I’ve always loved the purpose of Rotary. To bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. This purpose is what originally inspired me to join Club 29.
A few weeks back, I experienced this purpose in such a meaningful way, as did many of you. Over the past 20 years, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon has grown into a huge part of our community. In addition to honoring the victims and survivors of the April 19th bombing, it also draws in runners from around the world, as well as volunteers from all over the state. In fact, this year’s race was supported by more than 3,000 volunteers! Many of those volunteers came from right here; from our own Club 29.
For this year’s marathon, I spent Saturday and Sunday mornings cheering on runners at different designated cheer stations. Our group was there at 4:00 AM to set up our station for the first phase of runners. Some of us were setting up speakers and lights to help energize the runners, while others were preparing snacks and drinks for all the other spectators and new friends we were about to make. We were all eager to be a part of such an emotional and uniting event.
The first flash of runners were serious and focused on their pace to get to the finish line. Their faces were determined as they flew by without distraction. We acknowledged how meaningful their drive to perform and bring greatness was to this symbolic event. The next group of runners, the largest group overall, were running side-by-side with their friends and more interested in the comradery of the moment. We could feel their spark grow as the music gave them an extra pump in their stride as well as some great dance moves.
Then came the most memorable pack of participants: the ones that never set out to win. They were there to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Their hearts absorbed the energy and excitement from the groups cheering them on. It was the perfect back-and-forth of us serving them and them serving us. Even the spectators drew upon the excitement from the lively music and the smiles on the runners faces as they pounded the pavement in unity. I stood back and took it all in. The kids on shoulders waving to the runners. The struggling racers that dug deep to continue. The volunteers giving all the encouragement they could muster. The cheering crowd in the background. This was their service to each other.
The part that amazed me was how many runners thanked us for being there. It was amazing how a few hours of our time was received so greatly, and by so many. That is one of the greatest parts about serving others; knowing that you made a difference. The impact of our presence to those runners was felt instantly, and it was fantastic!
Another great aspect of service is how there are so many different facets in how we can serve. From working the packet pick up at the expo, to water and cheering stations along the course, or even handing out medals at the finish line. Volunteers from our community were building peace and goodwill. These volunteers greeted runners from around the world and showed them what Oklahoma has to offer. Now THAT is the Rotary spirit!