Ann Cannon: A cheer for those hanging on at the back of the pack

First Published      Last Updated Jul 30 2015 11:30 am

On the 24th of July I like to wander down to South Temple Street and watch the runners participating in the Deseret News Classic. I usually get there early enough in the morning to cheer on the leaders, who make it all look so easy.

Oh hey, hi, they say as they blow past me. I always run 26.2 miles before breakfast. And for your information, I could run this silly old thing through the streets of Salt Lake City before breakfast — backwards and in high heels if I felt like it.

It's awesome to watch such talented athletes, and I totally applaud their achievements.

This year, however, I rolled out of bed MUCH later than usual, so by the time my dog and I arrived at our usual spot on the South Temple sidewalk, we encountered those runners who were bringing up the rear. They came in all shapes and sizes, those runners. Literally. All ages, too. There were young runners and old runners and runners who were middle-aged. The only thing, in fact, this group of runners had in common was the cocktail of mixed expressions playing across their faces as they hobbled past.

I saw pain in their faces, of course, as in WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE JUST HIT ME OVER THE HEAD WITH A FRYING PAN AND PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY NOW! As someone who has run a marathon I can totally promise you that one of the worst feelings in the world is hitting Mile Seventeen and realizing you still have nine miles to go.

Disbelief was in those faces, too, as in I CAN'T BELIEVE I EVER THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA. I remembered the time my friends and I once asked an employee at a gas station if she would get some help for a very inebriated teenager who was vomiting in the parking lot. She folded her arms across her chest, shook her head and said, "Nope. He done it to himself." That was the look I saw on a few faces. "You know what? We done this to ourselves."

But here's what else I saw on most of those faces — a sort of grim determination to keep moving. Forget the heat. Forget the sore knees and the shredded calves and the blisters. Forget the fact that there were runners already relaxing in Liberty Park and knocking back ½-pints of cold chocolate milk because they finished the race forever ago. These runners bringing up the rear were going to FINISH. No. Matter. What.

I stuck around and watched and cheered because I was so impressed. Inspired, even.

Here's the deal. It's been a challenging year at la casa de Cannon. There's been plenty of great stuff, for sure — a graduation, an upcoming wedding, a trip or two, visits with family and friends. But you know how some years are. You just can't wait to put on your Von Trapp dirndl and wave so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye to certain years when December finally rolls around.

But watching those runners on Friday changed my perspective — at least for five minutes. There's something pretty admirable about just hanging in there, you know? Sometimes hanging in there is its own kind of victory.

So here's to last

Friday's late finishers. Thanks for the reminder and the encouragement.

Give yourself a hand.

Ann Cannon can be reached at acannon@sltrib.com.