The first Sunday of May the nice folks of Spokane host the Lilac Bloomsday Run. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I found myself in Spokane that day with my bride, so we decided to participate with 40,000+ other thrill seekers and take on the 12k.

Turns out it was little aggressive for a guy like me who hasn’t been spending much time hitting the pavement lately. 

The event started innocently enough with a crowd about the size of the county I live in, all standing there on Riverfront Street, smiling and laughing, chatting with strangers standing next to them in brightly colored clothing, some in fun and creative costumes.

Then the gun sounded and the crowd willingly began to move toward the festive starting line.  The fast folks up front flew out of the gate as if the doors to the Apple Store just opened.  It takes the rest of us, those 3 or 4 or 5 blocks back, roughly an hour to inch our way to the starting line, where our electronic time keeping chip scans us onto the course.

We raced westward down Riverfront and wound past a church as the bells rung out loudly, cheering us and urging us on. Spectators stood on the steps and waved, I waved back.

The course continued west down a hill, which I called Thank God Hill.  I liked that part.  Then we climbed up What the Hell Hill (a name I chose about half-way up) and reached the first hydration station.  I liked the hydration station, didn’t like the hill.

As the race continued, the terrain continued to ebb and flow, have mountains and valleys. I hated the mountains, but man, I loved the valleys. We made our way up to Mini-McKinley, a name I’m submitting to the city of Spokane for consideration. Then downward again on Halleluhah-I-Love-Gravity-So-Much Avenue. And then finally, the last summit of the day, Doomsday Hill

You have no choice.  You have to go up.

Once atop Doomsday Hill, and assuming you were still vertical and able to move forward again, the finish line awaited you about 2.5 miles away.  It was flat and residential with thousands of cheering folks, bands, kids sticking their hands out for hand-slaps, cowbells ringing and enough intestinal fortitude being mustered up by the participants that you can pick out the winners by the dozen.  Anyone moving, anyone who is going to finish no-matter-what is about to taste victory, even in the midst of the anguishing face that seems to say Where the hell is the finish line?!

The good news is, I finished.

I came in 12,735th place out of all runners.  There was no three-tiered podium for me to stand on, nor did I anticipate there would be.

But I got my podium opportunity with every step I ran and walked that day.  The podium awaited me at the finish line and on it, on that street, stood thousands of my other competitors.  We hugged and high-fived, smiled and stretched and congratulated each other. 

Our podium, though it wasn’t physical, gave us the chance to walk and see each other, hug each other and appreciate what we do when we get out there on the course and give it a go.

Look at you!  Look at us!  We did it!  We finished!  Isn’t it great – we finished!

Life is like that.  It’s race where we compete to take the next step, to engage the body and the mind to do it, somehow.  We train and we prepare to compete better the next time.  But the podium, it’s there for everyone who competes, and it is a sweet and rich place to stand together.

For the top finishers that day, those that stood on the podium, I salute and admire you.  I have no idea how you run that fast that far and why the heck you ran up Doomsday hill.

As for the rest of the tens of thousands of finishers who stood at the end of the race hugging and high-fiving, enjoying what we’d done and the podium that the fine city of Spokane had built for us years ago, the podium that later in the day turned back into Monroe Avenue Bridge – I salute and admire you (us) perhaps even more. 

May each step be a victory for you today as you choose to live, engaged, alive and with hope.  Find another competitor today out there and pat them on the back.  Encourage them with the next step, especially if there’s a hill. 

Each step, a victory today. 

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