Yesterday’s race reminded me why I love running - the environment, the cheering crowds, the struggles and challenges, and finally, the finish.
I ran with two of our students for a majority of the race. It was the first time this group of students ran the half marathon and it was definitely a challenge. In the last 3-4 miles, we were all hurting. We caught up to another student with two miles to go. She was in the same boat and just wanted to finish.
Then with a mile to go, one of the students wanted to run faster so…we took off. If you’ve ever done the Philly half marathon then you know that you run past the Art Museum and around Eakins Oval to the finish. This was the hardest part for us out of the entire race, but it was also the most important. You’re at the point where you’re so exhausted and in pain that you just want to walk, but you know you’re too close to the finish line to stop. For a middle schooler who has never ran 13 miles before, it’s trying.
Running down the home stretch with my student was more exhilarating than any quarter mile I’ve ever ran. I wanted her to finish strong more than I’ve ever wanted to break any record in my life. She had a choice to either stop and walk to the finish or to push past her comfort zone to reach her goal. She chose the latter - she persevered and ran hard through the finish line, gave me the “I can’t believe you made me do that” look, then started smiling.
Trust me, after months of training and miles of running, it all pays off when you see someone, especially someone you care about, reach their goal. And THAT is why I love running with my students. They are way tougher than I was at their age and are doing things that many people only dream about. Like I always say, if you ever need some positive vibes, go watch a marathon, and make it one with Students Run Philly Style participants.
(Another coach snapped this picture of two of our students - they held hands to cross the finish line...I'm tearing up just thinking about it. FYI - the time isn't accurate in this picture - we finished a little over three hours.)
Towards the middle of the race yesterday, my students were struggling and asked me what is the point of running. Running is built into my life and I’m so used to it that it was hard for me to give them a solid, condensed answer. They didn’t want to hear about how it builds life skills that they’ll use in the future or how it creates a community for people once they’re out of school, which is what I told them. They wanted to know how it was helping them at that very second of the race.
I’ve been asking students why THEY run all season and here’s what they’ve said:
“For the food at the end of races…food is my best friend.”
“My mom makes me.”
“So I can be faster than my sister.”
“For the medals.”
"So I have something to do after school."
“Because I’m fast.”
"For my mom."
“So I can hang out with my friends.”
“So I can beat the boys.” (a personal favorite)
(Speaking of food after the race - another one of our coaches, Mica, is a saint for bringing us pizza afterwards.)
These are all pretty straightforward answers from middle schoolers and I have the same reasons for running sometimes. Down the road, however, I hope that they see how running helped them build strong work ethic, set and reach achievable goals, introduced them to a new group of friends, and gave them a physical activity that they can do anywhere at any time. The benefits and reasons for running are endless, but for me, the smile on my student’s face after she crossed the finish line will give me enough reason to run and promote running for the next fifty years.
(Our finisher medals were functioning bells - yes, they ring! Only in Philly...)
On a lighter note, Brian Lang unofficially broke the world record for fastest marathon time in a Santa suit at 2:54. Congrats, Brian! You certainly put a smile on everyone’s face yesterday!
(Picture taken from the RUN215 Facebook group, and yes, he got the record!)
Hope you had a great weekend!
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What are three things you did this weekend?
If you ran a race this weekend, how did you do??
What are your reasons for running?