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You clapped. You cheered. You gave us high-fives. You told us we could finish even when we wanted to give up.
“Just a little farther.”
“You’re in the homestretch.”
“You’re looking good.”
All eyes were on runners during the perfect, sunny blue-sky day for the first Mill Race Marathon. But it’s clear who should be wearing a big shiny medal — the residents of Columbus.
Mile after mile, runners passed enthusiastic crowds. You clearly embraced your new and cool community event, channeling a “you can do it” spirit that helped carry weary legs across the finish line.
Think I am giving you too much credit? Nope.
When your feet are aching, when your muscles are cramping and when your poor, tight hamstrings are on the verge of a meltdown, the shouts of encouragement, the handmade signs and the “Eye of the Tiger” music make all the difference in the world. Never underestimate the power of a positive vibe.
That support beat down our own inner voices telling us it would be easier to stop and sit our tired rear ends on the ground.
Yet over and over again, we heard from you: You can do it. You can do it. You can do it.
And yes, thanks to you, we could.
Many other images stand out from race day, and I have loved the post-race ritual of swapping stories that is still going on. Everyone — whether a runner, spectator or volunteer — has a tale to tell about what they saw or felt on a day that nearly 5,000 runners snaked through the streets of Columbus.
For me, the creative signs were a runaway hit. They made me laugh out loud which also helped numb the pain I was feeling over the 13.1-mile course. Here’s a sampling:
The John Stetter family planted a herd of signs (see photo). Neighbor Betty Welch reports that the runners enjoyed them so much they stopped to take photographs.
Another race memory is Randy Stafford. I won’t forget passing Stafford, a Cummins Inc. employee and marathon runner himself, out on the half-marathon course in a neon yellow shirt with “volunteer” stamped on the back.
He, as did many others, worked for more than a year and put his heart and soul into helping tend to the thousands of details involved in planning a marathon.
When I passed him, he was running, not as a racer, but as a volunteer, coaxing runners to stay in the correct lane. Talk about dedication.
No one could miss the bright army of volunteers, who probably were not sure what they were signing up for months ago. At least 800 strong, they eagerly reached out to us with much-needed water cups, gently guided us along the route, made picking up our registration packets a breeze and found the answer to any question we had.
This event also had family written all over it. Moms, dads, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and more coaxed each other into running or walking, many for the first time.
That is what happened in the Banister family. Morgan Banister, 16, persuaded dad, Brent, 39, to dust off his running shoes.
The Columbus North High School student hopes to pursue a medical career and takes health and fitness very seriously. Brent was looking for a “positive way” to welcome his upcoming 40th birthday.
You know where this is going. Morgan became an exuberant trainer, keeping dad on track.
“I admit it was a little bit of a lofty goal for me because I have not been running regularly for many years. Morgan made the training fun,” he wrote. “She is a very enthusiastic young lady, and she kept me on schedule so we would achieve our goal. Lastly, neither one of us had ever participated in a 5K. It sounded like fun, so we did. We both believe we are hooked on running 5Ks, and we are now looking forward to running to raise money for the fireman’s cheer fund in October.”
Giving them tons of moral support through the training process were Amy (Brent’s wife and Morgan’s mom) and Tyler (their son and Morgan’s brother).
Way to go, Banisters.
Who didn’t get choked up when 15-year-old Collin Booher, lovingly surrounded by his posse, Collin’s Crew, crossed the finish line after 13.1 miles?
Collin has spina bifida and is in a wheelchair. Mom, Laurie, thought her son should participate in the run and set out to get the job done. She recruited a support squad that ran with and encouraged Collin mile after mile after mile. The look on Collin’s face and those of his crew as they accomplished their goal was pure joy.
One Columbus resident watched his two buddies finish the full marathon. They had tears streaming down their faces as their kids ran out to join them. Bravo.
Another Columbus resident told the story of a merry spectator who offered a runner an adult beverage at the 12-mile mark. She took a swig. Cheers.
Columbus resident Elle Snyder, 9, showed support for her uncle, Louie Green, also of Columbus, as he conquered the full marathon. She ran with him for a short while holding a big “Louie Green” sign (see photo) along Rocky Ford Road about 11:45 a.m. Saturday. Green had a terrific run — 4 hours, 19
I adore a photograph sent to us of some of the youngest supporters along the course.
Columbus residents Grier Lane, 3, and Hudson Lane, 10 months, with a little help from mom Valerie, cheered on the runners (see photo). They had special hoots and hollers for their dad, Chris Lane, as he ran by Columbus East High School.
One of their signs said, “Run Dad Run.” He did that very well. This was his first half-marathon, and he beat the two-hour mark, coming in at 1 hour, 59 minutes. Fantastic job.
Then there was Theresa Brewer of North Vernon, who two years ago was 85 pounds heavier and ran Saturday’s half-marathon. She was inspired to get fit by her dad and wrote this note to us on race day:
“My dad, Ray Hughes, at 72 years old, completed the 5K this morning. Four years ago dad fell off the roof of his home and crushed his left heel. The damage was more than the doctors had anticipated, but they did what they could. Today, dad still walks with a limp and is only able to be on his foot about half of a day before it starts hurting and swelling up.
“But dad is a Cummins retiree, and when he saw the medals were of a die cast of the Cummins engine, he just had to have one. He overworked that foot at the Commiskey Fall Festival last weekend and somehow even ended up with a cut on the bottom of the heel two days ago.
“However, with a crutch to help him walk the course with his weak foot, Dad set out to complete the 3.1 miles. With a smile on his face, he limped his way across the finish line and proudly displayed his medal around his neck. What seemed like an unreachable goal became a reality this morning! He is my inspiration!”
When Theresa Brewer got to the finish line, the sight of her dad was better than a cool drink of water.
“He is the first person of my family to see me start and finish a half-marathon,” she wrote. “But the feeling of having a family member there to support me was nothing compared with the joy I had seeing him smiling from ear to ear with his medal around his neck when I finished the course.”
So thanks Columbus for helping give everyone those stories of joy, fun and inspiration and for wrapping your encouraging arms around a bunch of runners and this first-time community event.
See you next year.
Scarlett Syse is group editor for Home News Enterprises, which includes The Republic. She finished the Mill Race half-marathon in 1 hour, 48 minutes.
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