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Sea of Humanity

February 13, 2011

Originally written as a newsletter article on 6/14/09.

We’ve been graced with daily rainfall the last two weeks–most welcome in our semi-arid Colorado climate. These showers follow 9 inches of moisture during April and May. The wildflowers have responded with a stunning display and the foothills are carpeted with a luxurious green.

This unusual precipitation is a frequent topic of conversation, eliciting smiles and relaxed body language. The generous rainfall has people, like wildflowers, responding with joy.

One recent overcast morning, I found myself outdoors amid 54,000 people. Thankfully, the rain was not expected to begin until the afternoon. As I blended with the crowd, I wasn’t sure exactly why, after 9 years in Colorado, I decided to walk in the annual Bolder Boulder 10K race. However, I savored the cool and blessedly dry weather as I joined my wave near the starting line.

My group of about 300 walkers was one of the final waves to begin. As we eased forward, a memory of a race I had seen in Kansas City 20 years ago flooded my senses.

One summer day in 1989, I received a notice on my door that a 4K race would pass in front of my house the coming weekend. That Saturday morning just after 7 am, the sound of hundreds of sneakers making contact with pavement filtered into my dream-space. I pulled on my robe and padded downstairs.

Still inhabiting the land between dreaming and waking, I stepped outside to resonate with this flowing river of people and felt an intense rush of emotion. Witnessing this amazing sea of humanity, moving as one, so beautiful, so full of life, I began to weep. I watched the young and old, bald and pony-tailed, robust and lithe, stern and smiling bodies as they passed by, and kept passing by, cascading through my  neighborhood. My response was similar to the joy I often feel watching the Olympics–the world gathered in peaceful, celebratory community.

In my robe, I watched and cheered with my neighbors until the last walker ambled by more than an hour later. I felt as if I had fallen in love with each and every person in the race that morning.

And now here I was at the Bolder Boulder starting line, joining these other walkers destined for Folsom Field 6 miles away. I wondered how I would feel as a participant rather than an observer. I also wondered how my body would respond without any training to speak of. Much to my relief, the relatively flat course was remarkably easy and we were entertained by 10 live bands, bagpipe players in kilts, belly dancers and by offers of donuts and beer! The atmosphere of the crowd was sheer joy.

After an hour and a half, my wave headed uphill to the field house. As soon as I stepped into the stadium, tears began to well. To my complete surprise, my wave of walkers arriving almost 4 hours after the race first began, was being cheered on by more than 15,000 people standing in the stadium, waving flags and brimming with enthusiasm at our entrance.

Spontaneously most of us began to jog in response to this outpouring of encouragement. We smiled and waved back in joyful astonishment as we floated around the track to the finish line. This beautiful sea of humanity opened their hearts to us and we basked in their love.

Later at the celebration’s close, as a singer offered his final notes, drops of delicious rain began to fall.

(Photo from video footage of Why Run, a documentary about running currently being edited. See trailer at




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