When I think of the things I love most about this city, the Flying Pig Marathon is up at the top of the list. And with the 5K and 10K on Saturday, in addition to the full and half marathon on Sunday, it consumes a good part of my first weekend in May each year...and my life is most definitely better because of it. This year I watched the participants of the Step Forward Team run the Saturday races...what a FUN day! It's such a joy to see people involved in these races....the sense of community, the encouragement...it is beautiful. There's something great about watching people run towards the finish line while cheering your guts out. There is something great about watching people run, push through pain, and go through a finish line....I think that will always be something worth seeing...
Not only do I love cheering on my family and friends, I am always moved by the people who complete this with disabilities. I stand in awe as I watch young boys and girls cross the finish line with physical and even mental limitations. I watch the people who do this race with them and marvel at the love, kindness, and sacrifice of these people...I love it when people buck the system - the system that says what you can and can't do in this life - the system that says what you are and aren't capable of. These people show their strength, character, and courage just by being in this race.
There is one man in particular who completes this race with a severe disability. This was not the first year it was completed by him...I saw him last year too, and I'm pretty sure, last year wasn't his first year either. He moves with a walker and an assistant. Every step is a struggle and it takes him a painfully long time to move one foot in front of the other. I've heard they allow him more than one day to work on the course, and by the day of the race, he completes the final stretch. It is beautiful. It is amazing. It's emotionally riveting. The announcer, yells for him. He is known in that race. He is brave. He is courageous. He is a hero. And HIS race, is not about winning...it's about defying the odds, perseverance, redemption...among other noble things no doubt. Our lives are better just by watching him. To Brad Fritz - thank you. You are an inspiration.
Sunday, the day of the race, comes and at 5:30 a.m. I am in the Target parking lot by my house catching a ride downtown with a few others. We arrive downtown and in the dark there are people all around - excited, milling, running, stretching, parking...the energy is unmistakable. The four of us walk towards the race, chattering excitedly about it. I stop to pee behind a dumpster (who wants to wait for a port-o-pot?), and then we head to our "pig pens", which is the spot where we are supposed to start the race. The other 3 I'm with are in an entirely different "pen" than me, so I say goodbye to them and then continue on another 100 yards or so to my "pen". I enter my designated area and wait among other excited runners to start the race. I am alone, and for a brief moment I feel some sadness over not standing with someone at the start...but then as I look around, I let go of my aloneness and celebrate the massive community of which I am a part in that moment. We are waiting in anticipation. We are excited. We are doing something that many people will never do. We are blessed. They start the announcements. A former winner speaks. A local priest prays. And once Katy Perry "Fireworks" starts playing loudly over the speakers, I can hardly contain my joy! I stand there a part of a large community, downtown in the city that I dearly love - the city to which I have been called, and in that moment I am happy. Really, really happy.
I love really happy moments.
The race was a success. The course was finished. I had a medal. And I ran it within the time I had hoped for. I am thankful. Really, really thankful.
This...and many more details that I did not share...is why I love the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. Someday maybe you can join me on that start line.