82. Mile 24

82. Mile 24

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

Mile 24

Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts.
 ~Steve Prefontaine

Cheer for me… and I’ll cheer for you! That’s what his shirt said as he crossed us at Mile 24. This man, a stranger to us, was the first non-elite man to cross our station at the Boston Marathon yesterday and boy did we cheer. We cheered, hooted, hollered, jumped up and down and watched him do the same. As he passed us, he raised his hands to get the crowd even more excited (as if that was possible), clapped for us, and ran by, to finish the last 2.2 miles.

Soon, many more runners followed and we cheered just as hard for them as for the first. Many runners, young and old, passed us yesterday looking for inspiration. Some looked happy as we cheered. Some almost begged us with the look of pain on their face, and some actually asked, “Cheer for me?” And we did.

As the race wore on, many exhausted runners pushed their way to our station. It was clear that these people were going on pure hope. I could imagine that last year at this time, for whatever personal reason they had, they set their goal to run in the Boston Marathon and here they were at mile 24, still going.

Some of them got charley horses in front of us, and leg cramps, and overall exhaustion and started to walk. For these people we did all but run for them. We cheered louder, called out their names, or their numbers, we jumped up and down and pleaded with them to run… and most of them did just that. We were fueled by our own ability to help them run, and so, even as we began to lose steam, and our own legs began to cramp from standing for so many hours, we stood and jumped and cheered and clapped. For the struggling runners, we went wild. We watched as they passed with dedications written on their jerseys — to charities or lost family members or diseases or their children. We watched as these people, these strangers, accomplished small miracles. And then, out of nowhere we saw (and heard) Team Hoyt approaching Mile 24. (For those of you who don’t know about them, they are a father and son duo who have raced in over 900 events, including the Ironman.) Dick, the father (age 65), and Rick, his son (age 44), raced by us in their 25th Boston Marathon! Mile 24 was at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill so the momentum prevented Dick from raising his hands to us, so he zigzagged across the road, never once letting go of his son’s wheelchair, to show his appreciation. Thank you Team Hoyt!

Our own runners stopped to hug their kids, enjoy jellybeans, thank the crowd, and then they were off again. These runners dedicated the race to a child who passed away from cancer, and we cheered each and every one of them on and through the finish line. One of them passed with “Pull” written on the front of his jersey and “Push” written on the back. The crowd went wild for this because they knew they were the ones pushing and pulling.

The day was filled with runners who ran on pure inspiration, and crowds who cheered on complete strangers. As we watched the last runners, it occurred to me that they were going to finish the race, not because they had to, but because they said they would. They set their goal and shared it with friends and family who they knew would offer positive reinforcement and inspiration. Most of the runners were not top athletes, and many of them were first-timers. They made up their mind, trained for it and kept telling people that they were going to do it. It’s that simple. They did all the hard work and when they needed the push or pull to keep going, they didn’t have to look any farther than to the sidelines where everyone wanted the best for everyone.

Remember the saying… “Runners just do it — they run for the finish line even if someone else has already reached it first.”

~Christine A. Brooks

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