Picture this: big city, pouring rain, cold and windy day, people scurrying under umbrellas trying to get to the office, and fifty of the most fired-up runners you could ever imagine standing in the downpour ready to run, a full Police squadron prepared to lead them. That was the scene in Cleveland this morning. If I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes, I never would have believed it.
With lights flashing and sirens blaring, we took off down the highway with a full fleet of officers escorting our group. The pulse was electric, the weather scarcely dampening spirits. If anything, the tough conditions brought people together.
In the group today were a dozen first-time marathoners, along with a handful of ultramarathoners, and just about everything in between. There were runners young and old, male and female, different races, and different religions. A marathon is a race where everyone starts as an equal, and everyone finishes as a winner.
As we ran in the cold and miserable conditions, the stories came pouring out. There was a gentleman running his first marathon in 24 years. There was a runner from Canada who had driven all night to be here. There was a cancer survivor running in honor of the friend she had made in the hospital. They had vowed to run together when they got out, but her friend tragically never made it.
We also had a couple of firsts. There were a set of identical twins running today, and there was a grandmother running with her granddaughter.
As the run went on, the weather got progressively worse. The forecast was for clearing skies in the afternoon, but as we entered a footpath paralleling the lake, the wind whipped and the rain amplified. The group banded together, putting down our heads and forging numbly into the cold. It was rough going, uncomfortable and unpleasant. The suffering was undeniable; there was no escape from the brutal environment.
But the harsh conditions seemed to bring the group closer. We were pulling for each other, offeringwords of encouragement and positive affirmations to those in pain. The support and camaraderie amongst the group was unbelievable.
Luckily an office building near the finish offered to let us set up inside. I was there for three hours, talking to the other runners, signing books and finishers’ certificates, taking photos, and sharing some laughs. Eventually, after everyone had cleared, we packed things up and prepared to head off to the next marathon. Today is a day that will be etched in my memory for years to come.
There was a Chinese takeout on the corner as we walked back to the bus. I had a major deja vu as we passed. The flashback was of a saying I once got inside a fortune cookie: He who suffers remembers.
Today I lived those words.
Hey ho, way to go Ohio!