I was working in Geneva for a couple of days last week and I added an additional day (Sunday) to see a bit of the sights.
As it happened Sunday 12th May was the day of the Geneva marathon.
My intention for the day had been to take a boat trip on Lake Geneva. When I woke up, the sun was shining but I quickly saw that the wind was such that for my motion sickness condition, the boat trip was not an option. I decided to replace it with a walk along the lakeshore, watch some of the race and enjoy some of the sights and sounds of the Geneva marathon experience.
On arrival into the City, I walked down to the lakeside and I saw some of the front runners of the men’s race nearing the finish and the clock said 2 hours 8 minutes. I watched as 8-10 of those front runners ran with apparent ease the last 1km or so. I was in awe that after nearly 26 miles they could still run with a bounce in their step and so fast. I also noticed that all the men were of African descent and it got me thinking about how we are all suited to certain types of activities, all have different talents and it’s by focusing on those talents that we move ourselves into the “elite fields” of our choice.
I then walked further away from the finish area to enjoy my walk. As I walked along the side of the lake more runners passed by and I found myself thinking I’d love to do some kind of endurance event: for the challenge rather than the race as I’m not a runner – never have been, so it wouldn’t be a marathon similar to the one I was watching.
As I’ve talked about in my Grand Canyon hiking adventures, I’m a plodder, not a sprinter. I can keep going (ish!) and I’ve read a few stories and accounts of long distance runners, ultra marathon athletes and long distance trail walking. It’s something that is bubbling as a “to do” for me. Equally I wonder if I REALLY could do that and if my hesitation is – do I really want to, could my body realistically cope or is it a limiting belief or fear? The truth is in there somewhere.
It was a beautiful day; sunshine, blue skies with a few fluffy clouds and a few not so white clouds bubbling. Suddenly the wind really picked up and a heavy shower sent me running indoors for a coffee until the shower passed.
As I sat in the comfort of the café I thought about how the runners were coping with both the wind and rain. I wondered how many hours of training had been completed in less than ideal conditions; how many hours of running had led some to abandon their marathon goal completely and how many had been reignited by the challenge of pushing through unfavourable circumstances in their training runs.
The shower over and a couple of chapters of my book read, I ventured back along the lakeside to see many runners, who would finish at the @4 hour mark, with about 1 mile to go making their way to the finish line. As always in marathons – I’ve watched the London marathon highlights on TV a few times – the race was filled with all kinds of people: some running alone, some with friends and some in teams.
The roadside along the course was lined with people and it was fabulous to see the camaraderie, friendliness and support for EVERYONE. As runners passed by people clapped and I joined in.
What was I clapping for? To celebrate their achievement so far, to recognise their endeavour and what it had taken to not only run @ 24-25 miles so far but the hours, days and weeks of training before and I was clapping in genuine appreciation of their commitment.
Everyone was cheered and my perception was it seemed to encourage and boost the runners for their final few minutes of the race
One of the things I really liked was that about ½ mile from the finish there was a gathering area for teams. This place was at the side of the course and a place where faster runners in a team could wait for their team mates to arrive so that they could then finish the race together. I’d not heard of that before and I loved the idea. If we are all in this, we will all finish together as one; a message corporate teams could well take on board.
As I got closer to the finish area, which was at the end of one of the bridges spanning where the river Rhone feeds into Lake Geneva, there were solo musicians and bands playing reggae and rock and roll, music was blaring from speakers and the “party’ atmosphere was in full flow. The crowds were bigger here and stood side by side along the bridge clapping and cheering those runners they knew and those they didn’t. I found a space and started clapping and cheering too.
And then something unexpected happened. I got really emotional and felt tears welling up inside me as I clapped. What’s that about I queried?
- Was it the feeling of being part of something?
- Was it my secret desire to do something similar?
- Was it the warmth of support for a challenge completed – no matter the time or elegance?
- Was it a feeling of genuine celebration, recognition and appreciation?
- Was it my deep rooted need to belong?
We all want to be celebrated, recognised and appreciated it’s part of who we are as humans. Whether we are elite athletes, plodders or supporters we can often feel that need met simply by showing up and being present – I know I did.