Fifteen weeks ago, I held up my hand in a meeting hall filled with hundreds of people as Coach called out "Where's the 11:30 pace group?" Around 25 people made their way towards me and my partner while the rest filtered towards faster or slower pace groups. On that first morning of Half Marathon Training, I stood before a throng of strangers who all had hopes of completing 13.1 miles a few months down the line. To some in the running world, completing a Half Marathon doesn't seem so extraordinary. But there are some of us who remember a sleepless night before our first FIVE mile run. This was going to be a first for the majority of this new group, but all were optimistic (even if they looked nervous). Among our new pack, there were mothers of all ages and sizes, some college guys, a few fathers, folks decked out in the latest gear and others in cotton Ts. I could sense them looking at each other, wondering if this was a good decision or not....and I feared they might be disappointed to realize I've only been running for a few years.
Some shifted to other pace groups early on, some others vanished from the program completely, and one runner was injured skiing, but each Saturday, as our miles have slowly increased, our core group has come together as a team. Not only have we exchanged running advice, we've learned hysterical things about each other's kids; we've confessed our fears to each other; we've admitted to embarrassing events. I think I've even made a few lifelong friends.
Yesterday morning, in weather 30 degrees colder than usual, I stood before nearly every member of our group. Three weeks before our Race Day, we headed out into the dark and cold rain (impressive for a group accustomed to running only in 85 degree weather). A couple hours later, our team finished our longest scheduled run: 14 miles. It was a moment that will make the cut when my life (edited for time) flashes before my eyes. Soaking wet hugs, cheers stoked by a 2nd wind, and so much pride in the air, you could smell it (or was that sweat?). There was no crowd, no band, no table of bagels & bananas, no medals. It was just a group of friends inspiring each other to go farther than they had before. There was no doubt that they had made the right decision to join. No doubt they can complete the 13.1 miles on Race Day. And I think they'll have even less doubts about other things in their lives, too.