It is autumn in New York and the marathon season is upon us. The warm summer haze is now a clear blue skyline against the glass of the rising buildings. The cooling weather always signals that the mile markers of the marathon will soon appear throughout the city. The weekend escapes that have left the the boroughs quieter in the summer months have been replaced by the full noises of life. So we readily cheer the runners that line the starting point who have woken in the early morning to take ferries and buses and cars to run for hours sometimes into night, to finish the goals they have set. It is a good reminder of how we live our lives. A marathon might at first seem like an individual sport, but behind every runners ability there is always someone who helps them in reaching their goals.
In a marathon there are no home teams with jerseys to wear, no decades of dynastic rivalries, and so we cheer for the individual who runs by us for the moment because we know that support is strength. Sometimes runners will choose to wear a shirt with their names emblazoned on the front. The runners understand that they may need a moment of motivation by someone who may not know them, but will shout encouragement because they simply want them to succeed. There is realization that the run is better for everyone if there is a sense of mutual appreciation in the roles that we hold towards one another at a given moment.
There is a palpable camaraderie that you can feel at every marathon. Beyond the tables of cups filled with water and hands outstretched giving out food, there are always cheers. A marathon is not an unalloyed act of running. The cheers of the crowds are themselves sustenance. There is energy in encouragement, and there is joy in cheering for the success of others.
There are times when someone may want you to be there for them at a certain mile. There are moments when it may seem easier for everyone to meet at the finish line or watch from the most convenient corner, but sometimes it is important to run the course together and be there when they look up for you. We are present because we want to make their run better. Supporters are there not for the glory of finishing, but rather so that others can succeed.
A marathon reminds us to be more selfless, to be the cheering crowd for those around us. Life is not all a competition of aggressiveness and speed to reach the next mile. There is only a personal best that truly matters. We all have our own pace that we know we want to keep, and it is the support that we give as well as feel that makes the run enjoyable.
A marathon requires resilience and determination, but it can not be run without others that help along the way. There is sometimes a more difficult stretch in the course. There may be a mile that does seem as scenic and the cheering crowds not always present. There is a truth that we realize that with each step forward we can more clearly hear the crowds and the bands playing in the distance. We know that there is always a cheer to hear or a beautiful view to see when we reach the next mile.