Monday, 8 July 2013

Strangers are just people you haven't run with yet

A day after running the Gold Coast Airport Marathon and it's fair to say I'm still walking a little bit like a 70-year old man.

Still, I can't complain as I seem to have recovered better than many others who ran the 42km.

Immediately after the finish line there was a shaded grass area and yesterday it resembled a war zone with prostate bodies writhing in pain.

Some managed to hobble away, while others needed the assistance of loved ones to make it anywhere.

My stiff knees and tight muscles will probably hang around for a few more days yet, which begs the question: "was it worth all it?".

Strangely, it really was.

There's something about events like these that give me a real buzz.  Just finishing the race gave me a sense of accomplishment I don't often get; life rarely seems to consist of discrete "projects", but more a blurred series of events that roll into each other.   Yet this was the culmination of my 16-week running project.

Interestingly, the physical act of running is just one part of why events like these give me a great kick.  Without getting too warm and fuzzy, you actually end up sharing some nice little moments with complete strangers who make you think, smile and admire.

Here are five little vignettes from yesterday:

1.  Cerebral palsy sufferer Daryl Howe and amputee Michael Milton
I only briefly saw Run Happy Daz (this was the name on Daryl's bib) and amputee Michael Milton briefly as I looped back on the running pack, but the Herculean effort they showed almost stopped me in my tracks.   Daryl has C6 cerebral palsy, the highest form of physical disability for the condition, and was told he would never run.   More than a dozen marathons later (including New York and London), he, along with Paralympian skier Michael, really prove there are no excuses not to get off the couch.

Daryl Howe sets off

Michael Milton crosses the line

2.  The encouraging grunter
Sometime around the 39km mark I was really hurting and desperately willing the finish line to be brought forward a few kilometres.   That's when a man in a red shirt ran up alongside me and gave me an encouraging pat on the back.   In between grunting from his own discomfort, he started urging me on with words of encouragement.   He was clearly in pain, yet somehow found the energy to spur on a complete stranger.  Thank you!

3.  British lady in the toilet queue
There is nothing like the universal need to pee to bring people together.  I chatted with this lady while we were both waiting in line for the port-o-loos.   She was out from the UK and was a little bit nervous about running on the Gold Coast for the first time. We chatted for quite a while before newly-vacant toilets beckoned us, and this helped settle both our pre-race nerves.  I hope she enjoyed the run!

4.  Little Bo Peep pace runner & friends
Just when there was a danger of taking the event too seriously (we're not all aspiring Olympians after all) you come across the crazy characters.  Yesterday there was a guy running with/in a tuba, a male pace runner dressed like Little Bo Peep and a host of other colourful costumes.   It reminds you why you started running in the first place and that running can indeed be fun.

Some runners use ipods, other use tubas

5.  Everyone who yelled "Go Matty"
When someone first yelled my name, I looked to see if it was someone I knew.   Then I remembered my name was on my bib.   Along the 42km path, I heard my name quite a few times (but only a few of those were from people I actually knew) and each time it made keep going and momentarily forget my aching legs.   I've never stood on the side of the road on a sunny Sunday morning to encourage and clap at complete strangers, but perhaps I should.

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