I am easily emotional. I cry at sad movies, tragic books, and watching people run across a finish line. I am swept away by a feeling that touches me in a way that defies my logic. I am a no-nonsense, practical person, so being so moved by somewhat ordinary things seems contradictory to me.
Nevertheless, I am emotional and beaming today after an amazing weekend. It has nothing to do with me – perhaps it is pride by association. When seeing someone’s dedication, determination, love, friendship, and spirit come through so strong, I can’t help but feel proud and inspired.
This weekend was the Zion 100 footrace. For the rest of us more sane than this bunch of participants, the Zion 100 is a 100 mile race through the Utah desert. It is hot, is it long (obviously), and it is hilly. It is not for the faint of heart or physique.
The (WordPress!) website describes the race as such:
“The total elevation gain for the 100k will be in the ballpark of 6,000ft and around 10,000ft for the 100 miler. For this year, we can only give an approximate estimate of the elevation gain prior to the running of the event. Be warned: your body will feel a lot more beat up than the elevation profile tells you. Sections of the course (Gooseberry and Guacamole) are especially difficult and leave experienced runners scratching their heads afterwards wondering why they feel so much more exhausted than the elevation and distance on their watch reads.”
My friend Matt, from Project Talaria, ran this race. (I have written about Project Talaria when the boys ran the Leadville 100). Matt is an amazing guy: humble, determined, dedicated, and a great ambassador for running and endurance racing. The more amazing thing about Matt is that he only started trail running 5-6 years ago. When he started running in general he was not a track star or captain of the basketball team. Matt lost over 60 pounds as he started running.
Matt runs because he loves to but his focus is always on his community and the greater good. He carried his 2011 Boston Marathon bib with him over those 100 miles. He brought along his girlfriend and good friends as pacers. His family came to help as his support crew.
A few years ago I spectated my first race. I was watching friends run and felt the other end of emotions I feel when I race: instead of feeling nervous, I felt excited. I didn’t have to do anything. I watched, I clapped and cheered for strangers, and I saw the winners come across the finish line. Most of them were elated and very tired. They were also very humble. They had done a task they had set out for themselves and were quietly pleased but showed enthusiastic support for others crossing the finish line.
Seeing runners exert themselves for the last few hundred meters of the race made me emotional. I know how good it feels when you can hear the crowd and know your race is almost done. The energy from the spectators gives you that little bit more strength to keep going. I knew how much the runners were hurting as they approached the finish; I could only imagine how much they’d trained and what a joy crossing the finish line would be. I felt so proud of these strangers – it brought me to tears.
Matt not only went out and ran the 100 mile distance, he also finished third. I didn’t do anything to help Matt run this race. I am just really inspired and proud by association. He crossed that finish line. He has shown me that when we have passion and determination, we can achieve anything.