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Heidi posted at Favorite Run Group. it’s a long post but it’s so worth the read …
“My thoughts from my last 2 race weekends..
Running in the Back of the Pack
By: Heidi Holmes
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 our running community.
In the back of the pack, you see the most beautiful people. You see Moms trying to reclaim their bodies that the joy of having children has taken its toll on. You see people overcoming amazing physical challenges that refuse to accept limitations to their potential. You see people working to regain their health one step at a time. Sometimes you see our soldiers carrying 50 lb back packs and running in their combat boots to bring awareness to men and women giving all for our freedom. Or maybe our local firefighters carrying all of their bunker gear and you feel a great sense of appreciation as you run along-side of these heroes. In the back of the pack is where you see people pushing wheel chairs or even moving themselves forward in wheel chairs with sheer determination and all upper body strength. If you remove your headphones and listen, you will hear people working hard to breath. You will hear grimaces and sounds of people overcoming physical pain to keep going. You will also see some of our oldest runners who refuse to let the strain of time rob them of one single minute. You 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. And yes, you sometimes meet perfectly healthy people who for many different reasons have allowed life’s busy schedule and responsibilities to take all of their time to train. We don’t know their circumstances and haven’t walked in their shoes but we must appreciate that their burden must be heavy, yet still they’re here trying to restore balance, trying to claim some part on their terms. You will hear words of encouragement from the rest of the group who become your team and your lifeline. There’s an instant bond of people helping people that prevails.
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. Your finish time is not of importance when fellow runners are in need.
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 calling out each name anymore even though you left everything you had on that course. 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 in 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 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 morale 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.”