Change is Good

This weekend brought the GO! St. Louis Marathon Weekend to our house.

And if I could describe it in one word, it would be…different.

Not bad different. Just different.

For starters, and most obviously, the start and finish points physically changed from the Union Station area on Market Street to directly under the Arch. It was also the first GO! weekend that I ran a distance shorter than a half-marathon (I did the 7K). So it was all kind of strange – right from the start.

When we got to Laclede’s Landing, there was a sign pointing runners to their corrals. A-B this way, C-E to the right. Good news for Drew; he was in the B corral. Bad news for me? I was assigned corral F. That wasn’t an option on the sign. I laughed and joked that my corral was so slow that it didn’t even register a mention. So I wished Drew luck and headed to the right, figuring it logically had to follow E.

I followed the herd and made it as far as E, but then I got stuck in the sea of people. Everybody was at an impasse. I couldn’t even reach my corral, let alone join them. So we stood there sweating, squeezed in shoulder to shoulder like a steaming herd of sheep. The slowest sheep. An older woman next to me must have sensed my growing anxiety, because she smiled and said, “Oh, don’t worry. Wait until some of the earlier corrals move forward. It’ll clear right up and we’ll all get to go.”

Of course I knew she was right. But this was a new feeling for me. I like to be where I’m supposed to be well in advance of the start. None of this outside-looking-in business.

Soon the first few Corrals hit the course. The bottleneck loosened up enough for me to move around and join my group.

Somehow everyone around me seemed to know each other. Lots of hugs and high-fives were exchanged among the runners. Lots of spectators were along the barriers, straining and hoping for just one glance and shout of encouragement to their loved ones before they reached the start line.

Then it got weird. Between not seeing a reference for my corral to not being able to join my corral to not having any connections/friends around me, I suddenly felt overwhelmingly alone – like I didn’t fit in anywhere. I was among literally thousands of people jammed in this space like sardines, yet I had never felt more lonely. I actually had to fight back tears. Normally solitude is one of my favorite aspects of running. It’s quiet time for my mind. So how this feeling of not belonging even registered on my radar is beyond me. But anytime you experience something new and totally unexpected, it’s worth noting.

But finally, I reached the start line and the feeling subsided.

Hello, St. Louis. You pretty thing, you.

Not my best race physically, but a finish is a finish. The medal looks the same either way.

So I snagged my medal and headed over to the half-marathon and marathon finish line to wait for Drew.

For all of the bumps and grumps at the beginning of the day, I have to say that this new finish line was awe-inspiring. Unbelievably exciting. Right at the base of the steps at the foot of the Arch.

SO COOL. Perfect, in fact.

And here’s my boy at the finish. Just a smidge over the hour and thirty minute mark. It wasn’t a personal best for him, but he finished strong and felt great. Not bad for a kid juggling a full-time job and a full grad school course load. Not to mention chemo. I was so proud of him.

On a fun note, we decided that a hotel stay made more sense than trying to navigate parking and shuttles for the race’s new start/finish.

This was our view.

Can’t imagine how beautiful it’s going to be once the park construction is complete.

And this is how we partied post-race.

Conclusion?

It was a good day, in spite of a few bumps along the way. It all boils down to the fact that we are healthy and fortunate enough to be able to do these things. I have no complaints. Life is good.

And, by the way, I am totally doing the half next year.

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