Sporting events are one of the few ways that we come together in an experience of community. This weekend fourteen thousand people shared the experience of running, walking or wheeling their way through the streets of Victoria for the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon. In a world where headphones and email create more distance than connection, this experience of running together, of lining up with others from 24 different countries, is a soul filling experience. I met a woman who was running her first marathon with her twenty something daughter; I met a man who had run over seventy marathons in his lifetime (that’s 1,820 racing miles). I had signed up for the half marathon but two weeks of flu, downgraded my ambition to the 8K. Here I met ten year olds whose only ambition was to finish, as well as a twelve year old boy who left most of us in the dust, as he set a new course record for his age group. As we stood around the starting line, we shared where we were from, who we were running with, why we had decided to run in Victoria.
I do not run. A leg injury so many years ago has made running a painful and body abusive experience, but I walk and I like to walk fast. My goal was to finish 8K in under an hour and to get a good workout doing this. When I started walking with the thousands of others mere mortals who had entered the 8K rather than the marathon, I discovered that most of us were having a lot of fun. Through the experience of being passed, then passing, I started to recognize the same thirty of so people, and we encouraged each other on. Beginning up one rather sizable hill a man on the sideline yelled, “this is not a hill, this is not a hill, it is simply a gentle incline. Do not panic, this is not a hill.” His view on the world, had everybody smiling as they ran a little lighter up this very sizeable incline.
The greatest thing about the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon is that the money raised through the event goes to charity. Runners get to decide where to put their dollars and over twenty local charities benefit. Nice to run for a cause, including one that is close to my heart, GoodLife Kids Foundation, which creates opportunities for kids to be physically active.
As a special guest of the event, I spent a lot of time around the finish line of the marathon, and half marathon. It was inspiring to see the emotion of so many of the participants. Finishing a marathon is an accomplishment for anyone, but it was clear that for some participants simply crossing the finish line was a dream come true. In the exclamations of excitement, the shouts of victory that participants displayed in realizing that they had done it, I was being given a little window into what that person was feeling and experiencing, it truly lifted me for the rest of the day.
There were fourteen thousand people who ran the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon this weekend in some shape or form. There were at least ten times that many again who came out to cheer, who helped their friend train, who handed out water and Gatorade, who put tents up at 3:00 am, who shook that hand of each participant like race director Rob Reid did as they crossed the finish line. Sport is a place where we can come together and share a common experience. In a world where there seems to be so much separation, we need events like this one to remind us how good it feels to be connected.