On Friendship: Always a Runner, Never a Spectator

I’ve had a fairly positive attitude about being sidelined as I embrace cross training and face up to the reality of my situation. Aqua-jogging, yoga, swimming, and biking are keeping me occupied and strong while I’m recovering. I’m even seriously considering trying my hand at another triathlon. It’s been a few years since I’ve done one and I’m going to do the Steelman Triathlon again this August. Although running is always my favorite, I forgot about the benefits associated with getting in the pool or on my bike. This break is giving me even more of a reason to continue swimming and biking during the summer months.

This morning was the annual Lehigh Valley Half Marathon in Allentown, one of my favorite local road races. I woke up feeling cranky, with a chlorine headache from my recent trips to the pool, and my bum leg feeling near perfect. I felt frustrated and almost considered showing up at the starting line against the doctor’s orders and running my heart out. I honestly do feel fine, but I’m going to wait until I can sort this thing out before slapping on my running shoes and picking up where I left off. Whether I have a stress fracture or not, this ordeal is a sign that I needed to let my body recover and heal. Up until this morning, I had every intention of going to cheer my friends on and be a good sport. As I opened my eyes with a miserable attitude, I rolled over and said, “nope”. A few more moments of restlessness and I was up making coffee and breakfast, and my wonderful husband topped my bike tires off with some air. I hopped on my road bike and rode down to the course, even though I still sporting my best pair of cranky pants and a pounding headache to match.

I’m not going to lie: the first few moments standing on the sidelines sucked. I was even a little teary eyed as I watched the lead runners coming through and began to see the familiar faces of my friends. As they passed, each of them lit up as they ran by and I felt my excitement build as they powered through. I was proudly donning my Boston jacket (what else would I wear) and got lots of positive comments from the runners, which made me feel like I was still part of the event. Once my friends ran through the 10K point, I waited for them to leave the parkway for their final stretch of the course. As each of them ascended the hill to exit the parkway, I rode back and forth and cheered my friends on during the last few miles of the race. I was able to ride for a short stretch of the course with Mark, Emily and Brooke and give them some encouragement in the last few miles of the race, although they didn’t need it. They were running strong and looking beautiful all by themselves. As much as I wanted to be running instead of riding alongside of them today, I felt a sense of peace and happiness as I pedaled around the course as a spectator.

I’ve always been a participant in running events, and watching the race was definitely not what I wanted to be doing this morning. As much as I wanted to run, I know in my heart that being a spectator was what I was meant to be today. My friends are always there for me when I need them, and I could finally return the favor. When I’m not injured, we train together and enjoy each other’s company for the many miles and hours we spend on roads and trails. When I found out that I may need a brief hiatus from running, my friends didn’t miss a beat in cheering me up. I’ve had friends take me out spontaneously for junk food, pour over my MRI and radiology report for answers at all hours of the night, give me sweet little gifts to remind me that I’m still a runner, aqua-jog for an obnoxious amount of time by my side, and swim countless laps with me. They listen to me whine and talk endlessly about my leg and all of the different possibilities I’ve diagnosed myself with, even though I can hear how annoying I sound with every word that comes out of my mouth. They text me to check in on me and keep me in the loop because they know what being a runner means to me and that it’s part of what defines me. Of course I hate feeling broken, but it serves as a reminder that I am truly blessed by the people I’m surrounded by in my life.

Today was the kind of day that made me miss running, but I would be missing it a lot more if I didn’t show up for my friends. It was a beautiful day, and of course I would have loved to spend it running with everyone else. But it wasn’t my turn to be a runner today. Instead, I was right where I belonged: among the spectators cheering on my running family.

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