Being sore after a race is expected. Aches? Blisters? They’re about as mandatory and medals and free t-shirts. Today I achieved a first — I managed to leave a race sore without even running. My throat hurts from cheering. My hands hurt from clapping. My cheeks hurt from smiling.
A loved one completed a community 10k, and I was completely swept away in the joy of the event. There were runners of all skill levels, all body shapes, and all ages. I stood among strangers and together we cheered for strangers. We shouted and applauded anyone passing by. We didn’t know anyone’s names. It didn’t matter. We were so proud of the runners, and so happy to be a part of the event. Every bit of it was sincere.
I run my own half marathon next weekend and for the most part, I’m feeling ready. I’ve done the work in training, so my only goal this week is not to mess it up. I’ve completed enough races to know what I need to do in order to be physically and mentally ready. Everything that can be planned has been planned, from meals to sleep to taper runs.
But even if I follow my schedule to the letter, nothing could have prepared me better than today. Spending this morning in the cheering section reminded me why I sign up for races in the first place. A race is a celebration of health and a celebration of community. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s setting a goal and achieving it. It’s coming together with a diverse group of people because we all have shared love of running.
Next weekend the roles will be reversed, and I’ll be on the road instead of the sidewalk. I’ll do everything in my power to cross the finish line successfully, but I’ll be even more grateful for the kind strangers cheering me on.