One would think that after a while every race would become exactly the same, blurring into an indistinguishable agglomeration knitted together by orange cones, paved roads, and paper cups of Gatorade.
Amazingly enough, the more that I do, the more I realize that the opposite is true. Much like in the way that every training run gives you exactly what you need- the same holds true with every Marathon.
Each one gives you something special or meaningful to walk (or limp) away with that can be cherished forever like a gift or a life lesson.
The Harrisburg Marathon, although a very small race, proved to be capital for me in this regard-and not just because it’s the Capital of Pennsylvania.
By now, most people know how I feel about finish lines, how much I love them, and how they affect and inspire me in the most wonderful ways.
The finish line of the Harrisburg Marathon itself wasn’t the most spectacular that I have ever seen, and in terms of structure and stature, it was closer to a local 10K race than an International Boston Marathon Qualifying event. Yet, in terms of the emotion that it evoked in me, it had the makings of the Ironman World Championships and was so overwhelmingly glorious~ it could have easily surpassed the Boston Marathon Finish Line itself.
That’s a bold statement, I know. But I’m a mom, and having my 15 year old son, Jake, standing at the finish of the race moved me the way I’m moved when I hear little children sing songs about World Peace at a Christmas Choir Concert.
This was my 22 marathon, and the 8th state completed for my 50 States For Sole mission, but above all else, it was the first of all my marathons that my son has ever been to.
He was my travelling buddy for the race, and stood close the finish waiting for me- sweatshirt in hand so I wouldn’t be cold. He had a Coke that he was enjoying, but as a runner himself, he knew I would want some, and was willing to share it with me. For a 15 year old boy, these are pretty much the ultimate expressions of love and care.
As I turned the corner of the Lower Riverfront Path, and ran up a small but steep hill that led to the entrance of the bridge to City Island at mile 26, and I saw him standing there with a smile and a wave, I didn’t expect to react with a tidal wave of emotion that could make the Susquehanna River look like the little trickle of water running for the drain at the end of a post race shower.
I nearly burst into tears, and felt overcome with happiness and pride. He snapped a few pictures of me and then ran ahead to get some more as I approached, and then crossed, the Finish Line in 4 hours and 9 minutes by my chip time.
By comparison it may have been one of the more unassuming finish line set ups I have ever come across, but in this mom’s heart, it will forever hold a special place, and was truly a momentous occasion.
The other aspects of the race were unexpectedly fantastic as well! The Expo was held on City Island, which was a short walk from our hotel, in a small heated pavilion. Goody Bags for this race were virtual, but they did give us free Hershey candy – and the race shirts were awesome long-sleeve tech shirts with a zipper front.
The volunteers were great- and the bonus of a small race is ease and efficiency of packet pick-up, as well as, the charming new friends that can be made along the way.
Since our hotel was only a 5 minute walk from the start of the race, Jake and I got to City Island in perfect timing for the 8 AM start. I had time to use the port-o-potty, and have Jake snap a picture of me standing by the City Island sign…just as the announcer boomed out a 30 second to race start warning. It couldn’t have been more perfectly timed than that!
The morning was sunny and chilly, but the scenery was gorgeous and we were amazed by the mirror-like reflections on the river. The rolling hills covered in a beautiful fall-color spectrum and the Prague-like bridges created works of art that looked as if they were painted onto the water. This provided an amazing backdrop for a good portion of the race course.
When I registered for the race I was a little concerned that the course would be boring. Surprisingly, it was quite varied and kept me interested the whole time. At some points in the race I was reminded of the time I spent in Europe, while others felt like trail running in Ohio or New York. There was a little bit of everything that included gravel trails; running in the woods; paths along the water; industrial areas; city streets; and residential neighborhoods. Spectators were great throughout the race, and so were the volunteers.
If anyone was on the fence about doing this race, I would say hop off that silly fence and go for it! For the most part I would consider the course to be flat with a few rolling hills between miles 18 and 24 that were fairly short and only slightly steep. The weather by that time of the day grew grey and cold, with winds that picked up to 20-22 mile an hour speeds.
But, as every runner knows, there’s nothing you can do about the weather- so you put your head down and keep moving forward.
In marathons- and in life – my goals include: staying happy, staying healthy, and – despite the obstacles- to keep moving forward.
Next up on 50 States for Sole is Huntsville, Alabama on December 14th, 2013.
I won’t have Jake as a travelling buddy for the next marathon, but I know that Alabama’s 26.2 will hold it’s own special meaning that, as always, includes running to benefit Girls With Sole.