When you arrive to the start of any race there’s a palpable energy in the air. You can sense the thrill of anticipation, the hopes of every runner to have fun and to run the race of their lives.
Some are looking to win. Others strive for a hard-earned Personal Best. While still others are hoping to “just finish”. Whatever the goal, whatever each runner’s backstory may be, everyone who toes the start line has shown a commitment to fitness, a dedication to bettering themselves.
This morning as I toed the start line I was here not for my own race, but for a very good friend of mine who I would be pacing.
I would cheer. I would call out split times. And I would be her friend, keeping her company as she tested her mettle on this 5 kilometre course.
As we neared the finish, I yelled out to my friend to take the final turn as sharply as she possibly could and gun it hard to the finish. And as Don’t Stop Believing blared on the event speakers, she did just that — crossing the finish in full sprint, 90 seconds faster than she has ever been at this distance.
I watched as she eyed the clock in stunned elation. And I smiled, reminded as I was in that moment, of the pure unadulterated joy that running can so amply provide.
I had come to realize that contrary to the song that was playing, I myself had stopped believing. Stopped believing not only in my own running, but also in the very goodness of the sport itself. The ominous gloom of overtraining having overshadowed what had heretofore been a fun hobby.
But in that instant when we had realized just how fast my friend had been, as throngs of excited runners surged to their own personal triumphs, something in me reawakened.
Maybe it wasn’t my race. And maybe it wasn’t my PB. But through the power of human empathy, that shared élan that comes from watching others achieve their very best, I fell in love once again with my sport.