Most of you know by now that I am a runner. I do not claim to be fast or particularly good, but I find it a useful time for reflection, it gets me outside in all weather, and weight-bearing exercise is good for your bones!
Earlier this month, I ran the Prague Half Marathon. It was an adventure from the beginning. Due to a scheduling conflict, I arrived just before start time, and the staff/volunteers were super helpful in getting me a number and to the start line.
Things were going well and I was having a good race. I was on pace to finish in about 3 hours (I told you I’m slow…). All was well. I approached the halfway mark with joy only to be met by a volunteer who told me I had to stop running. “Why?” I asked, confused because in all the half marathons I have run, this has never happened. “The time limit.” she replied.
Now, this confused me, and if I am honest made me a little bit angry. First of all, I knew the time limit was three hours and by my watch, I was going to be close. She should not be stopping me based on a split time! Second, I have never not finished a race I signed up for, even that time I had to sprint, and I use the term loosely, at the end to avoid being last. Third, they were calculating the three hours based on the official start time, and anyone who has ever run in a race with over 12,000 people, as this one was, knows that the people at the end of the starting line cross the line at least ten to fifteen minutes later than the official start time. Nope, I was not getting on the bus like a meek mouse. I would finish. I saw several other people also determined and followed them to stay on the course.
Long story short (or is it too late?), all of us in the little cadre finished the race. In spite of the fact that they were literally picking up the course markers in front of us and several volunteers tried to convince us to stop. When we reached the end, an older Czech gentleman who had finished just before us, made sure we got our medals and a bottle of water. Our little band helped each other stay on the course and encouraged each other to finish. I had some glucose tablets that I shared with a woman I was running beside when she looked a little shaky. She told me she wasn’t sure if she would have made it without me—it was her first half marathon. We were so happy to have crossed that line! And truthfully, none of us might have made it if not for the others. At different points, we spotted the course markers and the turns. Found water, walked together, ran together. Chatted to take our minds off the pain. Together we accomplished something that we might not have been able to do on our own.
Sometimes, when you’re writing a novel, it seems like you are alone. But you don’t have to be. Find your cadre, and if you want to finish—don’t stop, even when they try to make you get on the bus.
You can do it.