Here’s what I have found as a race announcer and host, and it isn’t about training or the right shoes. It’s about our stories. Why we run.
I get to meet thousands of runners as they “run their stories” on event days.
Their stories can be deeply personal, and yet when I ask, “Why are you running today?” athletes give me examples of their human experiences that I’ll always carry with me. Always.
As I see a bustling crowd assemble at the starting line, I know that each person there has their reason for doing this event. As they join the community of runners at the starting line or lag behind to walk, each and every step will end up a tribute, a reason, an obstacle tackled, a resolution, or a beginning.
No matter what the confident or tentative steps mean to each runner, each runner makes a mile or a race part of their story. They are there to “run their story.”
Here are five stories of runners who inspire me. I hope you’ll share yours.
80 and Over Category
Have you seen a smiling older guy in a red singlet at Denver races? Eddie is 85 years old and still beats about 25% of the field! He has been running for the last 30 some years. Most weekends – when he’s not in Hawaii- you will find him at a local 5K. Eddie is a people person with a smile on his face. He calls me about twice a month to find out what runs are taking place (he doesn’t own a computer – I think he might be onto something there!) and he always is thankful for friendships and company. He comes away from every event with a bunch of new, inspired friends.
In fact, if you hear an event call out an 80 and over age group, it is because of Eddie. Why not give the man his own category? We all know people half his age who won’t even go walk a block. So if you see that smiling face and signature red Eddie singlet, be sure to say, “hello”, if he hasn’t already beaten you to it.
When a Stair Climb was not Challenge Enough…
Another athlete who amazes me participated in a stair climb, tackling 108 flights of stairs- a daunting, muscle-busting feat for any athlete. But that challenge was just what Jordon, a young man from New Zealand wanted. He raised money to climb the Scale the Strat climb in Las Vegas in 2015. And though he has cerebral palsy and usually uses a wheel chair to get around, he donned leg braces and set out to show all 108 flights of stairs- and all of us- that he could do it. As he neared the top, elite runners, participants, and staff, lined the last few flights of the stairwell to cheer on this amazing young man. Here’s what he said after the event:
Some say i’m crazy.
some say i do it for the fame.
I say i do it to show society that no matter what your abilities are, hard work does pay off.
believe in yourself, block out those who want to see you fail.
Hey, if I can, you can..
108 flights of stairs, friends. 108 flights.
More Amazing than She Seems
One famous runner also inspires me by overcoming a difficult condition. Neely Spence Gracey is fast becoming the sweetheart of American distance running and recently finished as first American woman at this year’s 2016 Boston Marathon. We all know she is an elite, but not everyone knows that Neely also battles chronic Lyme disease. She is competing at the top levels of her sport, yet she is one of the most humble and down to earth people you will ever meet. (See our new interview with her.)
You’re Not Alone: Powerful Group Support
Groups of runners also remind me how teaming up for a cause can help heal our hearts and give us purpose. Back in 2011, as the lead announcer for Nashville’s Women’s Half marathon, I noticed a group of women running and walking who didn’t seem like typical runners. At the finish line, they took a picture of the group with their thumbs up. I found out that this group was running for Lane Goodwin who was stricken with terminal cancer. A campaign started with everyone from the likes of you and I, to politicians and to celebrities took pictures with their thumbs up and shared on social media. The reason? To show Lane he was not alone, that he was loved, and above all, to show him that he gave everyone a reason to make a difference. These ladies did a half marathon in Lane’s honor and in the process touched so many others, including a certain race announcer from Denver.
The 5K Cowboy
At the start of a 5K, I noticed a gentleman in a cowboy hat, no shirt, blue jeans, and cowboy boots. About 30 minutes later, he approached the finish. As I began to announce his name, he came across the finish line, held up his hands with dog tags in them and pointed to the sky. Tears streamed down his face. I knew I had to learn his story, so I interviewed him.
He told me he ran that day in memory of his mom who gave her life in the first Gulf War. He grew up without her, but always held onto those dog tags. As we might guess by the boots, he wasn’t a runner per se, but ran because his mother loved to run and she loved that particular venue.
His story on that morning? Running with a memory in his heart and her dog tags in his hands. No dry eyes around as we realized the cowboy was a son spending time honoring a mother lost.
So I ask you, do you have a story? Why are you running? Do you know someone with a story you think should be shared? We’ve made room here on RunningDenver.com to publish inspiring stories, so send them on.
You can share via social media with #runmystory, or email me here at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If I select your story to share, you just might win some cool swag, too.
Remember that the finish line is never the end, it is the beginning of what IS possible.
Have a great run,