A week before the LA Marathon, I was motivated to crush my Personal Best, and celebrate with my friends at the finish line. Neither of the two happened, but I became a stronger person afterwards. This marathon was the most important marathon of the year to me. For the sake of absence, this marathon should have been my first marathon a year ago. So essentially, I wanted to do my best. I put a lot of effort into training, and had the knowledge to make this the best performing marathon I have ever ran. I ran a half marathon in 1:47 and 17 miles within a 3 hour period, but none of this reflected the 5:40 marathon time I had on March 17th.
Besides the training for this important marathon - This gave me a chance to catch up with all of my friends and family that frequently inquire upon my upcoming visits to Southern California. I talked for hours on the phone, on facebook chat, and skyped a few people during the stretch before my visit to Los Angeles. My first day back in my hometown was suppose to be spent with an old friend from high school at a bar, the next day with a friend that I am constantly available during her emotional vulnerable moments, and after the race with my aunt and other family members. For me, this visit motivated me to perform at my very best for the sake that I did not want to come in a sloppy finish time.
On the day of my departure, I called everyone I was suppose to meet up with to make sure everyone was ready for this eventful weekend - And no one picked up the phone or even text messaged me. At that moment at Sea-Tac international, I knew this trip was going to be filled with plenty of misadventures. That friend from high school at the very last minute decided to go out with his girlfriend. In my head I thought: Did you even mention you, some friends and I were going to hang out? I was upset, but not as upset with the family members that text messaged me. My aunt, who I re-met and united with a year ago after 15 years without communication, dog is sick and unavailable to make it to see me at the finish line. Furthermore, she mentions that traffic is going to be too much for her, and suggests that we see each other on another day. My step mother, who I haven’t seen since I was a child, too lazy on her day off to make it to see me finish. The girl I am constantly there for emotionally, when she is down - another excuse after another.
The whole aspect of being there for my visit and my special moment blew up in my face. Emotionally, I was a total wreck. Although I had a friend that I have only known for about maybe three years (?) step in, and try to salvage any type of morale wasn’t equivalent to the years, or moments I’ve spent with these people. I was angry. The only thing I wanted to do was finish, and become sloppy drunk afterwards.
During the Marathon, It was crowded. Almost impossible to run at an 11 minute pace, but I maneuvered, and pushed my way through the crowd of slower runners, and walkers. I was determined to beat myself personal best. But after a while, it became nearly impossible to dial into an actual pace, and I ran with the 11 minute per mile runners. Running at that pace allowed me to take a look at everything. I seen plenty of crowd support, but they weren’t cheering for a specific runner - they were cheering for all 25,000+ runners/walkers in the crowd. Even during the race, I seen multiple couple-runners with matching shirts that read: “friends don’t let friends run alone.” After 11 miles of reckless disregard towards any other runner, I seen something that changed everything - I seen a homeless person with a sign that read, “Move Forward.” Then I slowed down and started to think - Why am I so angry at people who do not care about me. Moreover, If someone homeless can be a fan to this sport without any type of support or proper living conditions - why should I allow the people who neglected me take control of my emotions. I had to take a moment to consider that there are possibly other people in my position. What about them? I knew I wasn’t alone.
I took a moment to try to find my friend who I convinced to run in the LA marathon to provide morale support during her first marathon. Before we participated in the LA marathon; she told me that her family was going to be at the finish line waiting for her. I was at mile 12, and I stopped at different moments in time to look for her, but I could not find her. However, she found me. I was so happy when she found me. It was a relief for the sake of time, because I wasn’t going to stop until I found her.
The first step into advocating in-race support was mentally supporting my friend that I convinced to run in this marathon. I know that as a marathon rookie, everything becomes the unknown after mile 13.1. My friend was hurting on mile 17, but I would say things like, ” We are almost there” or “Hold your head up, you are about to become a marathoner soon.” There were times she would tell me, “I do not want to mess up your time, go on without me.” But I would say, “It’s too late for me to PR, I am going at your pace. You are the leader - I am just here for you.” And I was there for every step of the way until we finished. Even when she walked, and was in pain - I did my very best to make her laugh or to keep her mind off the race. I would mention that “As long as you are moving forward - it doesn’t matter what time you are going to make it in because you are going to be make it.” I meant every word of it. I could see the pain in her eyes, but she kept moving, and I thought to myself - “There is going to be a time she remembers this, and see someone who was once in her position. She is going to remember this moment and have empathy of their disposition during the race.”
Besides giving my friend morale support - the crowd support kept me teary eyed. The selflessness of everyone, and the signs that kept you moving is motivational for everyone to finish strong. Another moment I thought, Unless you are an elite runner, the real race is within. Meaning, out of the 25,000+ runners, the battle is within themselves. Mentally and physically, your body wants to give up; Most people during the LA Marathon route are clueless towards the next twist and turns of the course. I seen plenty of people on the sidelines in agony and pain, and I told my friend to be thankful that isn’t you.
During the final stretch of the marathon on Ocean Drive, my friend and I seen the finish line. I told her to slow down and pace herself, but she was set on doing everything on her own merit - which was okay. Since I wasn’t pacing her and I was only there for morale support - I had to keep up. It was no problem for me and I seen something special in her that I seen in myself a year ago - The newly pride of a Marathoner.
We hugged, received our medals, and I told her I was very proud of her. This was something different for me. There has to be a call to action. So this is what I am going to start doing: I am going to have a sign on the back of my t-shirt on any race that says, “If no one came to cheer you on - I am here rooting for you! Keep running!” I would hope that would eliminate some of the emotional scaring that I have felt over the races.
In ending, I want to thank the people who do care. Sometimes, people get caught in the longevity relationships they have with friends and family, but I have learned that, because they are not out there, or if they let you down - there are other runners, people in the crowd, and virtually who are cheering for you - regardless of the value of sentiment. I may have been taken for granted and not have had the people I wanted out there, but when I take everything into prospective - The people who are on your side, no matter in what aspect in life, are the ones that should matter in your life!