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I wrote and rewrote this email three times. I guess I needed inspiration to hit at the right moment, and it did as I was running in the Columbus Half Marathon yesterday.

The first half of the race I was feeling great. I was beating my planned time, the cold didn’t bother me, and spectators were out in full force. When I saw one spectator’s poster around mile 8 as I started to feel a little wobbly, I knew I had the message. The sign said: REMEMBER YOUR WHY.

My WHY was to have a fun race. To enjoy 2-ish hours running. At that point, I wasn’t enjoying it too much. I was torn between pushing as hard as I had been for the first half, likely resulting in serious pain, or slowing down and enjoying myself. That’s when I decided I could slow down.

It was time to OWN my race.

Similar inspiration is what I was seeking as I was running one day in the late summer. I was mid-way through a 9-mile training run on a brutally hot, humid day and the running path and parks were busy. As I was approaching people along the path, all I wanted to do was say:

“Can you please cheer for me? Don’t you see I’m dying here? Come on, help a runner out! I’m almost home.”

I wanted them to know that I was on mile 6 of this brutal 9-mile run and their encouragement would mean the world to me.

But no one cheered. No one doused me with water. No one really noticed me at all.

And that was when the “ah-ha” hit me. The people on the running path had no idea whether I was on my first or tenth mile. It didn’t matter to them whether I was a new runner training for my first race or if I was simply out for a daily workout. Likewise, I had no idea if they were out for a leisurely stroll or if this was their first time out of the house after an illness or injury. I didn’t know their story and they didn’t know mine.

We were each running our OWN race.

As I was running with 18,000 other people yesterday, I realized that we all have a “why” for our race. Some were out for the first time checking something off their bucket list. Others were veteran runners. Some were running for a cause. Others were running for their own lives.

The difference between my summer training run and yesterday’s race is that we had people cheering us on. Complete strangers came out and rallied for us. They gave high 5s. And donuts. (Seriously – I took the donut at mile 12!)

How often are you on the final stretch of a project or close to your next promotion and all you want is a little cheering squad? At the same time, how often do you look at other people, envious of their new job or project assignment, without knowing that this was the final stretch of their marathon?

We are all running a race. We are all at different points of that race. Some of us have recently crossed a finish line, when others are only lacing up their shoes.

Whether you’ve got a cheering squad at your side or not – OWN your race.

What would it be like if you could simply cheer others along – whether they are at the start line or the finish line?

I also bring up the idea of supporting one another in context of a campaign that was launched as part of the marathon, which benefits Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The campaign is called #onoursleeves in recognition of mental illness in children. Child or not, because the mind is a tricky thing, you don’t know the race – and often – uphill climb – others are facing. Let’s cheer for one another as we run this race, and let’s also be okay asking for help and extending a hand to those who need it.

Will you join me in cheering for one another even when we are oblivious to the course of one another’s race? This might help make our big world feel like a smaller place. It might also be the encouragement we each need to OWN our race.



Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.

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