Over the weekend, more than 28,000 runners will run the streets of the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Every single person will show up to start line with a different purpose, a different goal, and a different strategy for the run. This is what I love most about running races. From the walkers to the elites, every single participant travels the same distance. We all cross the exact same start line and finish. This is why I’ve loved the shamrock spotlight series. We’ve been able to tell the story of new runners and veterans, 8kers, half-marathoners, and marathoners. There are runners who run to celebrate life, to raise awareness for a cause, or to pursue their own goals. Running is an individual sport, but it is a community of supporters made up of each and every single runner.
The one story we haven’t told is the Elite Story.
Last year while running the full marathon, I was able to witness the front-runners fighting for first place. The energy they brought to the race was inspiring. I was at mile 16 as they were making their way to finish, and they still smiled and cheered me on. They accepted my words of encouragement and returned the gestured.
This year, nearly 100 elites will run during Shamrock Weekend. Elite runners from 20 states and 3 countries will place their hand over their heart at the same time as I do when the Star Spangled Banner is sung. If you are on the sidelines cheering on the runners or if you happen to catch a glimpse of them as they fly by know that you are cheering on three former Olympians, a former US recorder holder, five 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers. All of the big brands in running will be represented during Shamrock Weekend: Brooks, Saucony, Newton, Oiselle, New Balance, Adidas, Asics, Puma, Sketchers, and Power Bar. All branches of the US Miltary will be represented amongst the elite runners. Seven of these elite runners will be taking a shot a qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials during their Shamrock Race.
This group of elite runners aren’t coming to town to just run. They are also donating their time to our community. A group of these athletes will be visiting four local schools in Virginia Beach on Friday to participate in Final Mile Pep Rallys. The Elites will also be at the start line of the Final Mile on Saturday and at the finish line of that race greeting runners and handing out medals.
Not only do I love running, but I love our running community. I can’t think of another sporting event that embraces the everyday runner and the elites in the same arena as running does. If you’ve never spectated a race, this weekend would be a great time to start. Come out and cheer on the elite runners and the everyday runners. A smile and a high-five does a lot for a runner who is fighting for the finish line.
(Thank you J&A Racing and Ryan Carroll for sharing information with me!)