The local high school track was the venue for my run workout today. It’s summertime in Georgia, but the track and surrounding fields were alive with activity: baseball teams finishing batting practice before an afternoon game, a lacrosse player throwing with his coach, little kids wobbling around the track learning to ride bicycles, and a handful of adults running, jogging, and walking. I finished a great session, but the memorable part of my workout happened once the running was done.
A man with his dog – a blond-haired mix between a spaniel, poodle, and hound – approached me near where I was packing my gym bag on the rectangular oasis formed by the track and the 110-meter starting blocks.
“What are you training for?”
Isn’t this how conversations between runners always start? We started talking about my upcoming marathon, and he mentioned that he finished his first marathon at Disney in January.
His marathon training experience was far from ideal. He battled injuries, sickness, and other life stressors. Still, he committed and showed up at the starting line. Around Mile 22, he was done—no energy, no drive, with a head filled with negative emotions. But then the magic of Disney happened. As he was about to give up and wait for the sag bus, a stranger from the crowd placed a hand on his back and pushed him forward. “Don’t give up! You can do this.” Instantly, the touch filled the man with energy and adrenaline. For the next four miles, he walked, jogged, and ran through the remainder of the Disney parks, inching closer to the finishing line in Epcot. The whole time, he ran as if the stranger’s hand was still pushing him forward alongside the cheering crowds. Eventually, he finished the race and, in the process, did something less than 1% of the population will ever accomplish. He then promptly did something first-time marathons swear they will never do – he signed up for the Disney Marathon for next year.
We often forget during months of lonely miles that running is a team sport – not a team sport like lacrosse or baseball, but more of a community sport. We need family, friends, other runners, and even co-workers to support us.
And sometimes, we need a little more – a dash of magic from the most unexpected place.