The Real Magic of the Marathon Relay

As the Indoor Marathon relay teams began to pack into the Pettit Center on Saturday, I suddenly became a person who hugs everyone. Fit Milwaukee had put together 10 teams for the event, but being part of the running community in Milwaukee means you start to see lots of friends at every event. I saw so many familiar faces, so many smiles, so much excitement! I could tell the energy was good, if bit nervous. I often tell people that being nervous is a good thing, it means you’re about to do something that’s important to you.

As a runner, the unique thing about the indoor marathon is that you pass your cheering section every few minutes. It was nice to know I’d have high fives,  smiles, and screams waiting for me each time I came around the northeast corner. I’d rest a bit on the back side of the track, slowing where no one could see me, and then power up to breeze past the pumped-up cheering squad and use their energy to get me through another fast lap.

As a spectator watching an event that dozens of my friends were participating in, it would never be more than a few minutes before a familiar face would pass by and I could shout someone’s name to support them. Whether they were flying by like elites or pushing themselves through a difficult stretch, seeing everyone playing on the same field was a beautiful thing.

Most of the teams we assembled for Fit Milwaukee hadn’t met before the event. We mixed up all different ability levels and speeds of runners, and teams quickly came together to support each other as a unit — some even gathering as a team to run across the finish line together.

We stuck around to watch the final runners finish, some hobbling, some with tears in their eyes, some still smiling and living it up, and it became clear the real magic of this event:

Running is unique in that we do it alone, but we couldn’t do it alone.

We runners stick together, whether we’re laughing in packs or training on treadmills. We support each other, we learn from each other, and we bring up new runners. We all know what it’s like to struggle through a single mile and to triumph over fatigue. We give energy when we have none, we pat each other on the back, and we pay it forward.

This marathon relay will forever live in my memory as the day nervous energy translated loud and clear into abundant cheers, high fives, screams, squeals, and even few powerarches! The northeast corner of the Pettit center has never had it so good.

Fit Milwaukee, congratulations, and thank you for participating in the Indoor Marathon Relay. You inspire me!

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