I’ve never considered myself a runner but rather a person who runs. I felt like I didn’t fit into the mold of an athlete. I exercised to keep my metabolism high to counteract my love for ice cream. When I ran races I felt a bit like an imposter. I was running but they were runners. This all changed when I joined T2, the Team to End AIDS. I finally found my running home.
This year, my second year with the team, was different. It didn’t matter that my long run were 750 miles away from most of my teammates but we were running around the same time, for the same distance, for the same cause.
The friendships I made from last year lasted and I picked up some new ones on the journey.
I wish I could be there for the camaraderie and speeches and group runs. I want to experience what it’s like to train with the group because maybe the victory lap of the marathon would be different. Maybe I’d have a group photo with my pace group (I don’t even really know what my pace is!) and be able to understand all the inside jokes about runners who are not active on the facebook group.
This year I was asked to make a small speech to the group before the race. I was so honored to be asked and it gave me something to focus on pre-race that
I am kinda here by accident. Two of my friends got into the Chicago Marathon by the lottery. I didn’t. I decided to go the charity route but I had to find one I could wholeheartedly stand (run?) behind. I saw T2, Team To End AIDS and I was in, it just felt right. I felt a bit guilty that I had used the charity to get my race bib but I quickly realized this was the team I was destined to be on.
As an out of towner we miss all the group runs and the camaraderie that comes with it. What we do get is a group of people who treat us as if we were there for the group runs. When I arrived last year I really didn’t know anyone. I left four days later with people I will know for the rest of my life.
I will never forget the last miles of the race last year. I ran by myself. I felt like I wanted to give up and, like a movie, Coach Kinnear was at my side. He have me words of encouragement, asked me of I needed anything, and then was gone. Half a mile later I wanted to give up again. Then Coach Jen was at my side giving me last minute pointers. What shocked me was that I had never met them. The magic singlet we were all wearing banded us together and have me the support to get through those last miles. Then, just about at the end Coach Nate, who had finished his own race, saw me and yelled my name. As a person who knew only my brother in town I was shocked that a teammate that barely knew me at the time thought enough to cheer me on. I happy cried my way to the finish line stronger than I expected carried by the support of this team.
This is the beauty of us. We might not know everyone extremely well but I like to think we come here with the desire to get each of our teammates to the finish line.
Whether you are here for the first time or the 13th time, you got a charity bib because you didn’t get in through the lottery or because you knew this was your path, we are here together, supporting an important cause and supporting each other.
We will run in honor of those who are living with HIV/AIDS and in memory for those who have left us too soon and we will run proud with our T2 family.