Race #24 "You Got This" at the Los Angeles Marathon
"You got this!" This is the most oft repeated encouragement from standers-by. I love it for it's simplicity and wide applicability. It doesn't matter if you are walking, jogging or running your heart out. Doesn't matter if you are at the front of the pack or at the back. "You got this!" warms the marathoner's soul whether it is heard once or hundreds of times in a race.
Then there's the "Keep running." Also encouraging. Unless you're walking. "Don't give up!" I'm not even considering it. I'm just walking my way to the finish line.
Today's half-marathon within the larger Los Angeles Marathon provided me a new experience and greater appreciation for the impact of these cheers on runners. As an avid walk/jog half-marathoner, I never genuinely doubt that I will finish. I get in my head like everyone else. There are moments I question why I keep doing these. My most common internal hater commentary goes like this: "Why are you even concerned with your time? Go as slow as you want. You just need to finish, quit pushing!"
The Los Angeles Marathon was a brand new experience. It does not include an open-registration for half-marathon participants. It's a full-on marathon that allows a handful of charities to offer half-marathon slots to increase fund-raising opportunities. I ran with a World Vision Team. Some of the charity-entry participants start at Dodger Stadium and end in West Hollywood. The others start in West Hollywood and end at the Santa Monica finish. I was in the latter group.
There were, at most, a few hundred of us joining the marathoners at their halfway point. Plus our segment of the race was either flat or downhill. I was surrounded by folks committed to achieving a good runner's time. Not to mention, our start time put us in the race with the average runner, not walker. It pumped me up. I took on a quest for a personal record (PR).
The cheerers understandably assumed everyone participating started at Dodger Stadium and, in this part of the pack, had a shot at completing the full marathon in under four hours. A pretty good time for the non-competitive marathoner.
I'd jog a little then transition to a fast walk. Streetside supporters would yell, "Go runners!" "Don't stop running." "You can do this!" In each of my prior twenty-three races, it was either only half-marathoners or the marathoners were on a separate route for the bulk of the distance. This time, I wasn't passing any slower walkers. I was only being passed by runners. Their passion and the enthusiasm of their supporters was contagious.
I caught the runner's high and the runner's joy off-and-on throughout the race. I jogged nearly all of the last mile. It was exciting. Hundreds, though it felt like thousands of spectators, lined the railing as we headed to the finish. They were relentless in their encouragement to run it the rest of the way in. It felt great. I experienced a tunnel-vision focus on the finish line for an entire half-mile, only hearing their cheers, feeling their faith in every person wearing a bid.
At the end, though, even before confirming officially that my time was not a PR, I knew that I preferred walking. When I jogged down rodeo drive, I didn't enjoy the experience of being there. I was too focused on how many minutes I had to get to the next mile to stay on pace. It was only miles twenty-two to twenty-four that I had time to take in the sights. By mile twenty-two, I knew a PR was unlikely.
To the cheerers, supporters and community members, you make a HUGE difference. Thank you!! While I might personally love it if you didn't say, "keep running" to those of us who choose to walk, I don't dare begrudge a runner the chance to hear you lift them back into their pace with your words of love.
See you on the path.