Sunday, April 22, 2012

To Those Who Endure

I rolled out of bed around 6 a.m. 
If people don't believe in miracles, let me tell you, this fact alone is proof they exist.

I stumbled into the bathroom, and got in the shower. I let the hot water run over me, and slowly began to feel coordination seep into my limbs.

This boy wasn't made for early mornings.

A friend of mine had asked me to photograph her in the Oshkosh Half Marathon today though. I said yes, before I found out the details.

She told me, about three days beforehand that it started at 7 a.m.

I was trapped. Had no way out. Well, that's not entirely true. I could have just slept in, but I'd made a promise, and a promise is a promise.

I'd keep it, or at the very least I'd die trying.

So there I was, on a chilly, crisp Sunday morning. The breeze a little stronger than I'd like. Clutching my Cannon, and wading through the throngs of people.

"My god," I thought to myself, "who would honestly get up by choice, today?"

I tried believe that they'd all been tricked into it, like I had been. But, alas, logic won out, and I faced the cold, hard truth that hundreds of people couldn't have simply been tricked into waking up early on Sunday. They're just all in better shape, and had earlier bed times than me.

Anyway, I digress.

It wasn't terrible outside. The sky was clear, the sun (when you stood in it) was warm.

All at once a terrible thought crept into my mind.

What if I'm not able to find her?
There were certainly enough people to constitute a large mob here.

What if I couldn't fulfill my duty to photograph my friend on this important day? That would certainly put a damper on my day. It was about five minutes till the starting gun went off, and I still hadn't found her.

A man, a local talent probably, bleated out the national anthem, and I positioned myself a ways down from the starting line so I could catch the stream of half marathon-ers as they poured through the street. Hoping Taylor would find me.

It was nothing short of pure insanity seeing the sea of bodies all running toward me. Like the freakin' Running of the Bulls,  only the human edition... All at once, I felt quite grateful that I wasn't wearing red. Who knew? They could get angry and chase me out of town. Nothing's beyond the realm of possibility at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning.

As the mass of fit, awesome people filtered by me I snapped a few shots. Playing with my continuous shoot feature. I won't lie, I felt pretty cool, even though there were several real photographers in my vicinity, all with cooler cameras than my own. But, I relished the moment nonetheless.

Suddenly I heard my name called. I whipped around, and there she was, mid stride on her way past me! Thank you Jesus, I said to myself. I won't disappoint her, and today won't be in vain. I now knew her number, relative position in the pack, and what she was wearing. As the last of them trickled by, I made my way to my car. Time to head to the next checkpoint.

Of course... I didn't realize they'd block off key roads between me and my destination. So about five minutes later I was hoofing it, muttering words I'd never want Mom to hear me say under my breath. I made it to a check point about halfway through the course.

In the vicinity was a girl with a sign who'd come to cheer on the runners. I thought about asking her what was on the sign, but I opted to be lazy instead, so it never happened.

As the pack began to come round the bend she started shouting encouragements to the participants.

"Go runners!"
"Keep it up, you guys are awesome!"

Sweet right?

I'm sure it was great for the runners, who passed by her in a matter of seconds, but I, however, was standing there for a good twenty minutes.

Equally unfortunate was the fact that she chose to recycle the same phrases over and over, every two seconds. And something about the frequency of her voice, didn't quite jive with my ear canals.

I suppose you have to shout things at ungodly decibels, so that people on the move can hear you over their iPods, but my lord was it ever annoying!

It was at this, the halfway point, that I began to see why people use marathons as an analogy for life. I saw the fatigue on the runners faces, mingled with determination. I tried to imagine what it must be like to have run about seven miles, and to know that you have at least five more to go.

I had a bit of trouble actually envisioning this this, seeing as how my mile generally takes about an hour, and is promptly followed by vows to myself never to run again. But it still had an element of truth to it. Isn't that how life is sometimes? That is, isn't it like the halfway mark in a race?

Exhaustion, fatigue, drive, desire all mixed up into a unique cocktail known as life?

I began to ask myself, why anyone would ever put themselves through this. This thought was reinforced by the slapping of feet on pavement, and ragged breaths of those passing by. I know you've probably guessed by this point that I'm not a runner. Not even casually.

After my friend passed by the checkpoint, providing me with some more great shots, I slipped away and headed to the finish.

By the way, how is it possible that someone running a half marathon can provide better pictures for people, than I can when I'm standing still and posing for them? What gives?! I guess some people are just photogenic.

I got a great spot near the finish line, and saw the giant snake-like mass of bodies slithering toward me.

At this point I'd seen, and identified several of the event's "characters." There were a pair of girls wearing the fairy skirts over their sweatpants, a guy with a handlebar mustache, a girl with sweet multi-colored zebra tights, a couple doing the half marathon together, among others. It was the strangest thing, but at this place I found myself becoming their groupie.

Yeah, weird I know.

But something about seeing these individuals struggle, sweat, and now finding themselves on the cusp of victory made me want to start cheering them on. It made me want to run alongside them and whisper words of encouragement to them. Of course, I can't really run more than a block without getting winded, but at least the sentiment was there, right?

What is it about the story of human perseverance that inspires us?

My friend blew by me, looking not in the least winded, and as I snapped the last few pictures, I knew she was going to finish strong. I smiled as I walked to my car, and put my camera away. I drove over to the actual finish line, where people were already eating hot dogs and guzzling beer (gotta love Wisconsin).

I met my friend there, congratulated her, but what I should have done was thank her.

Not only did I feel skinnier just by watching this event today, but because it got me thinking about life. It made me think about the storms and trials we face every day and how, if we quit, we'll never be able to taste the sweetness of victory. Of overcoming. Of finishing strong.

I can only imagine how it feels to cross that finish line after thirteen miles of pushing yourself forward... but I can only hope that when I finish my race, it'll mean that much.

Congratulations to my friend Taylor for knocking a whole ten minutes of her last half-marathon time! 


tipperlee said...

Josh--This is honestly the first blog of yours that I have read, and you are as fantastic at writing as you are at photography!
Thank you so much for coming out for me today! I am glad you ended up enjoying the event, maybe you will come to or participate in one in the future :)
You are such an amazing person and friend! I am so lucky to have met and gotten to know you.
Also, in my defense, I thought the race started at 8am (it did last year!) until i checked the time for you.
Thanks again, the pics are amazing!!!


Josh said...

Hey! Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. :) The pleasure was all mine, I'd never seen a serious run before and, even though I tease about getting out of bed, seriously worth it! I'm so glad I got up this morning and was able to see you do such a great job! Thank YOU!I'll definitely come to future events. :) Thanks again for the kind words! You rock!