Dear Beth Salinger:

{ Monday, June 2, 2008 }

Thank you for your work as the Hospital Hill Race Director. I can't imagine what's involved in that job -- corralling sponsors, superintending the course, tracking funds, advertising, managing registration -- there must be fifty other things you have to think about and touch in the course of the day to pull off an event of this size.

I hope you hit the 5,000-runner mark. Partly because of the money that represents going to local charities. Partly because of how cool it will be to run with 4,999 other people. I'm buzzed thinking about watching the fast 10-K runners come in (those that don't beat me across the line! Times are fantastic!) and cheering in the half-marathoners. And why am I buzzed?

Because you, Beth Salinger, keep e-mailing me the registrant these fantastic notes reminding me how great it is to be a runner. I've paid attention to your training tips and heeded your advice. I've cut back this week and calmed down listening to you say it's normal to worry whether you've trained hard enough to finish.

Thank you for your cheerful and competent voice in the e-mails. Thank you for caretaking this fantastic event. I'm sure I'm not the only one in this race for whom even competing is a watershed moment. Two years ago I didn't believe I belonged out there -- and I mean, in life, participating. Much less running. Because of my body's size, I didn't believe this wonderful thing could be meant for me, too.

It's been a long journey to Hospital Hill, fought out literally step by step. And a big part of the reason I'm here is because of runners who, as you do, give respect and dignity and inclusion to all of us who are training and trying, no matter where we come from or what our limitations are on any given day. Thank you for welcoming me into your world, and telling me to put my chin up and shoulders back, because it's my world too.

And thank you, with an enormous, arm-sweeping, ridiculous-smiling thanks, for the tremendous work you and your staff (look at the smiles in that picture!) have done on this race. You all inspire me, not just as a runner, but to keep finding work and projects I love as much as you all look and sound like you love this. It's incredible, and I wish for you happy sponsors, perfect race day weather, that you all keep the high of success for weeks to come.

Ann Elizabeth

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