by Helen Dunn
I am a marathon runner. For most people who know me, my running is what defines me. I am the person who people come to when they want to try out the sport. I’m the one who answers their questions, who is their sidekick for their first run, who encourages them to try out a 5K or a half-marathon. I am a runner, no doubt about it. But here’s a surprising fact: I kind of hate running.
At first I thought that I only hated it because I was new. I thought that it would get better, that the first mile of every run would stop feeling like the worst 11 minutes of my life. I’ve been running for nearly ten years and the first few steps still stink every time. Running is hard. It’s uncomfortable at best and painful at worst. It’s almost never fun. I do it though, and I’ll never give it up, because running gives me access to the thing I really do love: other runners!
The running community is the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve been lucky to have become part of two fantastic running groups over the years. My local running club has supported and encouraged me in my adventures over the past six years. I run with the kind of people who literally stay up all night, some running, some just keeping the coffee warm, to support one of their own who was running trying to run 100 miles in 24 hours. (He did it!) The kind of people who text me from their vacations to wish me luck on marathon day. They make it possible for me to get up at 5am, drive an hour to run a hilly half-marathon, and be able to say, with complete honesty, “That was fun!” at the finish line because I’d spent that time with them.
And then I have Team All Ears.
It’s hard to believe that I could be lucky enough to find a group that combines two of my biggest passions into a single entity but here we have it. One of my fondest memories is running with Brad Garfinkel towards the end of his first marathon in Harrisburg, PA. I was struggling, and having a bad day, but when I found Brad, who was suffering the way most of us do during our first attempt at 26.2, we started chatting about our favorite Disney podcasts and suddenly we were at the finish line! Amazing! How about when I ran into Barb Kennedy, who I never met before, at the Hershey Half Marathon and complained to her that my iPod was acting up: she happily handed over her own MP3 player for me to use for the rest of the race. The boost of her music gave me what I needed to catch up with Jamison Reynolds on the course. Jamison and I ran together during some of the more difficult miles and we talked about the Team and what it meant to us and to others and suddenly, the finish line was in reach. It was a little bit of running magic.
It happened again at Marine Corps Marathon when Jamison, Brad and I managed to find one another amid 30,000 runners on the streets of DC thanks to the Team All Ears logo we were wearing. Jamison shared his enthusiasm with me, and Brad shared his electrolyte pills, and their support helped me finish within 30 seconds of my marathon PR. I was thrilled about my own race but I was even happier that Brad got a huge PR and that I was there to hug Jamison at the end of his first marathon. I’d watched him train for nearly two years to achieve that goal and it’s just amazing to take that ride with someone. I wish that everybody could experience the feeling. Achieving your own personal goals is great but watching other people do it is better. Helping them to do it is the best feeling of all.
To me, that’s what the running community is all about: helping people to achieve their goals. In the case of Team All Ears we’re adding the dimension of helping the world fight one of the most insidious diseases on the planet while helping our friends have small triumphs every day. It was truly a moving experience when I watched Deb unroll the sign unroll to reveal that the group raised $46,677. For me though, the small victories along the way are what makes the team extra special. I’m excited when I see that Amanda got in a spinning workout and it makes me want to schedule one of my own. When I know that Holly is running 20 miles, I think about her doing it, I use that to push myself a little harder during my own run. I’m excited when my friends achieve PR after PR in their races (Brad and Jorge, I’m talking to you!) I’m sad when my friends have setbacks and I do my best to encourage them not to give up (Michelle, Barb, Cailin & Josh”¦) It motivates me to know that I have a network of built in friends across the nation that are having the same experiences that I am, good and bad. I love being part of the team, not just in January, but every single day.
My point here is that running is hard. You might never feel the “runner’s high” but even if you don’t, you will probably find these little glimpses of magic along the way that make the struggle worth it.
If you’re planning on running a Walt Disney World race in January 2012 and you’d like to join Team AllEars® in the fight against breast cancer, please email Michelle at [email protected]