The Buffalo Marathon

5 Hours After the Start

My job at races like the Buffalo Marathon is to announce the top finishers in a variety of age groups and categories. After the news came out this week about the new dates for the 20th anniversary of the marathon, I recall a year that I was walking out of the Buffalo Convention Center just over 5 and a half hours after the start of the race, I saw that there was hardly anyone waiting at the finish anymore. Some of the vendors had started to pack up for the day and even the city crews were loading up the cones and fences. Then I saw something that I can never forget.

It was a runner who I'd guess was in her late 50's/early 60's. She had on a polo shirt, long, baggy sweatpants and what looked like older running shoes. No fancy clothes or shoes.  She was making the final turn toward the finish at a slow but constant pace. She looked flat out exhausted. I stood and watched her make the finish line in complete amazement. She did it! Was it the full or half? I have no way of knowing and honestly it didn't matter.

Our society has a way of only appreciating the grand prize winners in an event. Those that finish first get the accolades. True, it's something special to be the best and compete at the highest level of an event. But perhaps it's time we focus on the stories and accomplishments of those who consider just getting to the end, success.

Athletic Integrity

Life is all about perseverance. Shouldn't we stick around to watch and be excited to see "the last finishers" with the same enthusiasm as those who are awarded with the gold medal? That moment when the last finisher crossed the line had to mean everything to her. It had to be the one thing she had been training for. That had to be the one thing she had been telling her friends and family she wanted to do someday. It had to be the moment that kept her up this past weekend worrying if she could do it. It had to be the one thing that she will be talking about for the rest of her life. When she tells people she will most likely be humble when she says" yea but I was so slow."

Emotional Impact

In all of my  years of being around sports and tough athletes and people trying to be the best, I  have never been so emotionally impacted by someone or something like that. It's the single thing that defines why people do marathons and is the perfect example of what we should be striving for in every single thing we do. Not giving up. Not worrying if anyone will be around to see it happen.

The last finisher in any race can be a true lesson in integrity and personal accomplishment. If you go to the Buffalo marathon this June, stick around until the end and you'll see things that may inspire you like nothing else has before.

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