“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
-Theodore Roosevelt|The Man in the Arena
And just like that…it’s over. Done. Finished. The race has been run and won and packed up. Streets have been flooded by cars and not by athletic shoes pounding out a cadence that is either scripted by music in the earbuds or matching that racing heartbeat. Crumbled white cups that used to hold water or Powerade have long been swept up.
It’s business as usual in Louisville, Kentucky.
This week, we had the official Wrap-Up meeting for the #KDFMarathon Ambassadors.
Let me just give you a little insight as to why this was so emotionally hard for me…
I was chosen to be a part of this amazing group of people back in the beginning of August. So here I was, now a member of a group of 20 people that were hand selected by the Kentucky Derby Festival people to represent the Marathon/miniMarathon! I was beyond honored, ecstatic, and ready to do what I could for this local race.
I had no idea how much these people and this position would change me. Personally. Emotionally. I never expected or anticipated the impact that being a part of the KDF Marathon family would have on me. But this has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life.
I’m almost 40 years old. So that’s saying something. Regardless of how average my life is. HA!!
For countless months and so many training runs…these people…this amazing, inspiring group of people…were my freakin’ backbone. We saw each other through surgeries, recovery, losses, injuries, PRs, hard times, good times…you name it. We stuck through it all together. We would check in via phone, text, Facebook, e-mail…we truly became a family. I have never seen a large group of different personalities just fall into such a happy place with each other. Simply put…we worked.
When the photo above was taken, I knew maybe 2 of the three people in the group. But I was talking and chatting with all of them, like I knew them for years, by the time the meeting wrapped up. I was just getting back into the swing of things. I had returned from Hawaii after giving my best (and ultimately, feeling let down by my performance) at the Kauai Marathon (I mean, it was my first major race back from my hip labrum tear). Nothing hurt. No pains. I was ready to get excited to train for the KDF full marathon. I had run it in 2014 as a pacer for a friend…but I really just wanted to run these streets for me this time. Official training didn’t begin until January, but starting as early as our first meeting, we had a discount code for registration to share and we were off to the races (pardon the pun).
I had a fantastic time connecting with some of them at the Disney Wine & Dine Lumiere’s Challenge weekend!
Food. Wine. Running. Disney. You better believe we were bonding. AND we did make a point to find one another before the race…after the race…in the parks…at the after party. We honestly…enjoyed each other’s company. AND…texting/calling one such group member who MIGHT have slept through her alarm on the first race. *cough* When you are a member of such a diverse group…and you can bond over one thing as simple as running…you’re going to find a lot of other things to bond over. While we only had a few official meetings, the unofficial ones turned out to be just as important…at least to me.
I met up with Melissa once more at a Disney race…this time in January…and this time under much, much different circumstances. On December 31, I did a 14 mile training run and ended up having a twinge of the hip flexor. It didn’t go away. It only got worse. And I honestly stopped running after that. Nothing leading into my upcoming January events. I was heading into the Disneyland Light Side Rebel Challenge weekend. When the orthopedic doctor wasn’t able to see me or to talk to me before I left…things got beyond stressful. And I had more than one panic attack in California. I remember walking to the start corrals (I was in A and Melissa was a few back) and I was seriously on the verge of tears because my hip was honestly being held together by KT Tape, ACE Bandages, and compression shorts under my costume), and Melissa stopped me and gave me the best hug ever and told me just to go have fun…stop for pictures…not even worry about the time on the watch…and that if they caught up to me and I was walking…they’d join me. I mean…this woman….is probably one of the few people left in this world who just thinks about others like that. Is it any wonder we all love her? Her pep talks…work magic. And her spirit is contagious.
Melissa has become, honestly, one of my best friends. We hang out together…bond over gluten-free eats, and just laugh. God, we can laugh over the silliest and stupidest things. But…how she and I, both living in New Albany, have never crossed paths before, neither of us can figure out. But now…we’ve got a lifetime to make up for it.
As the KDF training runs began, despite still not being able to run…AT ALL…I turned up for them. There were some very cold mornings where I would just walk. Sometimes 2 miles…sometimes 4…sometimes 5. It took forever. And I would cry. GOD, would I cry. But…here my amazing Ambassadors would lift my spirits with jokes, anecdotes, high fives, hugs, smiles, encouragement…THE ENTIRE TIME! One of them (calling you out here, Chris) gave me a blanket after one of the coldest mornings that I had to walk and was determined to WALK at least half the distance. I hurt so bad…and the cold wasn’t helping. I still have that blanket. Chris…I can give you back your blanket…FYI!
We were friends…we are family!
Race morning…if it could go wrong…if it could happen…well, we all read about it or experienced it. IT HAPPENED! From thunderstorms, delays, nutrition being off, more delays, people getting locked in a bank, more delays…and finally a 9:15 am start…well…there is actually a lot behind all of why that happened that way and I hope those of you who swore of the KDF Marathon/miniMarathon make a point to try it out again. It was really eye-opening to get the behind-the-scenes play-by-play by the new race director at the final KDF Ambassador Wrap-Up Meeting. Everything had to play out that way for safety…and there is a lot the general public doesn’t understand. You do the best you can under the circumstances, right?
The thing is…for better or for worse…we made it. We struggled and thrived in training. We struggled and thrived in the race. And while we all had different paces, places, and races…we all finished this…together. I was so honored to have been able to see most of my friends at the finish line. I loved being able to give them that hug…because when we finish a race under even the best of circumstances, that hug can change everything. WE DID THIS THING! WE did this thing that WE trained for and prepared for and WE did this thing…TOGETHER!
This past week we had the final meeting. And while those who were able to attend were few…we had everyone there in spirit. Over Lemon Blossoms and good conversation…we wrapped it all up and concluded our term as a 2016-2017 KDF Marathon Ambassador.
And…much to my surprise, I was awarded one of the Top Social Media Recruiter Awards…a distinction that I proudly share with Stephanie, another lady who has inspired, motivated, and befriended me. Seriously…this was so shocking and unexpected. And I’m honored simply to have been an Ambassador, but to include me with someone who rocked the social media world with her posts…it’s amazing to me.
One of the Ambassadors really went above and beyond when it came to recruitment and promotions. Honestly, he would work on setting up tables at local business and gyms. And he didn’t keep this to himself either, but invited other Ambassadors to jump in and get on it too. And it was for that reason that Jack took home the Award for Promotions!
And the award of the night went to the person who most deserved, earned, and fought for it. Seriously…if you could hear her back story…and then all that happened to her on the marathon course…you’d be in awe of her. She’s one of my best friends now. And I would be lying to say I wasn’t slightly jealous because she gets to be a part of the new group that comes together for next year…but…I’m proud of her. Oddly enough…I even had said for a few weeks leading into this meeting that if she didn’t win Ambassador of the Year, I would be disappointed…so…Melissa Nolan..take a big freakin’ bow and get your beauty queen wave on!!
And no blog would be complete without the last shot of all of us who were able to make the meeting. Honestly, to those pictured below and those pictured in the first group shot way at the beginning of this post…I can’t emphasize enough how much your friendship and encouragement have inspired me, moved me, and kept me going. I had some highs during my time as an Ambassador…but I had more lows in my life…and they lifted me up and kept me going…and that, friends, is what this group is all about. I didn’t ever feel like we had any sort of competition in our group. We invited each other to our parties, to lunches, and even gave airport transportation. I have a whole new group of friends in my life…and I’m forever thankful to have had this opportunity to grow not just as a runner, but as a person too.
To Deana, Chris, Stephanie, Amy, Chad, Danielle, Dawn, Jack, Jamie, Jessica, Kelsey, Leah, Madeline, Melissa, Paul, Reggie, Richie, Stephanie, and Tonya…I can’t wait to see and experience all that awaits you down the road. I can’t wait to see how you rise above it all. I can’t wait to see you soar over challenges and push yourself to the next level. I can’t wait to see more starting lines…and finish lines with you. Not strictly race-related…because we’re all in this thing called life together…and whether physical or metaphorical…we’ve got new beginnings and new ends ahead. I can’t wait to cheer you through it all. LOVE YOU!
For any of you who have thought about becoming a Race Ambassador, I highly recommend it. This has been such a rewarding experience for me. I can’t even begin to put into words (that I haven’t already used) how much this group motivated, supported, and changed me. They were my rocks. And I can’t wait to see them at our unofficial Ambassador reunions and out on the streets of our amazing city!
If you want to try to get in as a KDF Marathon Race Ambassador next year…the application opens in August. Fill it out!! Maybe magic will happen for you too! Chase your dreams, friends!! See you out on the roads!!