Many great runners will never experience the best of the human spirit that abounds in the back of the pack. For this reason, I want to share this experience with you.
In the back of the pack, you see the most beautiful people:
- Moms trying to reclaim their bodies that the joy of having children has taken its toll on.
- Parents with young children, letting them set the pace and hoping that their example will instill a lifetime of healthy living.
- Physically challenged individuals that refuse to accept limitations to their potential – moving themselves forward in wheel chairs with sheer determination and all upper body strength.
- People working to regain their health one step at a time.
- Soldiers carrying 50-lb back packs and running in their combat boots to bring awareness to men and women giving all for our freedom.
- Local firefighters carrying all of their bunker gear – giving you a great sense of appreciation of them as you run along-side these heroes.
- Some of our oldest runners who refuse to let the strain of time rob them of one single minute.
If you remove your headphones and listen, you will hear:
- People working hard to breathe.
- Grimaces and sounds of people overcoming physical pain to keep going.
- Words of encouragement from others near you, who are your kindred spirits, your team and your lifeline.
If you offer a smile or an encouraging remark, you will meet:
- Many first time marathoners who have wanted to accomplish this one goal for their whole life and have gotten up the courage to give it a shot.
- Perfectly healthy people who for many different reasons have allowed life’s busy schedule and responsibilities to take much of their time away from training; yet, still they are on the race course trying to restore balance, trying to claim some part of their lives on their terms.
- Kind-hearted folks who you instantaneously form a bond with that feels everlasting.
In the back of the pack, you’re not competing with other runners. You are competing only with yourself, hoping that today, mind will overcome body and will power and determination will win. You are working to overcome all of life’s circumstances and refusing to accept anything less than crossing the finish line. Your fellow runners are looking to you for encouragement and the common belief that if one of us can do it, we all can. When someone stumbles or needs something, you see many people stop to help. The finish time is not of importance when fellow runners are in need.
At The Finish Line
Often, when you’re running in the back of the pack, the finish-line crowd has dwindled and there’s less fan fare when you cross. Sometimes even the announcers aren’t paying close attention and miss calling out each name anymore. You might slip in without much notice. It doesn’t matter. You won the race with yourself and your team. Today, you beat the odds. Mind beat body and today is a victory for you and all the folks that you met and inspired along the way. Maybe there’s no food left at finish-line village and the band is winding down for the evening – That’s OK, too. You know that you worked hard and your reward is your own sense of accomplishment. You spend the next days nursing your body back to health and preparing for your next challenge and the new friends you’ll meet in your next race. After all, we are a strong and resilient bunch and we need to be there for one another. The best of the human spirit exists in the back of the pack. I am blessed to share those last place honors with such a distinguished group.
The moral of this short story is this, it doesn’t matter where you finish, only that you start and don’t give up. There are blessings there for you at any place and most especially in the back of the pack.