I lie in bed, listening to the sounds of the night. They are unfamiliar sounds to me, and the bed is equally unfamiliar. I don’t think I have slept more than 20 or 30 minutes during the night, or at least that is my perception. Every time I close my eyes, thoughts race through my mind; “What am I doing? Why am I doing this?” Only I can give myself the answers, for no one has forced me to be here. No one told me I had to do this.One more time I look at the clock. It is close enough to when the alarm will go off that I decide I can get up and get ready. It is dark outside. Though the clock says that we are in a new day, the sky outside and the city below are still asleep. On go the shorts, shirt, shoes, fanny pack, and race number, and out the door I go.As I step out into the street I am joined by others, dressed as I am, all with numbers across their chests. It is a symbol of our commitment to us. The number represents the race in which we are all about to compete. For most of us, the race is only against ourselves. We are not out to beat the person next to us. Our goal is to finish.We walk through the dark, board a train that takes us and thousands of others to the starting line. When we arrive, the sky is beginning to lighten up. The sun will shine today. The energy in the crowd is bursting. Those who were not feeling energetic upon awakening are renewed by those around them who have energy to spare. Together we gather at the starting line, and are inspired by a wonderful choir singing to us from above.And away we go!Through the streets of an unfamiliar city I walk. Many around me are running, yet I walk. The crowd along the way cheers and encourages us, and still I walk. The pavement seems endless, and I still walk. It isn’t smooth, but bumpy, rocky, going up and down, and still I walk. The wind blows, slowing me down, and still I walk. Talking, laughing, crying, and sharing this moment with others, I walk on.There are four of us who have made this journey together from Georgia. I’m sure we are not the only ones from Georgia to have come today, but these are the friends who have helped carry me over many miles of walking. Our goal today is to walk 13.1 miles through the city streets of Salt Lake City. The sun has risen; we can see the city as we pass by. Families in pajamas, sipping coffee and juice, are in their front yards, encouraging us to reach our goal. They don’t know us, and we don’t know them, but we have come together this morning sharing a magical time. The city awakens.Steady is our walk. Ignoring the pain that is radiating from my feet, I continue to place one foot in front of the other. Again I wonder, “Why am I doing this?” As I walk along, I share stories with my friends. They share stories with me. Sometimes we walk without any words at all. The miles pass away. We thank the volunteers that we see along the route, and there are many. The police and security at the cross walks…how many police could possibly be in Salt Lake City? I think they are all out here this morning, covering some 30 miles of route between the half and full marathon. And every two miles, volunteers at the water stations, always with an encouraging word for us. Wow! There are around eight thousands race participants this morning, but there must be a thousand or more volunteers out here keeping the race flowing. As I pass the mile 13 marker and turn down victory lane, a rush of energy runs through my body. My feet feel like they have wings. The crowds on either side of the lane are cheering. They don’t know me, but they know that I have just accomplished a feat that not many try. At 13.1 miles, I cross the finish line, raising my arms in victory with my friends. We have all finished together, as we started. I’m handed a water bottle. A medal is placed around my neck. The noise of the crowd is unbelievable. I smile. I have my answer.“Why am I doing this?” Because I have great friends who mean a lot to me and encourage me. I hope that I too am an encouragement to them.“Why am I doing this?” Life is too short to just sit around and let it pass you by.“Why am I doing this?” I’m walking because I can.
Salt Lake City Half Marathon