I saw a race from a different perspective today.
From the eyes of a volunteer and a spectator.
Today was the Fox Cities Marathon, the site of my first - and only - half marathon two years ago. Last years I missed it because I was still recovering from the attack of The Monster and this years I didn't sign up because I haven't been getting along with running so there was no way I was prepared to run 13.1 miles.
But I wanted to do my part. So I signed up as a volunteer. And I spent the morning handing out Mylar blankets and offering words of congratulations to half marathon finishers and then spent a portion of the afternoon standing along the course and cheering on marathon runners to the finish.
As I was standing in the finish chute, I saw the elation as people crossed the line. Finishing their first or 40th half marathon. Seeing the result of weeks of training and long runs. Seeing the excitement on their faces when they realized they just set a new personal best.
And I realized I wanted that too.
I want to put in the miles, hours and sweat to be able to cross that finish line myself next September. I want to see if I can best my half marathon time from 2007 and see if running 13.1 miles is easier the second time around. So starting tomorrow it's my goal, get ready to tackle the half marathon again. Those 13.1 miles should be scared.
While coming to that realization that I wanted to add another half marathon to my list was a big thing, that wasn't the best part of the morning.
No. That came courtesy of a woman whose name I don't even know.
I was standing there with a Mylar blanket in my hands when she crossed the finish line 13.1 miles after she started the run. While she was walking through the chute, I reached out and offered her a Mylar blanket. She smiled, nodded. I wrapped the blanket around her shoulders, told her congratulations and to enjoy the recovery period, because she deserved it.
And even though she had just run a half marathon, she turned, smiled at me and said, "And I thank you for all that you did today."
And with that, she walked to the back of the chute to claim her medal - a sign of what she had done today and in the days and months leading up to that moment.
Yes, I've run races and done triathlons. And I've relied on those volunteers and know what an important role they play. But I never thought about that when I signed up for the volunteer role. And to have that woman take time out of an amazing day for her just to thank me, made me realize I need to do the same thing next time. Because volunteers are important, just as important as our friends and family who stand by our sides when we decided to tackle these events.