By JAMIE PARSELL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
My vacation ended in what looked like a mass dash for the ocean. Thousands of folks ram walked or crawled to the waves, hoping to dip their toes into the foamy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
I threw my shoes to the side when it was my turn. I had crossed the finish line a few minutes ago. Ignoring the crowds, my tired body and hungry stomach, I sighed when the water splashed on my toes, my ankles and finally, my knees. Every half marathon should end at the beach.
It is a moment I will carry all my life. There isn’t words to describe the feeling of accomplishment tangled up in waves of pure bliss. I could have stood there longer, feeling the spray of the waves on my face. Reality — I needed to sit down — called from a beach blanket, where my friends waited for my return.
The Virginia Beach Rock and Roll half marathon wasn’t my first. But this race made a lasting impression for a variety of different reasons. First of all, I was hurt. I wasn’t 100 percent ready for this race, but stubbornness is my default. KT Tape — a self-adhesive tape for sports injuries — helped a lot. The two-hour wait at the expo — a representative taped runners the day before the big race — was worth every second. My friend Erica and a few helpful folks at the race expo provided a lot of advice. Every mile was hard and I had to walk at times. I prayed out loud. I didn’t care about my time; my goal was to reach the ocean.
Runners are often called crazy for paying money to run a race, for running through the pain. Maybe so. I saw a man running dressed up as Elvis. Instead of a water bottle, he carried a plastic guitar. I saw fairies too. I heard Batman was on the course. I saw plenty of crazy, but I also saw kindness. Runners, even while covered in sweat, are some of the nicest folks I know. A few showed their true spirit in Virginia Beach.
Around mile 7, I accidentally dropped a pack of sports beans. Dozens of runners zipped around me in a hurry. Then, a older runner pressed the little bag of sports beans in my hand. He said, “Good luck” and then ran ahead. My friend Erica witnessed a runner return an i-Pod to a fellow racer. At one point, a volunteer tried to fill up cups of water at an aid station. He wasn’t fast enough for the stream of thirsty runners. A female runner stepped behind the table and started to help him line up the cups.
Throughout the morning, I saw so many random acts of kindness. From sharing candy to holding someone’s hand as a medical team assisted with injuries, I was proud to be a runner that day. We like to help, encourage and offer motivation to our fellow runners. This isn’t a team sport, but we can use kindness as a way to get to a finish line. It is like there is an unspoken agreement. Sure, elite runners are out for a prize. They are good enough to stand out in the sport, to win cash prizes and perhaps, participate on a national level. The rest of us — the turtles of the race — just want to reach the ocean and feel the sand under our toes.
More than 16,000 people participated in the Virginia Beach race. The two Virginias was well represented. At least six people from Princeton and Bluefield ran the race, which took place on Sept.1. I like big races because of the atmosphere. The crowds lined the streets, cheering and yelling for runners. Cheerleading teams came out with banners. And let’s not forget all the music. Bands lined the course, which took us through a military camp and a residential area, and finally the boardwalk. Even with all the bands and big promotions, one woman’s action spoke louder than any rock song.
She came out of her brick house, walked through the yard and turned on her sprinkler. The tiny spurts of water hit my legs and only lasted a few seconds. But I felt the act of kindness in my heart. It was a good day to be a runner, even if I was slower than rest of the field. It isn’t always about the speed. It is more about being in the moment, being kind and finding the finish line.
Jamie Parsell is the Lifestyle editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @BDTParsell.