By mile seven of Reno’s Rock-n-River Half Marathon in early May, I was alone at the front of the pack. Abandoning the relaxed pace of the first seven miles, I dropped into negative-split mode. I focused on maintaining a strong pace and resisted the frequent urges to look back to the competition and the even more frequent urges to think ahead to the finish (might I actually win?!). Rounding the final turn, with Reno’s “The Biggest Little City in the World” Arch and the finish line in view, I knew I was mere seconds away from the biggest win of my life…so far, at least.
As I charged past the cheering crowds in the final steps of the race, my thoughts shifted from the joy of winning and turned to the other runners, spectators, volunteers, and the kind words a friend shared just a day earlier: “This [running] community loves you so much, Charlie.”
In the moments before crossing the finish line, the reality of those words and what they meant struck me. Throughout the race, runners, spectators, and volunteers shouted my name and cheered specifically for me. For 13.1 miles, everyone knew me; close friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike shared in my elation. I felt like a rock star. And I owe that to the running community that I love so much.
From running together at local events to sharing and listening to stories about other races and donating time and money for running-related charities to offering sympathy and support through injuries and illnesses, this running community has stood beside me through the best—and bleakest—of times. It has instilled in me a respect for runners of all description and a passion for introducing people to the running lifestyle. It has made me a proud ambassador for the sport and is largely responsible for the runner—and person—that I am today. And that is why, in the final seconds of Reno’s premier running event, I realized that my imminent win belonged to those who helped me reach that finish line, and that being a part of such an amazing running community is vastly more important than winning any race could ever be.
While my running community has its base in Reno, it stretches coast to coast and beyond. From San Francisco Marathon Ambassadors representing every region in the United States to running buddies from as far away as Australia and South Africa, its members range from close friends to virtual strangers who smile as we pass each other on our favorite running routes. Whoever we are, wherever we are from, and whatever we are running for, we share a largely unspoken bond and are tied together by the simple joy of running.
So, “what’s the point of all this flattering and philosophical talk about a running community?” you might ask. I’ll tell you. It’s a request, a heartfelt invitation to cheer and be cheered, share in our victories and commiserate in our defeats, and be a part of my running community.
Now, you’re surely wondering, “how does one become a part of this magnificent running community?” Well, I’ll tell you again: Sign up for the Wipro San Francisco Marathon, first half marathon, second half marathon, 5K, or 52.4-mile ultramarathon! And hurry, the first half marathon is nearly SOLD OUT and the other races will undoubtedly sell out as well. I know I speak for my entire running community—San Francisco Marathon Ambassadors and all—when I say we are always looking to expand and include new members, and would be delighted to run with you in the beautiful City By the Bay next month and welcome you into our running community.