I've always treated running as an individual effort. Yes, there is certainly a social element to it, but that is most usually relegated to around the races and not within the race. The race is a place where I have always tuned out all the runners, the fanfare and the crowds. It's my time to see what I've got against myself. For that reason, rarely if ever, I've run with a group. Even during group runs for cross-country in high school I was like, "Nah. I'm good."
If someone would have asked me to run on behalf of anyone else, I'd politely tell them they'd probably be better off with someone else. It took my efforts with Team PAWS, starting back at the 2013 Chicago Marathon (and every Chicago Marathon since), did I start to realize there is more out there that I can support through my running.
It also became apparent through the folks that follow me on social media, who have shared their stories of how my (what I thought were) incessant rantings got them over a tough hurdle. It's always nice when someone pulls me aside and says thanks for supplying them with inspiration and I'm always appreciative. But, I guess I never really thought I was doing a good deed, rather I just knew what's like to be in a tough spot and shared my perspective.
But, as mentioned above a lot of that happens through exchanges on social media, meet ups, or charities. I've never taken on the responsibility of putting someone else's race in my hands, er, feet.
Come this January that will change when I head down to Disney for the Dopey Challenge.
For you loyal reader(s), you may recognize I've been blessed to work closely with Cigna Health for a few runDisney events across the country. Mainly, the interaction has been through meet ups and some media events -- honestly, I love their Events team (not a paid plug for Cigna), as each event I've experienced has been awesomely educational and wildly entertaining. Plus, they are real people who are dedicated to providing resources for those who want to live better lives be able to do so.
A great illustration of their dedication is Cigna's support of Achilles International. This non-profit international organization is committed to helping individuals overcome various disabilities. It is mainly done through fitness, but really it's about inspiration to get back out and achieve the goals one sets.
Last week, I was contacted by Cigna, on behalf of Achilles International, and invited to act as an Achilles Guide for the Walt Disney World 5k. My role would act as support for the Achilles International runner as they took on the 5k race. At first, I thought they had a mistake; I'm no influencer (see my previous incessant ramblings on what an "influencer" is), I'm just this guy who runs and runs his mouth. However, after learning Cigna had submitted to Achilles International, a list of runners who they thought may be good and Achilles International picked me, I felt like a million dollars and maybe I actually do more than I think I do.
Honestly, I haven't stopped thinking about it since receiving the call. 2016 has been such a disappointment, running-wise, being selected has given me new purpose and positioned my attitude for 2017 to be one for the ages. And, this isn't just a New Year's resolution talking. From where I currently stand, this invitation has come at the perfect time and my optimism feels real this time.
Regarding the 5k, yep I'm absolutely terrified. What if I go out too fast? Too slow? What if the runner and I don't gel? Can I still swear like a sailor? Like I said, running with people will be a new experience for me. But, if anything to remember it's not about me. It's about we and I'm sure we're going to crush it.
Run fast. Run smart.
Run with someone.