Everyone has one person that inspires them. They might be an actor, musician, politician or a friend. If they’re famous, they look up to that person and dream of the day when maybe they can shake their hand or get a picture.
I met my running hero Saturday. And by meet, I mean see a few times. But that was all it took; all I needed to keep going.
She’s not incredibly tall, but she’s all muscle as most runners. Her blonde hair is held back and a lime green headband keeps the stragglers from getting in her eyes. She smiles and tells the runners “good job” after she crosses the line. People are asking to have their pictures taken and race bibs signed.
My fiancé leans over to me and says “Do you want your picture?” I shyly say no and look away. She’s my running hero. My inspiration when the race is long and I just don’t want to keep going anymore.
At 5′ 5″ and 106 pounds, she’s an easy choice for me to pick as a favorite runner. I cheered for her from my desk during the Boston Marathon, and shed a tear during her post-race interview when you could see the devastation on her face.
But this weekend during the inaugural Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half Festival in Newton, I got to meet Shalane Flanagan for the first time and even get a few words of encouragement from her.
A smile, a wave, and a “Good job! Keep going!” shouted out across the course was encouragement enough to push forward and propel me towards a 9-minute 2nd mile. To watch the powerful legs of an olympian run toward the finish line is an incredible experience for anyone. But unlike most of the people who crossed the line, she didn’t look like she was going to die. She was smiling, laughing and telling all the other runners they did a great job.
I’ll never forget running the race and seeing her come up the other side. Knowing that I ran the same race as Shalane, a runner I know I will never be like, but who makes me want to become the best runner I can be, will be enough motivation to keep pushing through all the struggles and come out on the other side.