I worked the Charlottesville Women’s 4-Miler yesterday, as I have pretty much every year for a long time. The setting at Foxfield is beautiful and the weather was very nice this year. The crowd was very large (I’d like to obtain a well-documented estimate of the number of spectators) and wonderfully enthusiastic. The decorations, including the banners with the names of loved ones lost to cancer, attached to the fences along the last mile or so of the course, were familiar, but they still get to me.
It seemed like more than the usual emotional experience for me yesterday, perhaps because I felt vulnerable for reasons unrelated to the race. It has always been moving for me to see so many women, many of whom have never trained to run a race before, entering and completing the event. As they cross the finish line into the chutes (now wonderfully less stressful for those of us working that part of the race, because of the switch to chip timing), the sense of achievement that the runners and walkers have is palpable.
One thing that especially moves me is that, among the finishers, there are many survivors of cancer coming into the chutes. Their achievements underscore both the value of life and how fragile it is. My grandmother survived two mastectomies (one in the 1930s!). My friend Becky did not make it through the recurrence of her cancer. Life can be gone in an instant. I’m glad Carol, J9, and others whom I know still got it.
But, the thing that elevates my heart into my throat is when women cross the finish line carrying a banner showing the name of a relative or friend. Sometimes I have to turn away. Always, I have to remind myself to refocus on the job I’m supposed to be performing. But, often, I remember women I’ve known and know. And I appreciate the special dedication of these runners to honoring their sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, friends, and neighbors.
There’s still time to make a contribution to this year’s fund-raising effort. Go here. To see this year’s results, go here. Read my post about last year’s race, where I plied some of these same notions.