45000 Personal Bests

This morning I hung out with 45000 folks.  It was a lovely way to start a Sunday morning at 730am.  You see today was the annual Chicago Marathon.  The course, as it winds it’s way through the city, usually runs somewhere in the vicinity of my house.  I can remember one year it went right by Wrigley Field.  It was really cold that year, I was wearing my Columbia jacket with the lining zipped in.  I rode my bike down with my dog Lily and we arrived in time to see the elite runners.  They are amazing to watch.  You can’t hear them as their feet barely make contact with the earth as they fly by.  It was incredible.

This year, the weather was much warmer, although not as hot as the year they had to stop the race.  The humidity was really high that year and the organizers didn’t have enough water out for folks.  This year it was dryer and there was plenty of H2O for the runners.  We learn lessons really well in Chicago.  Like how snow removal, or lack thereof, will ensure you don’t get re-elected the next time (see How Jane Byrne Became Mayor in Wikipedia).  So the organizers were very ready for conditions this year.

I had a special reason to get to the course.  My friend Stephanie was running in her hometown and for a wonderful charity (PAWS – Pets Are Worth Saving).  I donated to her fund as did others and she wonderfully dedicated each mile to a furry friend she’d known throughout the years.  My dear departed Lily was mile 8 which is where I was standing.  A nice bit of serendipity wouldn’t you say?

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to spot her.  After all, there were 45000 people running, how on earth would I be able to pick her out of the crowd?  And since I was still pretty near the front, there were coming in big groups as the crowds hadn’t had time to thin out.  I kept my eyes peeled all morning long.  But in the midst of all this pressure, I was cheering on whomever came into my eyeline.  Lots of runners put their names on their shirts so I was calling out to random people urging them on.  Lots of thank you’s came back.  The sheer magnitude of what they were undertaking was overwhelming.  I was blaming it on the sunscreen getting in my eyes, but I found myself tearing up thinking about their quest.  It was humbling to see all those people from all over the world running for themselves and any number of charitable causes.

Finally I hear my name being called out and look to see Stephanie with the biggest, most beautiful smile on her face waving at me.  I was so excited for her I started whooping it up, bad for the voice but oh-so-necessary for the accomplishment!  She finished with her personal best even with the hot conditions.  I’m so proud of her, proud of all those who even signed up to attempt such a goal.  They stuck their necks out and just showing up that morning was a win for them.  Kudos to all.

Makes me think…nah.  That’s just crazytalk.

Not Letting it Slide

The Olympics have just ended.  It’s been so much fun watching the games that I’m kind of bummed they’ve drawn to a close.  Events like this always have amazing stories attached to them, stories of triumph over unbelievable odds, athletes that have toiled in obscurity for years that excel at the precise moment in time, goals that fall short of achieving them.  Early on in the games, the men’s half pipe was on.  I’m not a snow boarder, I’ve never tried it as I was bit too old when the skateboarding phenomenon hit and then the evolution of it to snowboarding.  I’m a skier from way back.  Someday I’d like to try snowboarding but that’s in the future.  But I love the feeling of the participants, the zen of the whole community.  It seems to be very encouraging to all it’s members, even while maintaining a competitive edge.

So I’m watching the men’s half pipe and Shawn White is coming up in the rotation.  He’s at the top of the leader board and the guy that has the best shot at catching him in the points just missed his landing.  His points won’t add up to enough to take the gold.  The camera’s flash to Shawn at the top of the pipe and he and his team realize he’s won the gold.  He pretty much could scootch down on his bum at this point and still win the gold medal.  Instead he decides to do a trick that’s never been done in competition.  A trick that will once again push his sport forward to the bleeding edge of innovation.  And he nails it.  His performance for that entire run was flawless.  He could have let it slide, played it safe as the win was in the bag.  But that wouldn’t satisfy an innovator such as he is.  This was a chance for him to pull out a show stopping move that wowed everyone watching.

It’s easy to play it safe, just phone it in.  But breakthroughs and innovation never occur when you play it safe.  Just when you feel it’s in the bag, that’s the exact moment you pull out a Double McTwist 1260 and nail it.  Watch how it changes you.