I wasn't able to participate this year, so I did the next best thing: I volunteered, along with lots of other church members, to work the water/misting station at Cloverdale Park. I remembered how wonderful it was to have encouragers all along the route last year, and how lovely it was for people to choose to spend a beautiful early autumn morning handing out water to sweaty strangers, and I wanted to be one of those encouragers.
So -- I got to the park around 7:30 this morning, and we began setting up tables and hauling water jugs, and scrambling to get cups filled and ready for participants. The misting tent was not operating, so Youth Minister Robbie Plunkett (recovering from very recent sextuple bypass surgery--yes, SIX bypasses) and other volunteers became human misters with spray bottles.
There were so many moments during the morning when I was humbled. One of our volunteers was a young woman with Down Syndrome. Runners were drawn to what I can only assume was her beautiful smile (I was standing behind her), because the difference in their countenance before they reached her and then after they passed her was night and day.
So many participants inspired me that it's impossible to pick one that stood out the most.
Was it the members of the Hope for the Warriors group, who participated as hand cyclists because they no longer have use of their legs?
Or was it the young woman with a severe upper body birth defect who was running? I depend on my arms when I am doing my walking for balance and for help with speed bursts, so how does she run a half-marathon with only one arm -- and that one badly malformed?
Maybe it was the group of young women who ran in memory of their friend, Virginia Jacks, who had been training to run the event, but was killed in a car accident after leaving an Auburn game just a couple of weeks ago?
I don't know -- every person running, or hand cycling, or walking has a story that brought them to this, and for every obvious hero there are probably 50 other inspiring stories.
Today I got to just stand on the corner and be their cheerleader, and that was a privilege.