“If you have a body, you are an athlete” – Bill Bowerman

I am consistently amazed at what the elite distance runners are able to accomplish. I was on the course at Berlin when Eliud Kipchoge shattered the marathon world record. I got emotional when Des Linden became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in decades earlier this year and when Shalane Flanagan pulled off a similar feat in NYC in 2017.

I look up to the non-elite runners who manage to run a “BQ” or time qualify for another race of their choice, an achievement that will likely elude me for the foreseeable future. Heck, I’m chasing a sub-five-hour marathon at this point – I’ll celebrate shaving even a few seconds off of my PR.

And then there is that group of athletes – yes, athletes – whose impressive performances rarely get recognized. The self-proclaimed slowpokes, turtles, and back-of-the-packers. These runners and walkers are usually still on the course long after most everyone else has collected their medals, showered, and started the recovery process. The roads have been reopened to traffic and aid stations taken down. At some races, they don’t even have an official finish line to cross – it’s all been packed up and put away.

This is an entirely different breed of distance runner. I know how much an effort it is – physically and mentally – to start a marathon knowing you’ll be out there for five or six hours, maybe even longer. What it’s like to keep going when you’re cold and tired and aching and want nothing more than to just be finished. These are endurance athletes in every sense of the word.

Last night, I watched the Final Finishers coverage at the New York City Marathon. I was incredibly inspired by the athletes and their stories. I cried when Dave Fraser completed the marathon – for the 11th time – escorted by a group from the wheelchair division. I wished I could join the cheer tunnel for Ruth Miller and Janelle Hartman, the final two finishers of 2018. This group – elite in another way – proves that tenacity, hard work, and believing in yourself will get you to the finish line.

Thank you, New York Road Runners, for celebrating all the participants of the New York City Marathon, especially the Final Finishers. A two-hour marathon runner has a very different race than a five-hour marathoner or a 9-hour runner. But every runner and every walker is an athlete, regardless of how long it takes them to complete the race.

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