Tufts 10K -- A Race Turned Celebration

Submitted by Nancy

Date: October 8, 2007
Miles: 6.2
Time: 1:16:44
Weather: Light rain, mist, upper 50's

Pat and I ran in the Tufts 10K. The event is still lingering in my mind. There were over 7,000 women there - all connected by the same goal of getting their bodies from the starting line next to the Commons through the streets of Boston to the finish line 6.2 miles away.

It was cloudy, with mist and light rain; they say that is perfect running weather, but I prefer sun. The mass of women waiting for their bibs at the registration table was very unorganized and a bit anxiety-producing as the start time neared and the lines didn't move. There were lots of patient women waiting at every port-a-potty, there was no place to change your clothes or stay dry, and very long waits to leave your personal belongings in the corral where volunteers kept an eye on our stuff. All this... and yes, it was an absolutely incredible event. Much more of a celebration than a race. The lines and rain and chill and port-a-potties couldn't even begin to put a damper on the spirit of 7,000 women - no way, no how. The race was a celebration of life and health, of purpose, of women and, I came to find out, a celebration of me.

No I didn't win... but no wonder the event still rests in the forefront of my thoughts as I try and focus on selling sponsorship ads. I'm supposed to have a full book of ads sold by the end of next week and I haven't sold half of them. And my mind is back in the race.

We lined up along Beacon Street. The cheers from all those women as the Star Spangled Banner ended and the announcer named off the elite runners and Olympians gave me goose bumps. So many women so pumped up. And that was just the beginning!

As soon as the gun went off, there was a swell of women cheering as they crossed the starting line and their race chip, tied onto their running shoes, recorded their own personal start time. We were off. The enthusiasm was contagious and electrifying. It probably took us four minutes just to make our way to the starting line, since we hung in the back, wanting to ease into the race without the anxiety of running in a tight pack, shoulder to shoulder with other runners. The starting line stretched all the way back along Beacon Street toward the Capitol with the elite runners on the start line and walkers with strollers near the back of the pack.

Near the beginning of the route, we ran under Longfellow Bridge and the women made good use of the city terrain. As we entered the underpass, runners whooped with glee as loudly as they could. The sound reverberating off the concrete came back as a cheer for all of us. At that moment we were bound together under the bridge, in a celebration of each other. I got caught up in everyone's exuberance and it carried me along effortlessly, as if on a flying carpet. Was I really running? Maybe in sharing our spirits, we shared our energy. You know - the sum of its parts is greater than the whole. I'm not sure what it was - except that it was beautiful.

All along the way people stood under umbrellas or hoods, ringing bells, holding personal signs for runners, clapping and passing along encouragement to all of us. Along Memorial Drive we had the thrill of seeing the front-runners as they doubled back on the other side of the street. It was exhilarating to clap and cheer them on in recognition of their athleticism and strength, thanking them for the stunning example they set for the rest of us.

The race was more about camaraderie and team building and less about competition. We caught snippets of conversations as we passed people, or they passed us - how long they'd been running, how many times they had run the Tufts 10K, this being the 31st year of the race. There was always encouragement passing from one runner to another. We need that in life; to know there are other women around us, cheering us on, joining us in our race.

Another underpass, and this one Pat and I led the cheer and all the women around us joined in. Whoooo hooooo! Wow - the echo just adds exponentially to the power. Is that me I hear? That mighty, clear celebratory cheer ringing in the air? We did a 180-degree turn on Memorial Drive, passed two cheering girls holding up the 4-mile sign and headed toward Harvard Bridge. Pat shared her unwavering spirit, whooping with elation as we hit the turn. Such beautiful vibrant strength she has. I've told her; everyone in the world would want her on their team. Pat's strength, determination and will to support those she cares for is staggering, steadfast and true. You just can't get a better teammate than Pat.

Mile markers 5 and 6 brought the loudest of cheers. As we rounded the last street corner, there was a line of three children advertising "free high-fives." Pat and I ran by and collected a high five from each child. How can you not love that? The crowds increased as we approached the finish line. I heard the announcer calling out names of race participants and the crowd's cheers rising to meet us.

As we approached the finish line, the announcer said, "Many of our runners are running with friends today." Pat looked at me and smiled "Great timing for that comment," she said. You got that right. Pat could have run the race much faster by herself - but she ran with me. We did the race together, just like we climbed 73 mountains, ran 2 previous Tufts 10Ks, and hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim. The race was a celebration of our friendship.

As I approached the finish line, amid the roar of the crowd, I heard the announcer say, "Nancy Sporborg from Keene, New Hampshire!" I couldn't believe it! She said my name! I lifted my arms in victory. It felt like I had won the race.


Whooo Hoooo! I let out a lot of them on the racecourse. Each one surprised me with its force and intensity and joy and blessings. Wow - I didn't know all that was in me!

Maybe you don't know what you have in you until it ekes out naturally or something prods it out and it finds voice. Maybe that's what all those years of therapy held for me. I certainly didn't know I had all that in me until I said the words. There's something very revealing and courageous about letting out what's in, both the hard stuff and the good stuff. It seems that in the letting go and getting out you see more of who you are and have an opportunity to let that realization in. And in that taking in there are incredible blessings.

We ran this Tufts 10K on the 16th anniversary of my mom's death -- October 8, 1991. My mother never let any of her true self go, celebratory or otherwise, until finally Lou Gehrig's disease forced her muscles to let go one by one. Up until then she was pretty tightly wrapped and in control, nothing real escaped. Except anger. I never saw her effusive, only restrained and reserved. I never saw her celebrate anything, never saw her truly happy, ever. I don't want to live my life that way. I want my daughters to experience my love and my enthusiasm flowing freely. I want Kelly and Jess to be empowered to believe in themselves enough to let themselves go, sharing their beautiful selves. My mother died constricted with her love, life and power a prisoner inside, undiscovered and unshared. I don't want to die that way. I want all my love and passion and exhilaration right out there all the time, overflowing, gushing out all over the world.

Maybe that was the magic of the Tufts 10K for me. It brought out more of me, revealed a bit more of my effervescence and abounding delight, and brought it out into the light for me to see - and for all those around me to share. Whoooo hooooo! That power, that strength, that celebration is IN ME! Wow - it is in me! And you know what? Once it's out, there's not a chance it will go back inside. It's out for good. There's more of me! And with more of me oozing out onto the streets of Boston on Monday, how could I possibly focus on selling sponsorship ads on Tuesday?

When I ran across the finish line, arms in victory, name echoing across Charles Street, I also knew this race turned celebration was for me... a runner, a hiker, a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter and a girl desperately searching for meaning.

I found it in the Tufts 10K.