I've received numerous “chillbump” moments in the Olympics, Boston, NYC, and especially running by the Pentagon a few weeks after 9-11 in the Marine Corps Marathon. But there was something special about the lingering effect of bonding with the spectators in Jacksonville, Florida this past weekend.
I am still glowing from my experience in the Marathon To Fight Breast Cancer (26.2 with Donna). Nicknamed the Breast Cancer Marathon or BCM, this event has quickly become one of the success stories on the marathon scene. The logistics were well organized, traffic control superb and the interesting course weaved through interesting and beautiful Jacksonville Beach communities. But these positive memories are overshadowed by the connections with strangers along the course.
I've run in over 140 marathons and attended about 4 times that many events. I've never felt as powerful a relationship between the specators and the runners. Thousands got out of bed early on Sunday, bypassed other activities and thanked us for coming to Jacksonville for a good cause.
As the word leaked out last year that 100% of the entry fee would be donated to breast cancer research at Mayo Clinic and care for women with breast cancer, thousands who had never attended a running event were drawn to cheer. There were more this year. As you passed the small and large groups of people, lining the entire course, you couldn't help but feel a unique quality of support and respect. As a runner I felt that I was doing something beyond the incredible achievement of finishing a marathon. I was part of a team to finish breast cancer.
Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville is at the cutting edge of breast cancer research. Several breakthroughs have been made there that will save millions of lives. Many of the members of the crowd were survivors or family members/friends of those who suffered. Last year's and this year's events raised well over a million dollars. Research funds can cure breast cancer for most: our daughters, granddaughters, wives, mothers. Males also suffer from this disease.
Running events are quite visible to the general public because we take over the streets. As in most major events, there were race banners (running pink ribbons) on poles and buildings all over this area: the largest geographical city in the US. In Jacksonville, Florida on February 15th the heros were finishing the half or the full marathon—many in honor of someone they deeply cared for.
Being in this race not only changes your life. It improves the quality for millions in the future.
Mark your calendar: The Third Annual 26.2 with Donna is scheduled for Sunday, February 21, 2010.