September 22, 2011

Connections, virtual and real in the running community

This was originally a guest post on the World Wide Festival of Races site.


It is now less than three weeks until The Worldwide Festival of Races (WWFOR). I will be running for the third time this year, taking on the marathon event in its inaugural running. The WWFOR is a virtual running event in its 6th year, bringing runners from around the world to run “together”. It reminds us of our connection to each other and our love of the sport.

I ran my first WWFOR half marathon back in 2008, shortly after finding the Pheddipidations podcast. I ran it again in October of 2009 at a time when I needed everything it supports. I was going through my divorce, selling the house I could no longer afford, and I had pretty much stopped running. I needed inspiration. I needed connection. I needed a swift kick in the butt.

When I ran the Worldwide Half Marathon, I ran by myself, but not alone. I not only ran with the 1160 worldwide participants that had signed up for the WWFOR, but also with my friend Sean who was running the Long Beach Marathon two states away. We ran along the same ocean, and shared messages of encouragement and photos of victory. The event not only kick-started my return to running, but it also helped me to find the strength to keep moving forward when I wanted to be standing still.

I was out on a 12 mile run a couple of weeks later, and was listening to the latest Pheddipidations podcast. I had written an e-mail to Steve Runner the night before the race, thanking him for his podcast, this event, and what it meant to me this time around. As I ran along the path, I was surprised to hear him read my letter on the podcast. It was pretty weird to hear my words, spoken by someone else, come through the headphones. My words about why I was running, while I was running. Virtual and real were intersecting.

As the miles ramped up for marathon training this year, and running low on podcasts to listen to, I have gone back to some of the episodes produced before I became a regular listener. On my 20 miler this weekend, I listened to episode #69, Steve's experience at the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon. It turns out we were running together earlier than I thought.

The 2006 MCM was my first marathon finish. It is possible that Steve and I ran next to each other at some point as he narrated his path around our nation’s capitol, inspiring more to follow in his footsteps. It was incredible to listen to the race again as I pushed through my 20 miler five years later. The joy of crossing that finish line for the first time was made real once again.

When I run the WWFOR again this year, I will be running it at the Long Beach Marathon on October 9th. I will again be running virtually with runners from around the world, and I will also be running alongside my friend Sean, in the place he ran “with” me two years ago.

Connections are made, relationships are formed, virtual becomes real. We all run together.

Enjoy the taper, and have a great run.

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