You know the meme that reads “One of my biggest fears is that I’ll marry into a family that runs 5Ks on holidays”? Well I hate to say it, but… this Thanksgiving we were that family at the Cleveland Turkey Trot (and I should clarify that this was actually the first time we’ve ever done a 5k together). The best part was we didn’t make it about the competition—we were just there to get some exercise and have fun! The six of us went wild as we approached the start line, dancing, cheering and pumping each other up in the frigid 27 degree weather. Eventually we all kind of drifted apart, but I kept up with my sister Hannah and brother-in-law Nick until they branched off about halfway through for their 5 mile course. At that point, my parents and other sister Hayley were farther behind me, so I finished the race alone. Without hurting their feelings too much, I have to admit that I kind of enjoyed going solo for the second half!
I have only done three 5K runs in my life: the Turkey Trot in 2015, 5Cacia in 2016, and this year’s Turkey Trot. And you know what’s crazy? I still remember each of them so vividly. I don’t know if that’s typical or not for fellow runners (feel free to sound off in the comments!) but the whole experience seems too powerful to forget. From stepping off the starting line with the determination of a marathoner, to that first twinge of doubt that you’ll make it, to throwing your feet across the finish line, it’s just as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. When you’re surrounded by others on the same path though (literally), you believe in yourself a little more. You feel a little more motivated to keep up. The spectators cheering on the sidelines in that final stretch will push you to finish strong.
This year’s 5K stamped a particularly gratifying moment in my memory. I remember coming down Ontario Street, passing Progressive Field (where the Indians play) and Quicken Loans Arena (where the Cavs play). All of a sudden, I wasn’t thinking about running. I was thinking about how connected I felt to the city I grew up in. It felt like there was an electric current passing between my heart, the pavement, the Q, the stadium, the Terminal Tower, the side of the building where LeBron’s famous mural used to be, and essentially every other sight I locked eyes with mid-run. Under my breath, I whispered “I’m home.”
Now you may be wondering how I can marvel at downtown Cleveland when I live in New York City. The truth is both places feel like home to me, but Cleveland will always be #1 in my heart. This city, its people, its places and its culture have shaped me into the person I am today. Sometimes I feel a little bit like LeBron: although I’m chasing success in a different town, I never want to lose sight of where I came from. And maybe I’m biased, but one of the best parts about being from Cleveland is experiencing the rest of the world turning their attention to our city as if we’re that guy who went from ugly science nerd at 15 to McDreamy hospital hunk at 25. They’ll always point out our darkest, most embarrassing moments, but they love to drool over how good we look now.
And if that wasn’t cliché/cheesy/silly enough, I actually crossed the finish line while listening to “Stronger” by Britney Spears. It was all Spotify’s shuffle feature, not me!
Thanks to the Turkey Trot, Cleveland and the #RWRunStreak this year, I feel extra motivated to become a better runner and do more races that bring me wondrous memories at the finish line.
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