Finish Line Smiles
This is a story I intended to write a couple years ago. My memory was jarred this weekend while attending the Hale Farm and Village Music in the Valley Folk & Wine Festival. Inspirational words in a beautiful song titled, ‘Up on my Feet Again’ by Charlie Mosbrook, recreated a vivid scene in my mind.
The song itself deserves to be heard because it’s all about personal struggle. Charlie’s struggles resulted from a spinal cord injury. Pure grit, determination and gratitude pulled him through a dark valley. Charlie was a marathon runner prior to his injury and today he dreams of someday racing Boston from his hand cycle. I have no doubt he will do it.
A while back I ran a 5k for the first time. This was really out of my comfort zone. I’m certainly not what I would consider a ‘Runner’ in the truest sense of the word. Running is not my choice of exercise. But since this was a non-competitive race, and a fund raiser, I was willing to give it a go.
Race Day arrived and I was nervous and extremely apprehensive. I wasn’t sure I could ‘run’ the entire 3.10686 miles that were included in the route. But I was determined to try. This was something I had to prove to myself. I was here that day for many personal reasons. I never discussed these reasons with anyone. They were tucked securely away in the safest and most secretive parts of my heart.
The signal sounded for the Race to begin. There were so many people! The pathway couldn’t adequately hold them all. The experienced runners jutted out around the participants who were running a slower pace. My adrenaline kicked in and soon I was one of those moving ahead on the outer portion of the route. Having never participated in a 5k before; I was surprised at how many people were happy to simply be walking and a part of something special.
That’s the moment, or collection of moments, I want to talk about.
Time seemed to -s-l-o-w- down as I whooshed past people. The backs of T-Shirts had sayings on them, photos of loved ones, and some of the racers had mementos with them. Then, it hit me… like a ton of bricks. Their stories. I could sense all that energy present. Not in a hooey-whooey kind of way, but a deep in your gut kind of way. As I approached each person, I could sense it. They each were present that day because they had their own struggle to overcome. Their own illness or the illness of someone they loved, was their motivation. So many of the racers had something to prove, to prove to themselves, as an advocate for someone who no longer had a voice, against cancer, or for unspoken tears. Yes. We each had our own race to run. Different reasons, same race.
Then my tears began to flow. And I could not stop them. I ran and cried, cried and ran. For the first time ever, the saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination,” made sense. It wasn’t about the race. It was never about the race. It was always about the journey and story that was represented that day.
I finished that race. Yes. I wore a huge ‘finish line smile’ when I crossed that final destination. But the reason was multi-layered. I learned so much that day. I never felt more alive. Maybe because I could feel the energy of so many other humans. Connection in the purest and most beautiful form.
Did I run the entire race? No. Did I complete it? Yes. Prior to the race, all I could think about was that finish line. The final destination. Could I run the whole thing? Did I have what it takes? Oh, I got there all right. But that was not the best part. The most meaningful part was the journey itself.
I will always remember that day. I can still feel the ‘stories’ and energy of so many of those people. People that I will never know but forever be connected to. There were many ‘finish line smiles’ that day. Finishing a race was only a small reason behind those smiles.