Ever since the election, and even more so since the most frightening ever Inauguration Day, I've been trying to temper staying informed and being involved with putting more effort toward adding things that make me happy to my days. It's a silver lining of the cloud we find ourselves stuck under that this administration has me turning more than ever to practices of self care and focusing on the positive.
In that spirit, I want to start a series of entries focused on those things that bring me joy in life. A happy place seems like a good place to start.
There are many places I'd identify as my Happy Place, and the one I'm featuring today isn't necessarily a specific place. Races are a major happy place for me.
This past Sunday, I fulfilled my volunteer credit to work toward getting into the 2018 Marathon. I went to bed at 9:30, woke up at 4:20, and was out the door by 4:40 heading to Central Park. If you think that's early, just ask the volunteers for bag check - I think they had to be there at 3:30! Total madness.
There's a quiet excitement in Central Park before sunrise on the day of the NYC Half Marathon. 20,000 runners are preparing to descend upon the park, heading to their respective park entrance depending on their corrals, checking bags, bouncing up and down or wearing soon-to-be-donated sweatshirts to stay warm. Volunteers are cheerful and excited and giving as much crazy energy as they can - to stay awake, to stay warm, and to get the runners even more pumped up.
This is the second year I've been a NYRR Ambassador for the Half and both years it has been freezing cold. One of these days I'll remember that March in NYC does not equal March in the south. In the south, March is basically the start of flip flop weather! The cold does, however, I think make the energy even more fun. Runners who are feeling nervous probably feel a little more nervous, runners who are feeling excited probably feel more excited - and since most runners are feeling both of those emotions at once, it makes for really intense energy really early in the morning.
By the time the first two waves of runners are headed through security and toward the corral, the sun starts to rise over the park. The world starts to feel a little more real, although there's a profound sense of unreality at sunrise in Central Park, especially when you've already been up for three and a half hours.
My volunteer shift is fun, simple, and rewarding, and this year I got to take advantage of the amazing NYRR RunCenter and their free lockers and went for a run myself around the park after my shift ended. Running around the course, cheering the runners on, seeing the gorgeous snow in Central Park, seeing the area get flooded with typical Sunday tourists and atypical excited, cheering friends and family just creates even more joyful, excited energy.
Usually, I'm a runner at a race - and usually, the race is a smaller one, like a 5K or a 4 miler. Volunteering is so valuable not just because it's so very necessary for races to function, but because it reminds you of what is so wonderful and special about racing from a totally different perspective. It also brings back both bitter and very, very sweet memories of my half marathons and marathon. Being on the outside looking in helps you see things from a different angle and, for me, helps me value it all the more the next time I get to be the one wearing the race bib.