Thursday, October 24, 2013

Best Parade Ever

Have you ever run a marathon? You know, 26.2 miles of agony? If you haven’t, it probably just means you aren’t crazy. If you have, not only are you nuts, but you’re probably incredible. My wife, brother, and sister-in-law ran the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon on Sunday, October 20. It started at 7 am, which meant we got up at 3:30 in the morning to go. It was 44 degrees when the run started. I didn’t run it because, well, I possess a modicum of common sense, and after knee surgery, my doctor told me I had to stop running. I might have been disappointed if I had any interest in destroying my body.

I stood at the race’s end, waiting for my family to show up. I saw numerous people begin weeping when they saw the finish line. It was touching when couples held hands. A guy in a penguin suit encouraged the crowd into cheers. Two women in super-hero costumes finished together. One runner wrapped herself in her county’s flag as she ran the homestretch. Everyone who started the race wearing garbage bags (and there were loads of them for some reason) finished without them. Several children ran out and finished the race with parents. My wife finished with numerous blisters on her feet, hip pain, and the bold statement that she would never do that again.

Along the 26.2-mile route, bands played and kindhearted souls cheered on the runners, offering jellybeans, M & M’s, Jolly Ranchers, Chex Mix, water, Gatorade, orange slices, and beer. Beer? I thought alcohol caused dehydration? Maybe the beer chuggers were hoping to get inebriated so they wouldn’t feel so much pain. Various signs portrayed encouraging words. One sign that was hard to ignore said, “Smile if you’ve pooped yourself.” I wonder if the beer drinkers even cared? Another said, “Does my T-shirt make my butt look fast?” Men of the world: you could answer that question with a yes. One busty onlooker held a sign that said, “Of course I’m an organ donor. Who wouldn’t want a piece of this?” A male onlooker’s sign said, “You have great stamina. Give me a call.” One blatantly honest sign stated, “You run better than the government.” A T-shirt said, “If you can read this, it means I’m not last.” One sign said, “Toenails are for sissies.” Another said, “Run faster. The Kenyans are drinking all the beer.” My favorite was, “This is the worst parade I’ve ever been to.”

But in a way, it really was quite an awesome parade. I asked my wife if she was glad she did it. She hesitated and said yes. Yes, because she could say she did it, and yes, because she helped raise money to provide clean drinking water for the needy in Africa. When I asked her if she’d do it again, she said—and I quote—“Never in a million years.” I had my suspicions she wasn’t completely crazy. But in that parade of parades people proved the human spirit. They attained an accomplishment that was absurdly ridiculous to say the least. Something torturous, nearly debilitating, and mentally agonizing was completed. Everyone who finished was a winner. Everyone who trained for months and finished the run completed the goal. If they could survive that madness and succeed, what can’t they do? And amazingly, a huge number of participants were there, not for themselves, but for others. Numerous groups were there in support of various charities. Thousands of runners shed gloves and hats and jackets, leaving them in the streets for volunteers to pick up and donate to the homeless shelters. Other groups did things like my wife, brother, and sister-in-law who raised nearly $3,000.00 for clean drinking water. It again showed that people can be generous and selfless. They tortured themselves so people they didn’t even know could wear some warm clothes or drink some clean water. I saw that the human spirit is alive and well. I was able to witness an exhibition of the good in mankind in the parade of parades, and I’m proud of my wife and the other participants who helped to renew my faith in people. And isn’t that what a parade is—a celebration of some kind? The marathon in Detroit was a celebration of the human spirit.