What gets you to the starting line is a huge part of running any kind of race, but what gets you to the finish line is just as important. For someone who doesn’t have any family in state, like myself, support can be tough. You grow up with the love and encouragement of your parents, siblings and extended family but then you move away and find yourself growing your network with colleagues, friends and classmates. It’s tough, picking up and moving to a brand new city where you don’t know a single soul. I took that plunge 9 years ago when I was just 17. Barely more than a kid, I gathered up my stuff and started on a new adventure after graduating high school. My time here in Chicago has been nothing short of spectacular. Sure I’ve missed out on some things back home, or missed things here in the city when I’m back home visiting the folks. If you always look at life from the scope of missed opportunities you’ll never be happy. Just learn to embrace the chances you did take and where they lead you.
Throughout the years I’ve spent in Chicago I’ve met people through school, work, volunteering and a whole array of different activities I’ve been involved with. Most (if not all) my friends would tell you that I’m a social butterfly. I have no problems talking to strangers and approaching new people. This has served me well throughout the years as it has contributed to endless opportunities that I continue to encounter every day. The best part about it is all of the amazing people that I have grown to love so deeply that they have truly become family to me. There are a handful of people that aren’t related to me that I would be willing to travel to the end of the world and back if they needed it.
When I began my fitness journey I never dreamed that I would be calling myself an endurance athlete or much less a triathlete. I wanted to make healthier choices and be more active. Short, simple and sweet. I didn’t have a specific goal weight in mind or even dress size. I just wanted to feel better when exercising. Setting new goals for races helped me get there but the biggest part of my success can be linked to the overwhelming support of the network of friends and family around me.
I know I’ve said that I had everything I needed inside myself, but they’re the ones who helped me dig to find it. I couldn’t imagine getting through everything without them. Hearing their voices cheer me on, or passing friends along the course and giving each other high fives, these little things give you a boost that gets you just a little bit farther or makes you go a little bit faster. Sometimes it's not even people you know, but volunteers or other spectators cheering along the sidelines.
When I ran my first half marathon I didn't tell anyone I was doing it. I was afraid that if I told anyone I wouldn't be able to chicken out at the last minute and just do the 5k where the race split. A part of me wishes I could have had someone there to share in that milestone, but it helped me realize that I could do it even if the only people cheering me on were strangers. The point is you have to have something or someone to help get you through the tough times. Even during the triathlon, I knew I would have support there but had no idea where they would be along the course. Every time I felt myself slipping to a dark place during the race I would just keep my head up and smile at the other families there to cheer on their loved ones and pretend like it was my name they were calling out.
Through everything, I’m so thankful to be blessed with the greatest cheerleaders. Whether they’re out there on race day or send a text to say good luck, take a minute to appreciate the people who helped get you to that finish line. Don't forget to thank the volunteers either, they get to the race before you to make sure everything is set up and you have that cup of water to cool down with when you reach their station. Well after you pass them they're still there keeping runners hydrated and then clean up after our mess when the race is over. Celebrate your accomplishment and remember to share a piece of that victory with all of them, because in one way or another they were part of what got you there.