This simple phrase is always heard in jubilation at any finish line of a race where hard work paid off. Take the guy in the picture above. Sridhar Mandyam is my next door neighbor who last year signed up for a program at our local YMCA called” from couch to 5K.” Sridhar is an IT consultant and does a lot of work with overseas customers and has many late nights. He was not much for physical activity due to his hard work and hours but he claims that seeing me all the time in the driveway with my bikes and skis inspired him to get off the couch and do someting physical before it was too late. I was flattered of course but more importantly, Sridhar changed his life. He ran all of last year and this winter, and prepared for his first race- The Pittsburgh Half Marathon.
Sridhar’s physical appearance has changed. He looks like a runner and has that healthy glow of someone who is enjoying his exercise and endorphin boost. When he showed up at my front door after the half and proudly displayed his finisher’s medal which you see above, I could not have been more proud of my next door neighbor. I took his picture as he glowed in the satisfaction of completing the race that he had prepared so hard to finish. That smile on his face is priceless and Sridhar is hooked on running. He can’t wait for his next race. He will definitely do the half again next year and who knows what other races will come his way. But his lifestyle is changed. No matter how busy he is, he has to get his run in. The sign of a man who is inspired to be physically fit and values his health.
A similar story occurred a few years ago when a friend of mine, who was living in Maine at the time, decided to do the full marathon in Pittsburgh. He asked me if I wanted to do it with him and I said yes and I began the tedious preparation of training for the event. He trained as well up in Maine on cold, lonely back roads in the dead of a New England winter. As the day approached, I became acutely aware that the weather was not going to be favorable for a marathon in Pittsburgh. The high the day of the race would be in the 80’s and at race start, it was already in the 60’s. I told my friend that he should eat something before we left- he didn’t. I told him to wear a hat and sunglasses- he didn’t. I told him to drink along the route as much as possible- he didn’t. At the 20 mile mark after all of his preparation, he totally shut down and was ready to take a cab to the finish. I would hear none of that because of his preparation and his training for the race as I implored him to walk. We walked for 4+ miles and when we came in range of the finsh line I told him that he must run or jog across the finish line- he was not to walk across the finish line of the Pittsburgh Marathon. We argued about it a little bit but I convinced him to run which he did right into the arms of the volunteers who took him to the medical tent to get an IV. As his wife, my wife, and I waited for him to exit the medical tent, he came out with his finisher’s medal beaming from ear to ear. ” I did it” he said and we all were so proud of his monumental effort. To this day he has his picture, medal, and race number proudly displayed in a frame in his living room. I hope Sridhar does the same with his picture and medal. “I did it” they said!
Most of the people who enter running races or any race for that matter are doing it to finish and achieve a sense of satisfaction for training and achieving their goal. They are not in it for time, place, or anything competitive except with themselves. Only a small percentage are experienced and running for time and place. Most weekend warriors are working toward the goal of just finishing what they have entered. When you see these folks cross the finish line of their first race, they are beaming and thrilled beyond belief. That is the magic potion of entering a race. A lot of people criticize those who train for an event most likely because they have never experienced the joy of completing a competition. There are a lot of couch potatoes out there who would rather make remarks than get off the couch to try it themselves. But for those who do, the nervousness of the start line, the exuberance of the crowd of fellow competitors when the gun goes off, and the ecstatic emotion that comes with crossing a finish line and getting that medal is one that you will never forget. I feel sorry for those who never test themselves and experience the euphoria of race day. My friend who ran the marathon says it was one of the high points of his life. Sridhar is still on cloud 9 with his excitement for his newfound passion. If you haven’t had the experience, check with your doctor then try it. As the famed ski film producer Warren Miller always says,” you better do it this year, because you will be a year older when you do.” Then you can say with pride……” I did it!” Thanks for reading.