18,000 runners, 26.2 miles, countless stories

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My recent knee injury gave me an opportunity this weekend that was unique to me: race spectating.

I watched runners in the Livestrong Austin Marathon. I love the hard work, pain, perseverance, and sense of accomplishment that comes from pounding out all those miles on the pavement. But since my doctor’s instructions for my recovery were very clear (NO RUNNING!), I got the chance to find out something new that I love about running, the stories.

Before I ever seriously considered running a half or full marathon, I assumed all of those crazy endurance types looked like this.

Standing at the start line of the 2010 Rock n’ Roll Marathon in San Antonio quickly dispelled that notion for me. I learned then that marathon runners come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. Some are there to fight for a personal record; others have already fought for their lives and want to show the world they can’t be beaten. Many runners lace up their shoes for a cause, some do it to honor others and some run to bring awareness to their own personal struggle.

I blogged last week about Rachel Zambrano, a firefighter running the marathon in her full firefighter gear to raise money for a scholarship fund in honor of a fallen officer. I got the chance to cheer Rachel on at multiple points along the race route. I can tell you that her smile was just as big at mile 24 as it was when I saw her at mile 10. I saw her stop several times along the way, not because of the pain or discomfort that came from running with all the extra weight, but to talk to children cheering on the sidelines. When Rachel crossed the finish line Sunday, she became the first woman to run a full marathon in firefighter gear. But more importantly, she undoubtedly left a lasting impression on thousands of people along that race route and the money she raised will help send future police and firefighters to training school. You can find out more about the Leonard Reed scholarship fund by clicking here.

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I also saw E.J. Scott several times along the route. E.J. is raising awareness of his rare disease, Choroideremia, which causes blindness by running 12 marathons in 12 states in 2012. Because sunlight can actually speed up his degenerative disease, E.J. is running all of the races blindfolded. You can read his blog here.

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Those are just two stories from the nearly 18,000 runners in the 2012 Austin Marathon. The Austin American Statesman published an incredible story about some of the final finishers of the marathon Sunday. What a true test of endurance to press on even as the streets are cleared and your body is fighting against you. Congratulations to all those who completed Sunday’s marathon, one way or another.

I would encourage anyone to get out and cheer on marathon runners the next time there’s one in or near your city. Even if a zombie apocalypse is the only thing that could motivate you to run 26.2 miles, I guarantee you will witness some amazing and inspiring stories unfold from the sidelines of that race course.

Anyone else have a marathon story to share?

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