Running a half-marathon 11 weeks after having baby number three wasn’t easy. I’d only eeked up to 11 miles beforehand and none of those miles were near what you’d call a “race pace”. But yet, it was one of my most enjoyable races to date because getting to the finish line wasn’t so much of a struggle as it was a gift. What propelled me to the finish line? The phrase, “Run for others who can’t,” which popped in my head around mile 8 of that race and played on repeat until I crossed the finish line. We were just two weeks removed from the Boston Marathon bombings, and I couldn’t shake the images of those innocent victims—those still in the hospital or those who would never run again. I’m not sure if I’d heard the phrase before or strung it together in a moment of exhaustion, but it worked. And it’s been my race mantra ever since.
Lately, while the Boston tragedy is still so dominant in my mind, I’ve picked up another source of inspiration to draw from in those inevitable moments of weakness in races. A few weeks back, my sister mentioned the recently updated memorial website for a friend, Lauren Beam. Though I was familiar with her battle with colon cancer and shaken to the core when she passed away all too soon at the age of 34, it wasn’t until I read about her fight in her own words that I became deeply impacted by her spirit. On her website is a speech she delivered to the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation team on the night before the 2011 New York City Half-Marathon. Six months before her death, Lauren—herself an accomplished triathlete and marathoner--stood before a crowd of runners and shared her enthusiasm, her advice, and her sense of humor. After reading the speech, her words stirred emotions deep within my heart and continue to echo in my mind.
During recent races, as I’ve repeated my little mantra in my mind, I’ve thought of Lauren. In her speech, she said, “Live in the moment, don’t wish it away. The burn, the lactic acid, these are good things that mean you are alive and doing something you love. There are people out there who don’t have the ability to do what you all are doing. Embrace it, right-left-right-left, look around you, take a deep breath and remember who or what inspired you to get this far.”
So now in races, I think of Lauren’s advice. When I face-planted into the dirt only halfway into my 5-mile trail race last week, I was in pain and wanted to stop. Another runner warned me about “running on adrenaline” and how I should slow down or stop since I was probably more hurt than I realized. But I didn’t. I ran because I could. Because it was a gorgeous, blue-skied autumn morning and I had air in my lungs and legs that could still carry me up and down that narrow dirt trail. I crossed the finish line with contusions on my hip, thigh, and a swollen hand, banged up but grateful for yet another opportunity to do exactly what I love. I’m lucky.
Runners this weekend will be gathering on the west side to honor Lauren in one of the most fitting ways: A 5K race. If you live in the NYC area, consider entering. Or dedicate your race elsewhere to her, or contribute to The Lauren Beam Foundation.
Run for others who can’t. Run for Lauren.
Have an awesome race mantra? Share it with us!
For more information, please visit www.laurenbeam.org.