Before I go into this story and experience I had while running the Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon, I want to make two things clear — one, I don’t want or need sympathy. Mainly, because I don’t need it. I know my self-worth, my capabilities and potential. And, second, I reluctantly share this because I’m sharing this not for attention, likes or shares — I’m sharing it because I once didn’t know my self-worth, my capabilities or potential. I share this because I know there others — who struggle with these feelings of inadequacies.
This past year of running has been frustrating for me. I’ve been dealing with a sprained ankle that really killed a lot of my intended training. At this point of the year I really wanted to be back consistently running a 2:30 half marathon time. But, that just never happened.
I am fine with that — I’m at the point of my running now that the focus is on the Jackpot Running Festival and running 100 miles in February. I’m far more concerned with my focus on weight loss and overall fitness than my pace. I just want to do and give my best during any given run.
This morning I ran the Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon. This is one of my favorite races. I am a Legacy Runner — which means I’ve run it each year since the inaugural race in 2012. I’ve done the marathon four times and the half marathon now twice.
The marathon course holds my PR that I set during the inaugural race at 5:39 and my fastest time during the half was a 2:10 half the following year. On the flip side I’ve swept the course the last three years averaging around a 6:45 to 7 hour plus marathon time. I tell you all this for preference to my experience this morning.
Going into the race this morning — I knew I was going to be slow. I was suppose to sweep the course again, but my foot doctor didn’t want me to do the marathon — neither did my ankle. So, I decided to keep my Legacy streak alive and run the half marathon. It probably wouldn’t be pretty — but, I was going to do it.
So going into this week’s race my goals were simple — do my best, push myself without injuring myself and have fun. A goal that’s been repeated a lot this past year. And, I am fine with that.
Needless to say, I had a blast. Even before the race started — I had a lot of fun chatting with friends, running into online friends and just getting ready to run. If there’s one thing that keeps me running after the past seven years — it’s the relationships, it’s the people. I don’t honestly don’t know how committed I would be not just to running, but my 180 goal without those relationships?
But, that’s a post for another day.
Throughout the race it was fun being stopped by other runners to say hi. Most whom are a part of the number of Facebook groups we’re a part of. Even when the marathoners caught up while in the canyon many said hi — and I even got a couple of pictures with them. It was just a lot of fun and it made the fact that I was slower than I hoped or wished for — a non-factor.
Around half way through the race I ran with Amanda and Michael Bjarnson for a good 3-4 miles. It was a blast just laughing, joking and making friends. Amanda being 34 weeks pregnant was going along slowly as well. But, her timing had more to do with bathroom stops than her speed. Even being extremely pregnant she’s a very strong runner — she beat me soundly at the Nebo Half a couple weeks ago.
After we got out of the canyon we parted around Mile 10-11 (Amanda had to the use the bathroom — surprised?) so I just kept going. I just bunkered down, tried to find a good pace and just get myself to the finish line.
The last stretch of the course is along Ft. Union Blvd. in Cottonwood Heights and while technically downhill like the course — it’s more technical than the canyon miles. Around Mile 11-12 a slight hill leads to a rather steep decline that at the end of the race is tougher than it seems. I was no exception.
My ankle was feeling the strain of the latter miles and after making that slight climb and then downhill — I had to stop and walk for a while to stretch my ankle and recalibrate for the home stretch. Nothing out of the usual as of late.
As I was lost in thought while focusing on my ankle a Mazda Protege in the far left lay rolled down his window and started yelling something at me. I took an ear bud out and immediately understood what he was yelling at me. And, it wasn’t anything pleasant.
I’m not going to go into the particulars of what he said. I feel like it’s irrelevant to the story. But, needless to say, it was a profanity ladened and fat shaming tirade — basically telling me that I shouldn’t be walking or out there because of my size, especially if I was going to walk.
There was a moment it got to me — a slight moment. There was a moment of anger — a slight moment. And, there was a moment I wanted to bark back something — a much longer than a slight moment. But, I knew from experience that no matter what I said — it wouldn’t matter.
I was surprised I kept my cool because his tirade lasted a good 25 yards as he fought through the traffic. I am sure his anger was rooted in not expecting or wanting to be stuck in traffic. I would understand that frustration. But, to target a runner and berate them? I felt more sorry for the guy’s patheticness.
But, I wasn’t going to let his words get to me. Ten years ago or so — oh, yeah, it would have gotten to me. Totally gotten to me. But, today was different.
As ugly as his words were, they meant nothing to me. I quickly thought back to the previous 11-12 miles — I thought about the friends I spent time with, the runners who said hi and the laughs I had with a number of them. THAT. That, erased any doubts his words could have bred.
I thought back to my previous 158 races and those friendships and experiences I’ve made. Sure, I’ve had faster days. And, I will have faster days ahead of me — I’m not worried about that. But, the support group that I have around me — couldn’t be stronger. I’m grateful for that — truly, truly grateful.
I share this experience because I know his words could have gotten to other runners. They’re also words that I’ve sadly heard before shouted from a passing car while out on a run. I’ll never understand people’s need to put others down. But, I hope that those who get derogatorily yelled at understand — that they belong out there.
We all belong out there.
Like I said earlier, I don’t want sympathy for this experience. I don’t need it. But, I share it because I hope that we can all be a little bit nicer, be a little kinder and a whole lot more understanding toward everyone. We’re all in this together — so why make it harder for others? Support, lift up and inspire. Is it really that hard to do? Even if it is for you — just don’t say anything at all! Didn’t we learn that lesson from Thumper’s mother?!
I’m just grateful for the support around me. Without it I could have had a much worse experience. So, please — just be nice to others. Don’t make life harder than it needs to be.