K race called the Blossom Time Run. I have been doing this off and on for many years and usually I feel the enthusiasm to join with the hundreds of other runners to be in the front of the pack. This year was different. I did not aspire to be in the front of the pack like my runner friend, who got nervous as we were chatting, that he was going to miss his position for the start. This year, for me, the victory was just to participate as I have been struggling to recuperate from back pain. My goal was simply to finish the race. My daughters and I came late to line up, and not fooling ourselves, headed to the back of the runners section. We even started out with a light jog to look good for the cameras and the fans who cheered the runners on followed then by the walkers behind who participated for the 1 mile walk.
The starter gun banged noisily and signaled the beginning of the race. The swollen crowd I found myself in thinned out at the same pace as my falling self-esteem. I found my daughters abandoning me with concern. “Are you going to be okay, Mom?” My oldest one said to me and I replied “I’ll be fine go on and enjoy the race”. Left to myself I slowed down to a walk as the road went up a long hill and I tried to enjoy my solo efforts. I am naturally a chatty person so I started to make friends with my fellow joggers turned walkers. I met a neighbor on my street that I have not seen all winter and we caught up on family. I met a new mom pushing her baby in a stroller and we laughed about how it wasn’t as easy as it looks. Then I noticed a group of runners and walkers all wearing the same light blue t-shirts and I asked one of the team members what was going on. The nice young women explained that a young man had a bad accident and was in a wheelchair over the past year getting rehab. He told his family his goal was to walk across the finish line and his family and friends all signed up for the race to watch him accomplish his goal. Wow, I now had my inspiration to finish the race. I, too, had to see this young man get out of his wheelchair and finish the race. It was still a 5 mile race and I only found this out at mile 2. I had a lot more mileage to get behind me and so I befriended a group of 70 year old men and I commented how I want to still be walking this race at their age and they responded back to me “Don’t be in such a rush” and “enjoy your time today”. Good advice something I needed to hear.
I also met a young woman in her thirties and this time I got to impart some advice about heading into your forties. My advice to my new friend was similar to the older gentlemen’s advice to me. But being a nutritionist I added tips about diet and exercise and how it is never too late to change bad habits for good ones such as being in this race. As we were talking and into the 4 mile marker I started to noticeably slow down. I had been telling everyone I spoke with about the young man in the wheelchair and his goal. My new walking partner started to speed up and then turned around and said “come on we don’t want to miss him crossing the finish line”. Okay! I was finding motivation again, because I also wanted to see this young man stand up and walk across that finish line. And so, I did make it across the finish line, inspired by other people and their challenges. Also, I am happy to say I watched that young man stand up to a waiting walker and take steps harder than I or anyone else that day had taken and cross that finish line. There were official winners of this race in many age and gender categories, but in my mind, the real winners were all those people at the back of the race.