Races We Remember

Races We Remember

Races We Remember

By Cheryl Hart

Why is it that some races are so special they linger in our memory? We resurrect and draw strength from those miles, looking back with pride and joy to an experience that made us feel fully alive and unstoppable. We go there whenever we lack confidence or feel discouraged.

Races can be hard work both physically and emotionally. For many, just the thought of racing conjures up a myriad of emotions from ranging from anticipation to anxiety.

So what makes one race excruciating and another exhilarating?

I asked my running and triathlete friends to share their stories and the responses reaffirmed what I have always believed.

What we cherish most is the journey itself. The laughter, the hurdles and the friends we met along the way. It''s the feeling of pride in accepting a challenge and overcoming obstacles. It''s not beating out a competitor, winning a trophy, or recognition.

Even if a favorite race includes a win, it''s only special if we had fun along the way. Often just crossing the finish line is a thrill.

The reoccurring theme running through all these memories seems to be pride, surprise and delight in pressure-free achievement.

If we get our ego out of the way, we allow magic to happen.

“My most memorable race was running the New York City marathon for the first time,” recalls Gail Hart. “I was nervous since it was my first, yet relaxed knowing I didn''t have a time to beat. I just wanted to run the entire race without stopping — that was my goal. The chance to run through all five boroughs, over five bridges and the ethnicity that the city has to offer was awesome. I remember coming across the Queensboro Bridge at about mile 16 knowing it was time to start looking for family and friends. For as far as you could see it was wall-to-wall spectators screaming and yelling — absolute pandemonium. Then out of the crowd pops my crazy family with signs, yelling and screaming. I was so excited to see them and still feeling ‘spunky.'' This race is attended by more than two million spectators and I can''t tell you how much it meant to have their support. Crossing the finish line in Central Park was one of the greatest thrills.”

I agree. My personal favorite race was also the NY Marathon. Not the countless ones I raced but the one I ran with my son and his best friend. When we crossed under the banner at the end, I wiped away tears and have relived the memories again and again. My son never plans to run another but now proudly calls himself a marathoner.

Debbie LaMarche says, “My most memorable race was my first DuathlonWorld Championship in Switzerland. I met so many people on Team USA and other countries. The best part is that you never forget these people and look forward to seeing them each year. It was unbelievable that whatever level you were — the fastest or slowest, athletes supported one another.”

Patrick Schmidt''s fondest memory wasn''t of a race but a long run that he recalls vividly.

“Two years ago, training for an Ironman triathlon, I ran in that February ice storm. No one was out and I never saw a single car, runner or walker. Frozen rain was falling most of the run, and the ground was covered with it. The only sounds I heard were the falling ice and crunching of my feet. Everything sparkled with ice. I was afraid to blink because my eyelashes were sticking to the bottom of my eye, but it was very peaceful. I knew that few people would run in that kind of weather and knowing that made me smile.”

The next two stories are sure to bring a smile to your face.

Jenny Nixon recalls her most memorable race — the first marathon that she ran with her best friend.

“We had been training together for months, although at the time weren''t the most educated about nutritional requirements during the marathon. My friend grabbed a power bar on the way out the door before the race — just in case. We savored the one bar during the 26.2 mile trek. At mile 18, my friend was hitting a wall and I continued running. Amazingly, my friend was able to overcome the wall and caught up with me at mile 25. We crossed the finish line together. Many months later, my best friend proposed to me on Christmas Eve day at the finish line of the marathon. I can honestly say, we will never forget our first marathon — it forever changed our lives.”

Her husband, Sandy Nixon, grins remembering his first triathlon.

“I was pumped up about my first race and very detailed about getting everything ready in the transition area. I completed the swim, and the bike. As I was putting on my running shoes, it was very hard to get my foot in, and I was thinking the worst — ‘What disease did I catch in the Ohio River?'' Anyway, I jammed my feet into my shoes and completed the race. Not thinking too much about it, I took a shower when I got home and as I walked by my closet, saw my running shoes. But how did they get there as the pair I raced in was still in my car? As it turned out, I ran in my wife''s shoes. We have the same style and color Asics and even the same size number. However, I wear a 10.5 in men''s and she wears 10.5 in women''s. Now I have a separate color and make certain I have the right equipment!”

Val Hall''s favorite race was the Chicago Marathon.

“It was special because it was my first marathon and I was ecstatic when I crossed the finish line. I didn''t have a specific finish time in mind and I think that made for very little pressure,” she recalls. “The crowd and surroundings were also incredible. It may also have something to do with Chicago itself. I always have a good time in that city.”

The 2005 Derby Mini-Marathon was Bridgid Mahan''s most memorable race because everything came together that day.

“I was able to focus on the components of training including running form and mental focus in order to achieve my time goal, while at the same time enjoying the race. To me, having ‘a good race'' means feeling good about my performance by achieving the goals consistent with my training while also getting enjoyment from the experience.”

For Susan Bradley-Cox, “the 1986 Ironman Hawaii was a spiritual experience from beginning to end. Very emotional.”

“This year''s Papa John''s 10-miler was the most memorable for me,” says Gerry Baker. “A relatively newcomer to running, the 10-miler represented the furthest distance I had run until race day (due to injury). When I passed the 9-mile mark, with Cardinal Stadium in sight, my eyes welled with tears because I knew I would make it! A voice inside told me that I had arrived as a runner because ‘fat boys can''t run ten miles!'' Coming into the stadium and hearing runners names announced was very cool, too. I even finished well ahead of the goal I had set for myself.”

Gerry Aumen''s most memorable and enjoyable experiences have come about through the competitors he''s met along the way.

“I ran into the Brazilian duathlon team in the Zurich train station one day on the way to train on the race course. As they spoke no English, and I no Portuguese, communication was difficult, but we managed and had a great day together,” he said. Later that day, I had the incredibly good fortune of meeting two beautiful women (that would be my Mom and me) from Kentucky. We became friends and have maintained a long-term friendship since. I''ve met youngsters, middle-agers, and older folks and have been encouraged by them and have been on occasion able to push my new-found friends to exceed their expectations. Finishing behind one of these folks is always pleasurable because of the connection we''ve made. True champions are gracious in their victories and have pushed me beyond my perceived limits. I remember these races particularly well and with immense pleasure.”

The 2004 Boston Marathon was “clearly a big deal” for Jim Behrens.

“The whole city was excited about it,” he remembers. Strangers who weren''t runners stopped to talk to me once they knew I was running. People approached me in the airport the day after the race. Everyone was excited to be there, whether they were runners, volunteers or spectators. I ran well despite the heat and people in St. Louis kept asking me about it, though these same people had never expressed any interest in my previous 18 marathons. Though my time was almost 25 minutes slower than my PR, I still rate Boston as my favorite.”

Bianca Simpson, a professional triathlete for New Zealand remembers when she won the 2004 Auckland Half Ironman.

“My first pro win. I remember the beautiful sunny day and a flood of childhood memories. The swim course was at a beach where my family would go for fish and chips and though the bike course was one of the hilliest ever, I knew each section — even the old goat who sat atop Snake Hill. I came off the bike with a huge smile, having so much fun. My family was so proud and excited (my dad even ran a bit with me). The winning feeling is so addictive but when you are winning and having fun — that is the best feeling.”

I hope you will continue to share these uplifting memories with one another. We all need the reminder that what really matters in the end is sharing and enjoying the journey.

Cheryl Hart, owner of 2nd Wind Motivation, helps individuals, teams and corporations establish and achieve goals. She is a motivational speaker, certified fitness specialist and spin instructor and is currently pursuing a masters in psychology. Cheryl is also an All-American triathlete and duathlete, competing on Team USA internationally. To contact Cheryl call 693-7443, e-mail offrunnin@yahoo.com or visit www.2ndWindMotivation.com.

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