It comes in several forms: a subtle head nod as you’re passing each other, a small hand wave, a faint smile as you’re huffing and puffing, a verbal “Good job!” or “You got this!” or “Keep going!” or “Good morning!” And then sometimes, it’s just making eye contact. No words or smiles or hand gestures are needed. You just know. The beauty of it all is that it comes from complete strangers as you’re enduring the pain together via a long run. You may be running in different directions, but you’re both going to the same place. Some call this place “hell,” some call it “euphoria” and some call it their “happy place.” To me, it is all the above. Without going to this “place” every few weeks, I am a different person. A person I don’t like and, from what I’m told, a lot of other people don’t like, either. Teeheehee!
I ran my last long run this past Saturday before my marathon October 28. I had 22 miles planned, but only reached 20. But, this is okay. It has the same effect on the body, believe me. My first 13-15 miles felt great! I was making good time and felt like I could run forever. I was hydrating correctly and my legs felt awesome. It would have been a great day for a half marathon. Then, somewhere between miles 15-18 I hit the wall. This is typical for me. My wall comes way before 20 miles, usually around mile 17. The wall is 80% mental and 20% physical for me. That 80% is where the mental demons start their warfare and you question yourself, “Why in the world do you do this, again??” But, that question doesn’t get answered until you see the finish line in the distance or, on a training run, that curve that leads to where your car is parked for the day. Then, you have a thousand different reasons why you do it. A guilty pleasure of mine is that terrible, yet heavenly pain you feel the day after a long run. Your legs are cramping, sore, you walk funny around the house, but you have a smile on your face.
Before I started my run Saturday morning, I posted it on facebook. Somewhere after mile 17, I turned my music off of my phone and thought I would see what was posted. I just needed some kind of inspiration. So, thank you to all who posted encouraging comments on my page or status. Unless you’ve been there, you really don’t know the impact just a “Way to go!” has on a runner hitting that wall. And most of all, I want to publicly say thank you to a passing cyclist. I was about 2.5 miles left of finishing and no one was ahead of me to pass. I was running a slow pace, hurting, and seeing mirages of Gatorade at that point. Then, breezing past me from behind, a cyclist looked at me as he passed and said, “You got this! Keep going!” He couldn’t see the look on my face, but I think he knew. He just knew. Sometimes, you don’t even have to ask what a runner’s mileage is that day. It’s answered all over their face. You know it’s a long run, not a 10 mile jog through the park. So, thank you, cyclist guy. You helped me finish my 20 miles on Saturday, which you’ll never know about. Godspeed, my friend, and safe travels on the roads.
So, whatever your form of encouragement is, don’t hold back. Just say it or wave it or raise the corners of your mouth up. You’ll never know the impact you may have on that person and what they’re going through. Encouragement is like Red Bull. It gives you wings.