I had such an amazing time in California for the ASICS LA Marathon. When I think back over the whole weekend, I had the privilege of doing some pretty cool stuff. However, my absolute favorite part of the weekend is a part that you won’t heat about from your friends, or see in the newspaper. It’s not a glamorous part full of finishers photos and tons of spectators, but wow was it amazing. What I witnessed was so inspiring in so many ways, but probably not in the way you would think. The elite runners are awesome, don’t get me wrong, and many have wonderful stories of overcoming obstacles to get where they are. This is so similar in so many ways, yet very different. If you ever read one of my posts all the way through, I really hope you will read this one.
I mentioned in yesterday’s post that after my nap I found out through a friend that people were still finishing the race. After my walk down to the pier, I went back to the “finish line” to see what was going on for myself. What I found was nothing short of inspiring. Right where the finish line WAS (it had long since been taken down, the LA marathon kept it up for a really long time but understandably had to tear down at some point) there stood a few volunteers holding medals over on the sidewalk. Right past them you could see a table with some water on it manned by another volunteer. I stood back a ways for a couple of minutes to see exactly what was going on, and it didn’t take long for me to find out.
I suddenly heard clapping and cheers coming from one or two lone spectators, and also from the three volunteers handing out medals. I watched as off in the distance, on the sidewalk, a man wearing a race bib came limping along towards the makeshift finish line on the sidewalk. As he got to the volunteers, he fell into one of their arms and began to cry. They put a medal around his neck, were all patting him on the back, and walked him over to the water table, congratulating him. I watched in awe as every 3-4 minutes, another athlete came “down the shoot” and the same thing played out with the volunteers. This is not the first time I have gone back to the end of a race after I was done to cheer on the remaining few, but this was by far my favorite time.
One of the finishers coming through on the sidewalk
Tears filled my eyes as I watched each person come struggling through to the finish. Some in pairs, some being held up by someone else, and an amazing older gentleman who walked the whole race with his walker. He was a legacy runner! I couldn’t help myself. I jumped onto the sidewalk and began clapping, cheering, screaming, and jumping up and down as each person came by me. They showed such perseverance, and such pride. Not a single one was mad that they didn’t get to go through the official finish line, they were just grateful t hat someone, anyone, was there to share in their joy.
There were tons of people walking around and past us on the sidewalk, just walking their dog or taking a stroll with a loved one. Some moved over to the grass, watching what was happening, others going about their day oblivious to what they were witnessing.
I chatted with the volunteers in between finishers, and they were so amazing. They were adamant that every finisher get the medal that they deserved. By this time, people had been on the course for around ELEVEN HOURS, and these volunteers had been out there all day. They could have so easily said that their shift was over when the finish line came down and the computers were turned off, but they stayed, as did the amazing bike volunteers. They would periodically come back and tell us how many people were left on the course. They too had been volunteering all day.
Since they had not been out on the course, I was explaining to the volunteers just how hot and miserable it was, and how the spectators got me through my race. I told them how these last few finishers didn’t have that luxury, and were basically on their own. I also told them how wonderful I thought it was that they were still here, and they humbly waved me off saying it was just the right thing to do.
I stayed for about 45 minutes cheering, crying, and smiling with the others. At one point, a woman came in, followed a few minutes later by another woman. I’m not sure if they knew each other before the race or met on the course, but they hugged in a tear filled embrace as one told the other “we did it, we did it. If we can do this, then we can do ANYTHING!” That my friends is when I lost it. I wanted so badly to run up and hug them as well, and tell them yes, YES you can my sisters! I refrained though, and just nodded my head vigorously at that powerful statement.
I watched another man come through with a friend of his I assume, and one was helping the other to stand. He literally was about to collapse, but never gave up. I saw families reunited, pictures taken, and so much grit and determination in those 45 minutes that afternoon. The volunteers were inspiring because of their loving spirits and giving attitudes. The athletes were inspiring because of their perseverance and strength. at that moment, everything I had went through that morning just didn’t matter. Yes I had struggled, I had overcome obstacles to get to the starting line, but in this moment my race troubles felt so insignificant compared to the what I was surrounded by.
I sadly had to leave sooner than I wanted to get to dinner with the ASICS crew, but I will never forget what I saw that day. The strength and determination in those final finishers, and the love and encouragement of the volunteers will not soon fade from my memory. You won’t see finishing times for those athletes. They will never have an official record of their accomplishment, but I can promise you they were there. With huge smiles, tear stained faces, and weary bodies they came…and I have never been so inspired.
QOTD: Have you ever spectated at a race? Have you ever been inspired by a finisher?