I live by the Texas State Capitol, and the Austin marathon encapsulates my neighborhood. On race days, I stay put or walk instead of drive. But last month, I was teaching a class and I had to find a way out. I inched towards 15th street, hoping I could get to the highway. I spotted a clump of spectators with signs, yet cars were on the street. I got closer and saw the tail vehicle behind the final runner.
She wasn’t running. She was walking and she looked miserable. Fifteen plus miles, who could blame her? Still, I heard the cheers— “Come on Kayleigh! You can do this!”
A cluster surrounded her, pulling for her. The pace car inched at about 2 miles per hour. Kayleigh crawled forward. Her head was down, and she probably didn’t see the Capitol ahead. But her sign holders knew the way. They knew how close she was and they weren’t going to let her quit.
I was moved. I almost pulled over to let the image of those signs soak in. That moment’s power resonated. Immediately, I thought of my family and called my sister. “Rachel, I have to tell you what I just saw.” I explained the image. “Rachel, you are one of my sign holders. Thank you so much for showing up when I didn’t feel like moving. When the crawl of life felt straining. Thank you for believing in me, when I lost sight of the forward.”
At my writing class, aptly named: Write. Submit. Support, I shared the “sign holders” metaphor with my students and said, “Those people didn’t have to be there. I am sure they had many other things to do that day, but they showed up.”
My mentor Bethany Hegedus, owner of the Writing Barn, framed the sign-holding significance, saying, “They wanted to be there. They wouldn’t be there if they didn’t want to be.” An hour before, I saw the supporters laboring in a way. They were there out of obligation, of course with love, but obligation all the same. Bethany’s simple statement told me a lot. I heard “Rebekah, your sign holders want to be there. We want to be there for you. It’s not a burden. It’s an honor, joy and a privilege.” Many encourage me in my writing and the “untied bows” of my dad’s health. Kayleigh’s weekend was another hospital marathon for my family. It’s easy to feel like the need for support can wear on the supporters. Her words affirmed the mantra of true “sign holders.”
After Bethany's comment, a writing partner mentioned this article providing back-story on 26-year-old Kayleigh Williamson. She trained with RunLab Austin, worked tirelessly and became first runner with special needs to finish the Texas half marathon! This beautiful article, courtesy of Runner’s World, shares her success story.
It might sound hokey, but I would like you to close your eyes for a second. Think about the tougher times in life, when taking steps and continuing to move were a struggle. Who was beside you? Who believed in you and showed up, not because they had to, but because they wanted to?
When have you barely been able to see the road, much less know the route, but you have had people cheering you forward? How do you hope to hold the sign for others?
Your Brave Tutu (You’re Brave Too-Too)
-Take courage in delight. Discover power in small moments.