The other night, I had a conversation with a non-running pal about running. She’s interested in getting into it, so we talked a bit about what I love about it, and the conversation eventually turned towards running and emotions. After re-counting a few of these stories, my friend and I were both happy-sobbing, and she said, “I hope that you’re writing all of these down somewhere.” So here I am, writing these down.
The first time I ran a half-marathon
I signed up for my first half-marathon kind of on a whim. I had never run more than 10k, and then on International Women’s Day, my run crew did an optional 15k route, and I decided to give it a try. About a week later, I was peer-pressured into signing up for my first half. I did two more longer training runs, and then it was race day. I started the race with my regular running partner, Mary Higgins, and had the goal to just keep up with her.
Around the 17k mark, I started to lag; she was pulling ahead, and I was ready to accept that this was where we parted ways. Just then, an older gentleman padded up beside me, placed his hand on my shoulder and softly said, “don’t let her go.” He ran by my side, giving me that little push to catch back up with Mary, and then went on his way. I almost burst into tears right then and there. As a result, Mary and I finished the race together.
Watching other runners on my crew finish the marathon
That same day, after finishing the half, I went to cheer with the rest of my run crew at the marathon finish line. Every time someone on my crew ran by who I knew was running their first marathon, I got teary eyed.
I also got teary-eyed about strangers though
At the same finish line, there was a young woman who was coming in hard for the final 100m stretch. Her mom was standing on the sidelines cheering. The woman’s mom didn’t look to me like she ran herself, she had a stereotypical softer middle-aged suburban mom-bod and was dressed in a grey crew neck, mom jeans, and keds; but when her daughter came running through, she cheered so loudly, grabbed her daughter’s hand, and sprinted to the end with her. Another woman on my run crew and I both saw this, then made eye contact and burst into tears.
Every time I run by cheer squad. Every. Damn. Time.
I run with the Parkdale Roadrunners, who are notorious for being supportive, and for having a really over-the-top cheer squad at pretty much every race in Toronto (and sometimes in other cities). Every time I know that I’m about to round the corner before cheer squad, without fail, I start to cry. I can’t help it. Sometimes, I call it tearsquad.
When I was running my first marathon, PDRR was also hosting Bridge the Gap, which is a global run crew movement where run crews all over the world will come in for one race. So cheer squad was a million times bigger than usual. While running through the half point cheer squad, I almost had my first asthma attack because I was so overwhelmed with emotion.
Then at the final finish line cheer squad, I was the last marathoner on my crew to come through. I felt like a god damn celebrity in an episode of “Altaira Northe, THIS. IS. YOUR. LIFE.” People ran up to me and grabbed my hand and ran me through a tunnel of flags and confetti and other people shouting my name, and cheering me on. Then two of my run coaches sprinted to the end of the course with me, yelling, “You can do it! Faster! You’re almost done!” I died. It is one of the most memorable moments of my life. There was a video taken, and whenever I see it I bawl my god damn eyes out.
Mary Higgins’ first marathon
Mary ran a huge chunk of my first marathon with me, so I offered to run a huge piece of hers with her. I was eagerly waiting at the half way(ish) cheersquad, and when I saw her, my eyes filled with tears. I tried my best to suck those tears back into my eyes though, because we had a race to run!
But then at the end…
Mary powered through the end of her race like a champ. We hugged and high fived, and then looked behind us to see who else was coming across the finish line. Just then, a much older woman, after crossing, glanced back at the clock, and threw her hands in the air, yelling, “Boston!” I’m crying just thinking about this. I find older female athletes so inspiring; maybe because I didn’t ever think of it as a thing growing up. I don’t think that I knew that you could be a 70 year old woman, and be choosing to run a marathon with the goal of qualifying for Boston rather than choosing to just let yourself “get old.”
We turned around and congratulated this woman, and gave her a big group hug, and we all cried. CRYING FOR EVERYONE. One day, I will be this woman, and I hope that like her I can inspire younger women to keep being active well into their later years.
So those are my main stories about crying and running. Full disclosure – I’m a really emotional person, so crying about things that inspire/overwhelm me is not a rare occurrence. But the thing about running is that I didn’t ever expect to find it emotional. The first time I felt tears in my eyes watching another runner finish a race, I was taken completely by surprise. Because whatever – it’s just running, right? But something about it ends up digging these very raw emotions out of you. You feel your gut drop, and your heart just catches in your chest. You can’t help it. I know that it sounds like a cliché, but it’s a triumph of the human spirit. Even if in some ways it seems kind of frivolous, you get out there and push yourself to run. You run to show yourself that you can do it; you run to prove to yourself that you can push through pain and adversity; you run because you can.