Tomorrow I am running the Soldier Field 10 Mile (SF10) race. Over the past couple of years, it has become one of my favorite races to run for several reasons.
The race has been always been very well run. Fleet Feet does an excellent job putting on races and this race is no different. The course is wide and open and there is quite often more than enough room to run. Water stations are plentiful which is always a huge bonus for me… and the back half of the race is along the LFT which (by this time of the year) usually has water fountains on which has helped me more than once. Ending the race on the 50 yard line of Soldier Field is unique and a lot of fun… even if you aren’t a Bears/Football/Sports fan, it is a different kind of finish line that makes this race a little more unique. And I have always been a fan of the medal we receive as well.
But there is something else about this race that I love that I have rarely spoken about. In case none of you have noticed, this race occurs on Memorial Day Weekend every year on Saturday. There is a reason for that. Fleet Feet chooses to honor those have served and are serving our country. Those that are willing to risk their lives for our freedom. Before each corral starts to run, the announcer always names every single person within that corral who has served or is still serving in our military. At the end of the race, we receive our medals from a military person. There is also always at least one person who runs with an American flag every year… I have no idea if it is the same person each person.
I remember the first time I ran this race how moved I was to see that American Flag while running this race. At that time, I was struggling because I foolishly took Gatorade instead of water at the first water station which caused my stomach to cramp the remainder of the race. But seeing that flag, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and I was determined to finish the race even though I desperately wanted to quit. Each year, I continue to be moved by seeing that American flag on the course and I know this year will be the same.
This year, however, I expect to be more emotional than normal. I have always had the utmost respect for those that have served or are serving in our military. I have had family members serve in the past and have known a lot people through the years that have served as well. But this year is a little different for me because now one of my dearest friends is in the military. From the time that I met him, I knew that was his goal and it is what drove him to try and be the best that he could be. He has helped me so much over the past year. He was there for me when I really needed someone and he helped me battle my demons. He helped me become a better runner. I am now considering time goals for various race distances that I never dreamed I could attain but I am already close to them. Yes, I had to put in the work but he helped me get there with support and encouragement and knowledge. I know he will always cheer me on and believe in me, even if it is from afar. This time goal that I have in mind is because of him… and honestly, it is a time goal that I never considered until he suggested it. He had faith in me before I did.
I want that time goal that he set for me but I also know that training fell apart this cycle and I am not where I should be. But I still intend to go after the goal. I am prepared for missing it but I still want it and that want will help carry me through. I also know that he has my back and has faith in me and knowing that will help when I start to struggle on the back half… When my lack of training sets in and I start to hurt and want to give up.
So tomorrow when I line up to race, I won’t be racing just for me. I will be racing for those that have served and continue to serve our country. The men and women that are willing to risk their lives for our freedom. Thank you to all of those men and women.