The race director stood high upon an elevated platform. With a oversized U.S.A. flag draped across the starting line he held a microphone in his left hand and at the correct moment in time he drew it near to his lips. After a brief pause he glanced at his watch and with a crackling voice the director announced that we were 60 seconds from the start of the race.
With that announcement I thought about all the hard work, all the lonely hours and all the long miles that got the collective group of runners that surrounded me to this very place. I also thought about the commitment it took to be standing there. Although this was not my first marathon. I had run many marathons before, each one is unique and each offers it own set of challenges. I also spent some of these last moments looking around at the faces in the crowd around me who were facing the test of running 26.2 miles.
A younger girl, at least younger than I am, is standing three paces to my right. Her shiny red hair is pulled back in a long intricately weaved pony tail tucked under and flowing out the back of a red and blue ball cap. Her pale skin, freckles and dark blue eyes highlight her confident looks. Noticing her eyes, a cold steel stare is focused straight into the crowd ahead of her. A determined look beams with security and confidence. Instantly I get the feeling she is not only up to the challenge in front of us but she is focused on pushing towards some lofty goal. Any tension that this girl maybe feeling is only apparent in her thin lips being firmly pressed together. Standing silently her forward stare is only broken long enough to manipulate the buttons on a large faced GPS watch strapped around her left wrist. Any signs of nervousness are lost with the exception of the pace at which she actively presses the buttons on this high tech tracking and timing device. I can tell she is intent on ensuring the settings are dialed in to monitor her performance. With this small task complete she retreats back into a zone of isolation. Lost in her own little marathon day bubble I notice she has not engaged in any small talk. With the crowd now pressing in around us, she is lost to the happenings outside of her own temporary world. I paused to think was this girl trying to settle a score, trying to qualify for Boston or set a new personal record? Standing next to her was someone who may be on the opposite end of the marathon spectrum.
Stationed to the left and a few feet forward of me was a man with close cut salt and pepper hair, a goatee with two silver patches on each side of a square chin. His round face with eyes that appeared to be in a natural squint instantly drew my attention. His eyes wore a look of concern, worry and apprehension. With tan and weathered skin this gentlemen I estimated to be in his mid to late 50s appeared to spend many hours outdoors. His nervousness was evident in that his eyes gazed from one focal point to another in rapid succession. These deep brown eyes darted around catching quick glimpses of the crowd of runners standing near him. These eyes which I assumed had witnessed years of worldly experience today appeared wide open, fresh and new. They worked in rapid order to take in all that was going on around them. On his face I mostly saw apprehension. When not taking in all the excitement of race morning I noticed he nervously made conversations with those around him. He seemed to gain some confidence, some relaxation with each discussion. When not engaged in pre-race dialog he kept up a constant routine of checking the fit of his running gear. Once satisfied, at least for the moment, he looked back and forth at the crowd only to return to fidgeting with his gear and making small talk with those near to him. I wondered was this his first race of 26.2 miles or was he coming back from some injury? In front of him a few paces ahead was a runner older than the majority of us in the vicinity.
He stood amongst a group of runners who took turns talking, shaking hands, high fiving and living in the pre marathon moment. I guessed this man is an elder statesmen’s of the local running community. Each of his tidy silver hairs were neatly combed back and perfectly placed in the cut of his mature mane. Confidence poured from this man. Every move he made seemed well rehearsed and carefully thought out. His eyes were bright, clear and happy. His face was lined with age and highlighted with high cheekbones. Today those lines of experience shown a heart that was content with life and his place in it. His bright inviting smile welcomed conversations with anyone looking his way. I could not make out the words he expressed but by the smiles and laughter that came from those he chatted with I could tell the interactions were positive and uplifting. Was this man here to run this marathon for himself or to support a friend, make a statement or was this his last go around the marathon block.
I stood alone taking in the wonder of those around me. I hoped my face gave off the feelings of the day. A day open to new challenges, new goals, new excitement and new progress. I hope in my eyes was confidence and wonder of the 26.2 miles that lay before me. I hoped my expression uplifted those with whom I stood among his quiet cool morning. Mostly I hoped that my expressions helped someone reach their goal for the race.
(My Marathon and 100 miles of success came
with confidence in myself and those around me)
Words can and do inspire. Yet sometimes the ability to face a daunting task can be acquired by simply seeing confidence in those around us.