This November, my husband and I ran the Cambridge Half Marathon for the third time, under a team name we first organized in 2016. That first year, the team was comprised of a handful of neighborhood families. We encouraged each other with our training and enjoyed a carb-loaded pasta dinner together the night before the race. The course that year ran right through our neighborhood, so we felt great about running by our neighbors and family members lining the roads.
In 2017 we invited more runners to join our team. Not limited to neighborhood friends anymore, our team ballooned to the point where I decided to rent a function hall in order to share dinner together the night before the race. Since many of the runners had families with young children, I organized kids’ activities in order for the event to be enjoyable for all seventy people in attendance. There was sign-making (“Go Mom!” / “Go Dad!”), play-doh and dress up. We also had kids’ races, including potato sack, three-legged, egg-on-a-spoon, as well as the races the kids invented themselves. Each child was rewarded with a plastic participant “medal”. After the official race the next day, we shared our experiences (and celebratory drinks) in a tent designated for our team.
It felt like such a great community event that when the event planners announced there would be no race in 2018, we were disappointed. And when the race was reinstated in 2019, some of us jumped on board immediately.
This year, our team was smaller, and its composition drifted from neighborhood friends we knew to their friends, and the friends of those friends. Since I love organizing events, I appointed myself team captain once more and set about encouraging people in their training and inviting them to yet another pre-race dinner.
On the evening of the dinner, I realized that I didn’t know most of the thirty people coming to the event. I greeted people at the door, a little nervous about introducing myself to so many unfamiliar faces, after which I pointed out the name tags and various activities set around for them and their children. I resisted the urge to cling to a few good friends in the room. In the end, we enjoyed the same types of activities and kids’ races we had in 2017, and once again, we celebrated together after the race in a tent designated for our team.
It always surprises me how quickly people’s faces grow familiar. By the end of the weekend, I felt like I had made new friends. It had worked. It was okay to throw a bunch of unconnected people in a room and figure out what we had in common. And I shouldn’t have been so surprised when I ran into one of the moms at my daughter’s swim class the following weekend. It turned out our girls had been swimming side by side all fall!
When my husband and I returned home from the race, one of my sons asked me,
“Did you win?”
“No,” I told him, and yes, I thought, I did win.
As I showed him my participant’s medal I realized that not only had I made my time goal that day, I enjoyed unexpected company and found a new community. And that truly felt like something to celebrate.
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.