I can’t believe how much fun I had NOT running at a race this weekend.
When I was invited to go to Vegas this past weekend to help out Team Lifeline, I had mixed feelings. Sure, Team Lifeline is incredibly important to me. Still, most of the attraction of Las Vegas is lost on me. Besides, I wondered what it would be like to be at a race on the sidelines. In the end, loyalty won out, and I agreed to go.
I spent the entire race with one of the other volunteers, Moshe. Moshe, who was also my roommate, is who I wanted to be when I was younger; he’s cool, laid back, self-confident and funny. Best of all, at least from my standpoint, I feel like I can be myself around him. I don’t know if I am allowed to admit this, but sometimes being a rabbi can be a drag. I feel the pressure to live up to some version of what people (read I) expect rabbis to be. Around Moshe, I am able to be my imperfect self.
We were asked to be out on the course manning a special Team Lifeline drink station. This was necessary as the sports-drink being served at the Vegas Marathon/Half Marathon is not kosher, a no-no for the many Orthodox runners who are part of the team. Throughout the race we traveled from spot to spot providing Powerade for our team (as well as to a few other thirsty runners).
What stands out about the night, and what makes it worthy of writing about (assuming you’ve stuck with me this far) was our unofficial role. Both Moshe and I have run in many races and we know how much we value crowd support. For much of the race, the crowds (if I can even use that word) were thinner than my hairline. Those who were there, were mostly of the golf crowd mentality, with polite applause and little more. We realized that we would have to be the crowd for EVERYONE.
We spent the night cheering in a manner, that, had my own children been there, they would have filed for divorce. We sang, rang a cow bell, shouted people’s names, made up team names, lost our voices and got people to smile. We were in so many places and acted so crazy, that runners recognized us from earlier in the race. We cheered for our team and every other team as well. We cheered for the runners and the walkers, for the fast people and the slow ones. We gave high-fives and told people they looked great, even when we were stretching the truth. We stuck around until the last walker passed. Then, almost as tired as if we had run ourselves, we went back for the post race party.
Our stories won’t involve blisters, PRs, or bloody unmentionable body parts. Still, we had a blast and, perhaps more importantly, added to the runner’s race experience. If perhaps we exaggerated slightly in calling ourselves the best show in Vegas, for what we were charging, we were not far off.
As for me, I am hoping that tonight I can get back to running, but for at least one night, I was happy to be on the side.