Today was the annual Grandma’s Marathon here in our fair city. My husband and I are lucky enough to live just a few blocks up the hill from the shore and London Road where the runners make their way to the finish line. Since we’ve lived here, we walk down to the hill to an area right around the 21 mile mark to take in the event. We cheer on the runners, though at this point we don’t personally know any of these racers. This fact does not matter to us in the least - I watch in sheer amazement at something I know I will never be able to do due to life-long knee problems (if they would wait for me to walk the entire route, I would do it in a heartbeat!). My husband watches with a knowledge of what it really takes to do it as he has run a marathon and hopes to again when he gets back in a bit better shape.
My greatest amazement at the event is always observing the front runners in the race, those who will cross the finish line first - they don’t even appear to be human, they glide like gazelles and very nearly seem to not even touch the ground but glide just above the asphalt. My greatest pain on these days is seeing those runners who hit a wall at that this point even if I only see the physical manifestation of it - a cramp they can’t shake that forces them to take a momentary sideline or maybe run backwards to work it out. A runner who must walk for a time to restore their energy but can’t walk a straight line from exhaustion. This year’s race is that much more painful as there is word that one of the half-marathon runners passed away following the race.
Besides seeing the runners themselves who are undertaking this amazing achievement and the vast majority who are only doing it for a sense of personal accomplishment, it’s also amazing to take in the sight of all those lining the course route and cheering from the sidelines. Obviously all those friends and loved ones can’t be at every spot along the route, but instead station themselves at one point, wherever that point is that the runner most needs it. Maybe it’s the starting line to let them know that they really can do this and to keep them from chickening out; perhaps it’s the finish line to get them through those last painful steps; for others it could be that 21 mile mark when the physical and emotional reserves seem completely tapped and getting through those last five miles seems impossible even though they’ve made it so far already.
Considering those runners and their cheerleaders got me thinking about the cheerleaders in our lives and how vitally important they are. This is something I’ve been thinking about for quite a few months actually as I’ve been struggling and wondered how I would make it through. I’ve also considered how easily I trust and believe in others and see the best in them when I should guard my heart much more carefully lest it be broken. I still want to take risks and reach out and be hopeful, but after really struggling and needing friends more than ever, I’ve come to see who my true friends are and I am thankful beyond words for them. Those who are there for you no matter what and not those who are merely companion of convenience or pal of proximity. I’m truly indebted to the true cheerleaders in my life and hope that you’ll thank the cheerleaders in your life, too!