On April 15th, some courageous FB souls undertook the endeavor of running around St. Louis…..for 13 whole miles in the Go St. Louis! Half Marathon. I am always inspired when I see people run long distances, often to the point of weeping. It’s amazing what bodies can do.
I knew that my high school friend Courtney was running. She and I had gotten together about a week earlier at a park with her hubs and adorable kid, and she mentioned it. Courtney’s husband, Charlie, is an awesomely gifted photographer, and snapped this shot of Courtney, nearly one-year-old Xavi, and me as we were out and about.
I also discovered (via FB) another high school friend Linda, who I visited in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, would be coming to town to run. I’d been noticing she’d been doing training runs (in all kinds of less-than-ideal Ottawan weather), but had no idea it was to train for the St. Louis race. I am not a runner. Never have been. But I’m an awesome cheer-er. So I figured it would be the least I could do to lend my voice and percussive clap to my beloved friends as they traversed the miles.
As I pulled myself out of bed the morning of the race and checked FB on my phone (a habit that I’ll break one of these days), I saw that two friends from Los Angeles were also preparing for an early morning race. I thought, “That’s funny. Does LA have a race today too? But it’s 4:30 in the morning there. That’s really early for a race. Wait!! Are they in St. Louis?!?!?!?!” I usually don’t text before 9am, and certainly not before 7am, but I knew LA friend Jess was up from the pictures she posted on trusty FB, so confirmed that indeed she and grad school friend Adrian were in town, and we agreed to meet up and cheer together.
I love most any place early on Sunday morning. It was true of campus in Ann Arbor. It’s true of Los Angeles. There’s a quiet stillness that pervades places in the sleepy hours of Sunday morning that is unique. And as I wove through the side streets of my home city to get around the race route, I relished in it.
Mile 6 of the race was fairly close to the finish, so that’s where I planted myself for cheering. The elite (i.e. superfast Olympic-style) runners had just started going by. The friendly midwestern St. Louisans cheered on each runner as they passed. ”I love my city, and I love the people here! We’re so nice and encouraging!” I thought. It was also the beginning of the race. I walked a little further down and saw this:
A priest was sprinkling (presumably holy) water on each runner as he/she went by and exclaiming, “Great job!” And later, when he grew tired of that, “Blessings!” There was a church adjacent to the race route. Googlemaps informed me later that it’s the downtown Episcopal cathedral. One of the hardest parts of being away from Los Angeles is being away from my own community of people, many of whom are from an Episcopal community called Thad’s (though we’re a little funkier–not in a church building, not robe-wearing, folk band singing, with a discussion after the sermon during the service among the whole congregation every week). And as I thought about it, this priest could have been in his office, doing last minute preparations for his sermon, begrudging what was sure to be a low turnout for services due to blocked-off streets. Instead, he was engaging and supporting what was happening in his community, literally right outside his front door, and he was doing so with such joy and positivity. Beautiful. Tears. In my eyes. Again.
It was from this spot, that I discovered Jess and her sister-in-law had literally camped out across the street. How wonderful it was to have my LA world collide with my beloved hometown in the face of this dear friend. Jess is someone with whom I can instantly feel at home, and catching up with her over the next few hours, cheering and talking, was a deep breath for my soul. From our curb, I spotted Courtney running by and ran alongside her for a little bit. St. Louisans, I really don’t think you have an idea of how hilly downtown is until you run it. Insanity. I only made it a block and a half.
Jess was getting updates on grad school friend Adrian’s progress from phone calls and text messages. Here’s how he and his brother Cort looked at Mile 6. We ran alongside them for a bit, too. Poor Jess was running in striped galoshes (it was supposed to dump buckets of rain on the race, but ended up being cloudy and dry).
Sadly, for all my efforts of face-scanning and standing up on a stop light at the finish for an hour, I did not see Linda running the race. Ironically, her husband (who I had not met) and daughter and parents (who I had met) were standing adjacent to the priest and cheering, as well. Thankfully, we got together later in the week for lunch with Courtney, too.
I think running is often a way that people connect with each other and build community. Facebook friend Michele was also involved with the St. Louis race, volunteering as a human road block as the wind whipped around Mile 25. She and her boyfriend Michele have trained with the behemoth Team in Training. When they came out to San Diego for the Rock ‘n Roll marathon last year, they had dinner with 5,000 other people. Courtney’s closest friends from grad school were those she ran with. I always entertain visions of myself as a runner and thought about uniting as many of my Facebook friends as possible for the half marathon in St. Louis in October, but that would mean I’d have to run…..we’ll see.
In the meantime, I am so proud of Facebook friends #70 Courtney, #137 Adrian, and #238 Linda and Adrian’s brother Cort for completing the half marathon! And grateful to cheerers and volunteers, Facebook friends #59 Michele and #141 Jess and Jess’s sister-in-law Kristin for the company. Go St. Louis!
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