Run Stranger Run

An Ironman, a half Ironman, a triathlon, a marathon, a half marathon, a 10k, or a 5k – it doesn’t matter the distance, and it doesn’t matter the time of year. There is something magical about running a race that everyone should experience. Let me paint a picture for you.

The day before your race, or maybe earlier that morning, you’ll go to pick up your race kit. It’ll have a bib with your number and perhaps your name and often a nice t-shirt to commemorate the occasion. The bib number itself can be enough to get you excited. You’re number 11005! It’s hard to imagine that many people coming together and yet you know that soon you’ll see at least that many people standing next to you at the starting line. A quick walk around the booths set up for the exposition will show you all the other incredible events out there for you to try next and all the crazy products people have come up with. A marathon in Tokyo, a race through Walt Disney World, a candy run in Laval, an energy bar made from cricket powder, and a gel made from maple syrup. Free samples everywhere!

If you’re lucky you’ll get a good night’s sleep before having to wake up bright and early for the race. If it’s your first race you may not. Personally, I still don’t sleep much before most races. When you get to the starting line you’ll feel the pre-race jitters. Maybe it’s your first race, your first time at a new distance, or maybe it’s the first race for the stranger next to you. Everyone is feeling it together. People have been training for weeks, months, maybe years, and they are ready for it to finally pay off. You can feel the excitement in the air.

They call it a race, but the people around you are not your opponents, they are fellow runners. They are regular people who are out to have a good time and perhaps to set their own personal best. Crossing the finish line and getting that finisher medal is enough of an accomplishment in many cases, and that’s ok! The gun goes off, the jitters go away, and then you just run.

You don’t need to sign up for an event to exercise. You could get up any old day and run. You can time yourself, try to beat your own records, all the same things you would do in a race. In fact, you’ll have to do that anyway in the weeks and months leading up to the race. But there is a reason that people choose to sign up for events that you cannot fully understand until you sign up for one yourself. It’s only at an event that you get the adrenaline rush, the excitement, and the feeling that you are a part of an enormous community.

You get to race alongside people like you, and you get to see people lining the streets along the side of the course with posters cheering you on. “Run, Stranger, Run!” “May the course be with you!” “Why do all the cute ones run away?!” “Your perspiration is my inspiration!” “If Trump can run, so can you!” There is nothing more motivating than having hundreds or even thousands of total strangers cheering you on and giving you high-fives – and of course it helps to have the odd familiar face scattered among the crowds. If you want to experience a truly amazing community, then I cannot urge you strongly enough to look up the next race near you, grab a friend if you want, sign up for the 5k if you haven’t run before, and lace up your shoes and get training – the season isn’t over yet!

  • Eric Karpman

    Eric graduated from McGill with a B.Eng. in 2015 and is now a junior engineer and volunteer listener with Vent Over Tea

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