The half marathon I raced last weekend went as well as could be expected. I hit my goal -- on the nose: 1:50:00. But, as expected, racing is hard work. You push your body, you keep pushing your body, and when you've had enough and want to slow-the-hell-down, you have to keep pushing because you're still not done. I learned the things I need to work on heading into my October marathon, so that's a plus. But the most important thing to come from the day had nothing to do with running, it has to do with selflessness and friendship.
THANK GOD, you say. No one wants to read a bunch of drivel about running. (Including me).
Not even halfway through the race, I fell behind from my friends. That shit goes straight to your head. Why am I so slow? Why is this so hard for me? Why does running come so much easier for them? Why won't I ever be as fast as everyone else? Why am I doing this? When will this be over? Every mile or so we'd reach an aid station and I'd catch up as they walked through, gulping water. But just as quickly as I'd catch them, I'd again fall behind. Repeat the above scenario in my mind.
When the race reached its toughest point, and I'd lost my friends, was running uphill, and actually wanted to cry as a result of all of it, I considered ditching my goal and easing off the pace. I'd feel better, I told myself. My friends would be jubilant, having reached their goals. They're fast. I'd come moseying into the finish, filled with immediate disappointment in myself. They'd smile, tell me I did great anyway. So on and so forth.
As I came into the aid station shortly after mile 10, I saw Rochelle. She had a cup of water, and was walking slowly, glancing behind her. ROCHELLE! I was so happy to see my sweet friend. We'd run many a race together this year. She's one of my best friends, and even though I knew I'd only have a few minutes with her before I'd fall behind again, god, she was a sight for sore eyes in that minute.
But she didn't pull ahead. We ran side by side, our pace picked up. I realized she wasn't going to leave me behind. We cruised through those final miles and into the finish, crossing the finish line into a hug, as always. We both reached our goal for the day.
Seems so insignificant, doesn't it? It's not.
Rochelle had a goal that day, too. I heard her say later that she encouraged another friend of ours to run ahead, that she was going to hang back and find me. I know she was having a rough go of it with a sore knee, but she made the decision to be there for me. To help me with my race. And in a world of runners and competitive nature and big goals, that selfless act, mid-race, is hard to find. But that's Rochelle, and it's why I love her to death.
"This was your day, you did great," she told me. "I love you."
And that was that.
If you ever have a running partner half as great as Rochelle, you're 100 percent lucky. And if you are half the running partner she is, thank you.