The road ahead is narrow and long. She stands in the crowd breathing the cold air of a February morning. She is far from ready, but the fatigue has subsided and this is the best she has felt since her diagnosis of Lupus. Running The Herby Waterman Winter Series on the grounds of the Psychiatric Center of Middletown, NY, one of the oldest races that brings together young and old feels good and Joanne Shurter is happy to be here.
The final race of the series is about to begin. The camaraderie is tangible to all, whether a regular to the series or a first timer. Chatting and laughing among the 158 participants is part of the routine of signing up for a race. There is room for everyone in this close-knit group-- walkers and the fit and not so fit are welcome.
The race starts and the crowd disperses quickly. Gone are the days when running a PR mattered to Joanne and she doesn’t try anymore. Although still holding a good pace, she is passed by many she once beat, and by others too young to know her as one of the icons of the Orange Runners Club. To race is not important, but to be here, to lace up and run with this large family, is what she and most others came for.
The runners complete their first loop of the 3.1 mile race. The fatigue, the soreness, the longing to give up is evident in some of the faces. Others smile in spite of the effort, aware of that something that runners develop with one another--that sense of understanding and encouragement regardless of age, abilities or background.
The last of the participants finally crosses the finish line. Some gather around the water station discussing their experiences before partaking in the awards ceremony. They all have something to share, they all have something to offer and they feel right at home amongst each other.
Road racing is the most accepting family anyone could ask for. It’s a special community. That’s why they are all here, that’s why Joanne is here. Although her racing days are over, she knows there will still be many more roads ahead of her to run. And she is ready.