One of the first differences I noticed was the crowd. Usually, at the other races, runners are focused on themselves – stretching, checking out the start area, and anything else they need to do to be ready to run. Here, at the Race for the Cure, there were groups of teams, large and small, everywhere. Corporate groups, religious groups, family groups. Everyone was interacting, laughing, taking photos, hugging. I’m sure somewhere some were focused on stretching and prepping for beating their fastest time, but I didn’t see them.
Then, as the first race started queueing up, I became aware of the biggest difference.
Usually, as soon as my husband’s race starts, I make a beeline for the finish line so that I can be visible to cheer him on to the finish. Generally, I have to struggle a little to get a spot where I can see and be seen by him. This time, I headed to the finish line even before the race started because of the large crowd and was able to walk right up to the pedestrian fence. I congratulated myself on a great job of getting there quickly. But as 10 minutes turned to 15 minutes, then to 20 minutes, it slowly dawned on me. The real crowd was in front of me, on the course, still heading for the start line.
I watched as men, women and children of varying ages walked or ran by. Dressed in all manner of pink – from pink survivor t-shirts to pink afros and even a pink storm trooper and Princess Leia – a parade passed in front of me. Everyone participating has their story – somehow they are affected by breast cancer. Seeing the impact up close, in one city, one race, knowing that there are other races in other cities, was both inspiring and saddening.
This race was not a race for athletes only – it’s a race for fighters, for survivors, for everyone who felt compelled to honor, celebrate or remember those impacted by breast cancer. While I realize individuals have different perspectives on the best options for healthcare and how charitable organizations use donated funds, I was not concerned about the politics of the issue. Instead, I was impressed by the participants. By the drive and determination to do what they could to try to support those fighting this disease and to do it with sass and flare. This race was truly personal.