I have this sticker with a quote I just love…in fact, I have probably written it in a post before. It is John Bingham and the quote says, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the Courage to Start.” So many times in life we are afraid to try something new for fear of failing and often it takes the most courage just to take that first step. Words like Bingham’s inspire me when I am feeling like hanging up my running shoes because I am not <fill in the blank> enough. What also inspires me are the people around me.
Being a coach, I am surrounded by women, young girls (and some men) who inspire me every time they run just a little bit further or a little bit faster than they did before. I am inspired by their smiles when they complete a difficult workout. I am inspired when they fully trust in the process and let themselves be taken for this journey without reservation. The people I coach are inspiring.
But sometimes people you don’t even know can inspire you too. Last weekend I volunteered as the Destination Races Wine Country Half Marathon. I rode my bike from the finish line to help out at a water stop, and while at that water stop I saw numerous people go by, including the very last person. When she arrived, I was the only one there, handing her water and telling her she only had three more miles to go. As I sent her on her way, I gave her a hug, told her she could do it and that I would be there at the end waiting for her.
After she walked away and I finished cleaning up the station, I hopped back on my bike and rode back to the finish. I saw her again and gave her a little whoop-whoop cheer. I continued cheering for the other people I saw making their way along what probably felt like the longest three miles of their lives, but they were making it. About a mile out, I noticed a woman limping, so I stopped to see if she was OK.
She had twisted her knee and was limping toward the finish line. As I talked to her, she grabbed onto my bike and said, “I have been wishing for a crutch.” Well, there it was, a crutch on wheels. So, with each of us walking on a side of the bike, we made our way to the finish line…there were moments when she went to that negative space, which is totally understandable for someone doing her first half marathon and having it not go the way you planned, but was always able to listen to the proddings of remaining positive – she didn’t give up, she kept going and was going to complete her first half marathon. As we came around the bend I said, “Just think, your next half marathon will definitely be a PR!”
She was so grateful for my help that she wanted me in her finish line picture, which I felt was a great honor – those finish line photos are pretty sacred.
After she limped away with her new crutch (her husband), I stayed at the finish line as the time ticked by. Bart, the volunteer coordinator said I didn’t have to stay, but told him I said I would wait and wait I was going to do. The announcer said there was one woman on the course who wouldn’t quit no matter how many times she was asked. She was the ONLY person still on the course – many of the people I have seen on my way back from the aid station had quit, but this one person did not. I waited to see if it was her.
I waited and then, around the corner, there she was! As she came over the finish line she looked at me with this amazed look and said, “You are here.” As I put the medal around her neck I said, “I told you I would be.”
I don’t know either of their names, and will probably never see them again, but they inspired me just the same. While the men and women who win races are inspiring and motivating, I sometimes feel that the people who really have to work for it, who had the courage to take that first step, who really have to push through physical and mental obstacles and maybe come in last are the ones who are that much more inspiring.