How it Feels to Cross the Finish Line

Contributed by Erin Mink Garvey, a 2018 Ambassador for The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon.

Erin Garvey TSFM 2017 finisher picOne of the many things that keeps me coming back to the marathon is the feeling I get when I cross the finish line. In the past decade, I’ve had the joy of running over thirty marathons. Sometimes I wonder if continuing to do this sport is worth it – if the grueling weeks of training, hard workouts, early mornings, and time spent away from my family makes sense to continue to do year after year – and when I cross the finish line each time, the answer is crystal clear.

It is.

The joy is in the journey.

Crossing the finish line reminds me of that every single time.

Runners approach racing differently, as you might imagine. Some like to train to run a race for fun and not necessarily set far-reaching, uncomfortable goals. Their emphasis is on the experience in its totality, on having a good time and making memories, and they often view their race as a moving party of sorts. It’s a great way to really relish a race.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are other runners who train to race very seriously and very hard, and they work their @$$ off in an attempt to realize a highly-sought after goal, like a personal record, a Boston-qualifying marathon time, or even an Olympic Trials qualifying time. These types of runners often want to experience the race as quickly as possible and do the very best that they can.

No one camp of runner is better than the other; they’re just different.

While these camps of runners may seem totally disparate from each other, with nary a thing in common between them, the unifying thread is the feeling they all get when crossing the finish line. Whether you’re running an event like The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon, half marathon, 5k, or ultra for funsies or in an attempt to accomplish a personally-challenging goal, that finish line is meaningful. It signifies the end of your journey, the culmination of all the previous weeks’ worth of training, and it is as symbolic as it is practical.

It’s hard to describe how it feels to cross the finish line at The Biofreeze SF Marathon. The fatigue is prominent, of course, but it’s not as lasting as it may seem, hard as it is to believe. Knowing that you’ve just covered 26.2 (or 13.1, 52.4, or 3.1) miles of San Francisco on your own volition, using your own body as locomotion, is pretty incredible.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve done it before or even how often you’ve done it before; those first few minutes right after you finish a marathon, half, ultra, or 5k are just unreal. Did I really just do that? Yes, you did. You trained your body for weeks and months to be physically capable of doing this crazy thing that very few people have done or can do, and you just freaking did it! GO, YOU!

When you cross the finish line, you’re done. You’re an official finisher in one of the 2018 Biofreeze SF Marathon races.

The race has now become part of you – the miles you’ve covered are now part of your story – and no one can take that away from you.

The excitement, the happiness, the pride: carry those sentiments with you wherever you go.

You are capable of doing really hard things, my friend, and that capability now applies to all aspects of your life. Through training for and then racing a marathon, half, ultra, or full at SF, you’ve willingly given yourself numerous opportunities to work through hard circumstances, times when it would have been much easier to stop and quit than to struggle and possibly fail. The tenacity that you’ve developed through training for, and racing, a race of that magnitude is impressive and will serve you well in life.

When you are in the finishers’ chute, look around. Savor the moment and the experience. The look on others’ faces will show that they, too, get it. They’ve experienced it as well.

Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, back in 1967, reminds us that “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” Running, in general, and the marathon, more specifically, exposes the gamut of the human condition, revealing the highest of highs and pulling a curtain back on the lowest of lows. If you’re not running one of the races over TSFM race weekend, hang out at the finish line, and you’ll understand exactly what Ms. Switzer is saying. (Protip: bring a tissue. Expect to cry.)

So how does it feel to cross the finish line?

Joyful. Exhilarating. Scary. Exciting. Tearful. Humbling. Prideful. Exciting. Tiring. Riveting. Inspirational.  All of this and more.

It’s something you have to experience for yourself to understand.

See you on July 29.

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