On the blog, RADrabbit Sam Snyder delivers a powerful recap of his meaningful CIM experience and the incredible impact a single marathon has across the running community.
Hobbling through the Sacramento airport every runner gave the other a knowing nod, an understanding of chosen suffering, and an embrace of a common bond, forged through both shared and distinct experiences somewhere between Folsom and Sacramento the day before.
Walking off the plane, congratulating other runners and parting with high fives I couldn’t shake the notion that CIM 2019 might have been one of my most profound experiences in recent memory.
Looking backwards to 2015, I vividly remember a cold, slightly snowy November morning. Running with my friends Kate and Jen as they spoke of the California International Marathon, of qualifying for Boston. I chuckled as we moved. “No way.” “Not a chance.” An easy dismissal, like brushing the falling snow off the sleeve of my jacket. Suddenly here I am having achieved those goals this past weekend at that very race, yet moved by so much more than the click of a clock.
Back then I knew so little. A late in life runner seeking some sanity, not speed and certainly not races, goals, BQs . . sub 3s?. I gave little thought to the larger questions about running and its impact on community or society.
In early 2016, when I applied in that first round to be a rabbit brand ambassador - a RAD rabbit - I did so out of intrigue for this startup brand that appeared motivated by a similar set of shared values. Looking back I had no real idea what it meant to be a Runner and a Dreamer.
I think, after this last weekend, I finally do.
A year ago I watched CIM from afar, vowing that I must run that race. Largely because it seemed like one of the greatest meet ups of all the other rabbits, the brand I had grown to embrace for its community, character, and collective spirit. The FOMO was palpable. Sure I was intrigued by those seeking that OTQ or setting and besting their own goals last year. But all the possible friends in real life, in one place, had me internally committing to run CIM.
Leading up to this year’s race, while focused on goals and hanging onto training, I occasionally admitted my excitement to meet so many friends in real life. I was only half joking when I told Mary Schneider, that the prospect of friends perhaps excited me more than the race. She rightly cautioned me to focus on the task at hand.
Yet that Sacramento meetup held so much more than I imagined. So many faces I knew virtually were now around me. Initial handshakes upon introductions led to deep embraces as if long lost friends seeing each other after ages. These were connections forged online, through the pursuit of running now manifest as real, powerful relationships that felt decades deep.
Perhaps the secret gift of running is community. So much of running is personal, individual, and at times very, very lonely. The long runs with tempo work forced to do alone in the dark, the time spent away from family and friends, focused on what outsiders may see as odd, arbitrary and sadistic goals. Yet, we know there are other runners out there doing the same thing at the same time. Whether we know them or not we share that bond. And when you put us all into a room together, it’s like we’re long lost childhood friends in a candy store.
So, while we all run for our own and varied reasons, one cannot deny the power of these connections, this community as a central tenet of our efforts. And on Saturday in Sacramento, we shared an electric excitement for what lay ahead.
Throughout the day, perhaps the most common conversation centered around the ever shifting weather forecast. My routine response: “it’s going to be a beautiful day. Just wait.”
The weather turned out pretty darn good - drizzle, clouds, a bit of sunshine (which this Alaskan hated for its quick heat), drizzle, and . . . OK I could have done without the headwind at mile 15 or so). But, the day? The day itself was pure beauty.
For some that breathtaking sunrise of goals set and achieved, PRs, BQs secured, and OTQs punched. For others, the crumbling heartbreak of goals missed by the whisper of time. And others, finish lines missed as bodies revolted or gave in to the unanticipated. In all cases, profound, raw, emotional beauty. As David Melly eloquently penned, it was the “beauty of humanity laid bare.”
My own race, like others, held a roller coaster of emotions. Calm, excitement, and nerves balanced between confident attack and fear of blowing up. The early miles were fun and full of opportunity. The middle miles a hopeful analysis of things to come. And those final miles, that last 5K, defined by sheer will to keep moving as the wheels threatened to wobble off the bus and into the ditch.
Three, four days later, I cannot get enough of the videos and reflections. Never mind the “shoe debate.” The video of 75 plus humans working on that OTQ train is absolute beauty. The commentary of sharing and support on board that train, an example of humanity we seem to lack in everyday life anymore.
But, it’s not just the elites and sub elites who exemplified this humanity. From the start to finish, the marathon, and certainly CIM, brings out those silent, distant bonds built on our own trails and streets, training plans, and individual efforts to get to this point. On those roads between Folsom and Sacramento the metaphysical became physical.
While I didn’t have the pleasure of working with a pack of dozens like that OTQ train, somewhere between the 3:05 pace group and the 3:10 pace group there was a rotating dozen or so of us, who chuckled at signs, offered comments or encouragement along the way, and when the headwind found us at mile 16, we had a moment of acknowledgement working together toward calmer roads. But the power of my race came in that final mile and a half, when the wheels were mostly off. A much faster friend whose race had deteriorated due to a nagging injury, slid up beside me and then willed me to the finish. I, like others, attained a goal through the selflessness of others.
Upon crossing that finish line, avoiding puking and catching my breath, I took a moment to ponder all that I had accomplished. Then I quickly scanned the crowd for friends. Where were other rabbits? Or my Alaskan crew? Did Ryan break 2:30? How massively did Julianne crush her goal? I urgently wanted to hear their stories and celebrate their work. And, there in the celebration of their pursuit, I lost sight of my own self.
And in the end, what seems to some like a selfish pursuit, is so very selfless. Yes, we run for ourselves, but it’s the others around us who do everything from directly supporting to unknowingly inspiring. It’s the friends lost to tragedy (#fuckcancer) for whom we run and embrace the privilege to suffer. It’s our children who silently watch us grind and greet us at the finish line, asking if we “won.” It’s those faster or slower than us who inspire the additional step when we feel there are no steps left.
That, I have learned, is what is all about. That is the lesson of Sunday.
It turns out, Sunday was indeed beautiful. Sunday exemplified the power, emotion, and meaning of the marathon. To borrow again from David Melly, the beauty of running and dreaming was laid bare on those roads between Folsom and Sacramento.