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Monday, May 4, 2009

Life is a Journey



North Carolina Marathon, 5/2/09

It was my privilege to volunteer for the NC marathon this past Saturday. This was the second one, the only other held in Greensboro last year. Due to a problem with costs and security, the marathon was moved to High Point--The Furniture Capital of the World--this year.

Along with dozens of others, I drove to my specified location for final instructions before the bus took us to our spot on the course (I signed up to be a course monitor). The cool morning (it was 6:15) was perfect for a long run, even if it was to be 26.2 miles for some. Others would opt for the shorter half-marathon, 13.1 miles.

Reaching my destination at the seven-mile mark with one other volunteer, it quickly became evident that we had a critical role to fill (all of the roles are critical I guess). My job would be to instruct the runners to turn at the next intersection: right for the full marathon, left for the half. Dressed in my official lime green volunteer shirt and new white NC marathon cap (both a part of the deal as volunteers), I would become hoarse over the next couple of hours yelling "full marathoners to the right, half marathoners to the left" (or some similar directional statement).

As the long line of runners eventually came to a close, I walked to the opposite corner of the intersection and immediately cut off 14 miles from the course: I was now at the 21 mile mark for the marathon. Not very challenging. While I enjoyed encouraging all of the runners as they stopped at the aid station for their choice of beverage, gel and MnMs, one was especially interesting. He was from Tokyo and was running his 554th marathon. He stopped and talked to us for about 4 minutes.

He said that while this marathon was a Boston qualifier, his goal was to "enjoy the run." He has vowed to never finish in less than five hours (the winner would cross the line in 2:45 and change). "Life is a journey, not a destination" was his parting mantra as he continued his leisurely run. Since he was the next-to-last runner--out of over 1,000--I was able to finally catch my bus and still make it to the 23 mile mark ahead of him where I snapped the picture above.

As I reflect on it, I enjoy volunteering. While I have run a lot of races in my life, this is the first time I have had the joy and privilege to actually serve as a volunteer. His parting statement relates to the experience. Life is a journey, but how often do we make it a destination, even as runners? We must get from A to B as quickly as possible. In running--and life--may we stop and smell the roses as it were. Slow down and enjoy the run, even if everyone else passes you. Remember the tortoise and the hare. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. I would rather run 554 marathons slowly than a handful quickly. I want to run a long time. If I need to slow down, that is okay.

How about you? Are you enjoying the run? Are you taking the time to enjoy life? Why not begin now? There are two ways to do this: slow down...and volunteer. Both, contrary to popular belief, are well worth the rewards they produce.

Thanks for sharing some of the road with me,
The 20-Minute Runner

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When sending email, please include your first name, city/state or country. Your email may be shared on a podcast. Also, feel free to send me a short mp3 or wav audio file. I might play it during a podcast. Your comments are always welcome.