As a kid, our family would often go to Hollywood Park in Inglewood California to spend the day at the horseraces. You might think this would be a pretty boring place for a kid to spend a full day but actually it was very exciting. Of course there were the horseraces themselves, lasting just minutes each, providing a rhythm to the day, but a day at the races was so much more. There was the excitement of choosing a horse you though might win. There was the fun of having family with us, tuning the event into more of a picnic than a sporting event. Lastly, there was the adventure of the place, people of all types, excitement and disappointment in the air. For a kid, a day at the races was really something to be remembered.
Today I participated in a race called the Trinity River Levee Run (http://www.runthetrinity.com) in the heart of Dallas. It too was “A Day at the Races” and much like I discovered as a kid, it was so much more than just the race itself that made it memorable. One of the things I have come to love about the sport of running are those things that surround an event such as todays race. Months of planning go into a day like today, picking out the race course, getting details worked out with the city, bringing in vendors, etc. Todays race had those things as well as many other unique aspects that could easily have gone unnoticed yet they added much to the enjoyment and memory of the event. Here are a few things I encountered today and hope you will recognize in your future running events.
- Great Music – Nothing gets people more pumped up than great music. The event organizers for the Trinity River Levee Run had music going from the moment we showed up until the time we headed home. There was an incredible singing of the National Anthem a well as a live band, which played during and after the run was over. I’m grateful the coordinators knew the power of music and its ability to add richness to a day like today.
- Crowd Participation – There’s no denying it, most “Running-Types” are a pretty outgoing bunch. Forty-Five minutes before race time they had a woman warming the group up with stretches and other activities. It was a sea of bending knees, reaching to the sky and waving arms and it was really fun. You have to love the running crowd; they could care less what someone else thinks as they bounce around to an early morning aerobic workout.
- Cheering Section – I must admit, I love an enthusiastic cheering section and the folks that came out to cheer us on at todays race did an A+ job. This had to be one of the most organized cheering groups I have encountered at any race to date. They were from all types of organization, each with color coordinated shirts and signs encouraging us along the way. You’ve got to give a big Thank You to groups like this that come out to cheer on and encourage complete strangers.
As someone new to the sport of running, I really enjoy the opportunity to encourage others. In the few years I’ve run, I’ve completed a number of 5k’s, a couple longer races and one half-marathon. It took a lot of work to get this far but it took even more encouragement from others to help me stick with it. I’m currently participating in a program sponsored by Luke’s Locker in Allen, Texas called The Beat Goes On (https://www.lukeslocker.com/BGO2014) which is helping me to become better as a runner. My coaches encourage me and provide invaluable instruction to improve my running.
As I finished my run today, hitting a new personal record for my 5k time, I got to head back to the finish line area and cheer on those also heading to the finish line. Friends from my running group gathered there as well, each just completing the race yet excited to cheer on other runners as they finished their races. For over an hour we watch as all sorts of people crest the Trinity Bridge and complet the last quarter of a mile towards the finish line. How enjoyable to cheer those folks on, some running with friends, some pushing strollers, many giving it everything they had to finish the race well. We clapped and cheered, “Great job”, “Keep it going”, “You’re doing great” as they ran by. Remembering how much it had meant to me to have that cheering section root me on, making eye contact, speaking words of encouragement to finish the race well. I loved this part of todays race, it might have been better than running itself because investing in others never returns void, it more often multiplies into something greater than we could ever anticipate.
A day at the races can be so much more than something focused entirely on us. It can be a time to be grateful for the hard work of others and an opportunity to invest in those around us.