There are more than enough things to be disappointed by in today’s headlines. These days, our news is more polarizing than many of us have seen in our lifetime. And yet, despite all the chaos, plenty of folks are doing what they can to encourage others. As sappy and cliched as it sounds, those moments of encouragement give us a second to pause and enjoy the good aspects of living in a cooperative society. They also remind us that we are all much more than our individual selves.
One of the most recent examples of a heartwarming story that reminds what it means to lift each other up is that of supportive strangers Laura Mazur and Jessica Robertson.
Before the Pittsburg Marathon, the persistent pair didn’t know each other. But, after meeting at the 14-mile mark, they soon became each other’s primary source of support to finish strong — even if that meant finishing late.
“If you stay with me, I’ll stay with you,” the two promised each other, Mazur said.
They didn’t finish first. But they finished, and they did it together just like they promised.
“Over the next three-plus hours, Mazur and Robertson took turns holding hands to keep each other on pace, reassuring each other, and even video chatting with Robertson’s mother, aunt, and daughter for outside encouragement. When Robertson, who was running her first-ever 26.2, faltered, Mazur drew on her six years of marathon experience to reassure her,” wrote Jacob Meschke in Runners World.
Their story is encouraging for a couple of reasons.
One is the obvious beauty in two women becoming a mutual source of support in their time of need. Who knows how the experience would have gone had they not had each other to lean on in such a challenging moment? Finishing the race would have been bigger than quitting, where their memories of the race would have been tossed into a pile of regret. But now, the experience can go on in their memories as a time when things got tough and they found the strength to persist.
The second is that it sends a message that giving your all and finishing is just as admirable as finishing in the top ranks of a challenge. And those morals are worth supporting.
Despite missing the seven-hour cut-off time, both Robertson (7:22:56 ) and Mazur (07:24:58) got 3,420th out of 3,422, and a few volunteers stayed behind to welcome them as they crossed the finish line.
A few years prior in 2017 and in 2018, Mazur had a very different experience — the premature removal of aid stations, makers, and timing.
“I had no aid stations. It was so confusing, so frustrating,” she recalled. “When they started pulling everything, I’m like, ‘What’s going on here?’”
But this year, things were better.
It’ s a complete 180 in treatment compared to what happened to the later stage runners at the London Marathon earlier this year. Instead of being welcomed or even acknowledged, they were harassed. Elizabeth Ayres shared a post about her experience that eventually went viral.
“The cleaning crew crept up around us and started cleaning off the blue line right in front of me. I wasn’t impressed and made it known to one of the course cars who then asked them to hold back,” she said of the ways she was being rushed.
Unfortunately, things got worse from there. They also had limited access to resources.
“We got to mile 3, and there was no sign of a water station, it had all packed up and gone!! We had only left the start less than 50 mins ago…No water, no station. Thankfully noone needed it at that point, but I was now worried about what lay ahead so contacted my crew at Backpackers Running, and some friends who I knew would try to help,” Ayres recalled.
From there, she described being touched by cleaning crews, a continued lack of water access, and being told she needed to speed up. Still, she did what she could to keep pushing and getting those around her to continue running until they reached the finish line.
One person, Sarah Jane Pringle, who stayed with the 6:30 pacer had an even worse experience. She was sprayed by cleaning crews while racing and was later treated for a chemical burn on her foot.
Running a marathon is about more than speed–it’s about finishing what you set out to do.
The comments and shares on Ayers post suggest this experience for slower runners is more common that one would think. In a time when the running world aims to be more inclusive to folks with a wide range of speeds, the London Marathon seems to be a good reminder of what not to do.
On the other hand, the dedication showed by our persistent pair in the Pittsburg Marathon and the support they received are examples of how to treat all participants with respect while reminding others that finishing is worth celebrating.
We all hope that Mazur and Robertson’s example let people know that you shouldn’t have to run at a certain speed to experience a marathon. The joy should come from completion, not just the clock.