Five days ago I completed my eighth marathon. It was a beautiful day for a race, a great course, and a lot of fun. As I started to approach the 21st mile, I could definitely feel the toll of the race. The legs were getting a little heavy, I was starting to feel out of breath, and my mind was growing increasingly fatigued. I had looked at the course map and elevation chart prior to the race and knew there was a steep hill to climb at mile 21, and a long gradual climb at mile 23.
As I rounded the corner and started to stare down the hill at mile 21, I said to myself, “You have put in a great effort so far. You haven’t walked at all, and are a bit ahead of your goal pace. Take a little break and walk up the hill.” I didn’t want to walk, but was coming up with different reasons to justify being able to walk. A few moments before I turned my run into a walk, I took one last glance up the daunting hill in front of me. This time as I looked up, I could see my friends at the top of the hill. I quickly took out my headphones so I could hear their cheering. Once I saw them, I knew there was no way I was going to walk. I could hear them from 400 meters away. They were cheering loud, cheering by my name, encouraging and pushing me. As a result, I wanted to push myself and continue to go as strong as I could. They had come out to encourage and support me, and I wanted to make sure I gave them something to cheer about.
After the race I met up with my friends and they said to me, “we were at the top of the hill watching runners for close to twenty minutes, and you were the only one who didn’t walk up the hill.” As I heard this comment, and spent more time with them in the afternoon and evening, I began to develop a great picture of the friendship I have in these two: In my moment of difficulty where I felt like giving up was the best option, they were present. It wasn’t by accident that they were at the hill near mile 21. They knew the race, they knew where I would need them, and they were there. When I felt like I didn’t have more to give, or couldn’t keep going, I heard their voices and their cheers. Their excitement for me and what I was doing, provided me with greater enthusiasm and strength to conquer what was ahead of me. They helped me accomplish something I was not capable of doing on my own. As a result of their presence, I kept going and tackled the task at hand.
Mile 21 was one of the most difficult miles of the race for me. Yet, at the same time, it was one of my favorite miles. Sometimes the path you’re on takes you up a daunting and difficult hill, and in those times it is good to know that you are not alone.