View from the Back of the Pack

I was home last week to visit my dear parents. We got in some nice walks, checked in on some of the neighbors (doing well), and, oh yeah, I ran a 30 mile trail race.

Central Illinois pulled out all the stops and produced a perfect day for the race. I can’t think of how it could have been better. Chilly start with temps in the mid-40s, getting almost up to 60 during the day. Sky was clear. No, it was more than that. In a way that only the Midwest can produce, the air was crystalline, the sky a perfect clear azure, complemented by the orange and russet leaves. Perfect.

I probably should have trained for the race. I had planned to, but then I kept having to nurse my chest cold which kept recurring. So I ran a 10K race two weeks before, and then didn’t run again until this race. Not ideal! But I didn’t really care; I wasn’t running for any kind of speed. I didn’t even care much if I finished. I just wanted to get out and have some fun. I would run slowly at the back of the pack, take in the scenery, enjoy the day. A couple of friends were running, and my parents came out to support me and cheer us on.

The course was a 10-mile loop – the same loop as the Potawatomi 100M race that I ran 2 years ago, run backwards. There were runners doing a 10 mile race, and those of us doing the 30. The fast runners took off. I took my time and settled into a comfortable pace, at the mid-to-back of the pack.

The winners and front pack runners are always impressive. When they lap me (and are always friendly and encouraging – one of the things I love about trail runners), I am amazed at their speed and confidence on difficult terrain, especially on long distances. It’s always an impressive sight to see.

That’s what most people think of when they think of racing – the winners. “Did you win?” “Do you think you’ll win this race?” That’s what they see whenever they see a race on tv – the winners.

But I love the middle and back of the pack. I am inspired by the middle and back of the pack.

Last weekend, I ran for a while with a woman who was doing the 10-mile race. Two years ago she had a brain aneurysm and almost died. Then she started running. And she kept running. Three weeks ago, she ran her first marathon – Chicago. She said she runs because she can. And she runs for all the people who are not as lucky as she was.

Many of you know I started running ultra-marathons to celebrate my 10-year anniversary of not dying from breast cancer. After that, I just kept running. Along the way I have met other runners with inspiring stories.
-guy running his first 50-mile race had diabetes and ran with an insulin pump tied to his pack. He had just been diagnosed with MS.
-another quit smoking one year before his first 50-mile race. When he quit, he could not walk up a short flight of steps without stopping.
-obese smoker, started walking when father died. Gave up smoking, walked faster, started running. Runs because she can.
-and, of course, all the runners who took part in the Million Dollar Marathon last summer who were in various stages of cancer treatment and survivorship, running because they can.

This is the view from the back of the pack. People getting out, doing what they can – maybe not fast, maybe not winning – but inspiring, none the less. Out there running because they can. Maybe running for all those others who can’t. Maybe inspiring a few others to think maybe they can, too – or that they can do something – maybe they’ll never run a marathon or even a 5K. They don’t have to. But they – and you – can find something that you enjoy that gets you moving. Whatever it is, I bet you can do more than you think.


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