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The best inspiration comes from strangers
Journal sports reporter Chhun Sun put on his running shoes and participated in his first ever 5K event during the Running of the Warriors at Cal State Stanislaus on Saturday. - photo by ANDREA GOODWIN / The Journal
I had just pounded out the opening mile of my first 5K run when a serious dilemma popped in front of my face. Maybe the thought also crossed the minds of the other runners. Well, probably except for those superhumans — also known as the Cal State Stanislaus runners — who do this kind of stuff as warm-up.
I wanted to stop. Not because I’m a quitter. No, because I’m a nature lover and I wanted to enjoy the scenery. I wanted to feel the texture of the grass, preferably while I’m sleeping on it. Life underneath the trees appeared so lovely.
Then again, I knew what my mind was trying to do. It was making excuses. It didn’t want me to go any further, as if waking up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday was an easy effort. But I couldn’t let it win.
I wanted to finish this 5K run called the Running of the Warriors, a fundraiser organized by the CSU Stanislaus men’s and women’s cross country teams. For so many years, I had put off a run like this. Friends have pressured me to run more often, saying I own a runner’s build. Yes, I’m skinny enough to sway in the wind, but this isn’t exactly like concluding that someone over 7-feet tall can probably dunk a basketball.
I get tired easy. And I was tired on Saturday, begging for a stop or nap. But I had gone too far, as the starting line near the front entrance of Warrior Arena became a distant memory and the music playing earlier as a form of energy boost for the 50-plus runners was a couple worlds away.
And just when I wanted to quit, I heard an interesting series of noises that felt so honest, so encouraging.
The cheers came from strangers, who were pulling along the runners with their imaginary hands from the side of the race course. They didn’t have to do this, of course. I never thought how much their support really meant until it was intended for me. I have covered a number of races as a sportswriter and I’ve been a bit naïve to think that cheering actually works, believing a runner has completely zoned out after the start and all he or she wants to do is finish.
They were also the same ones who cheered on the CSU Stanislaus runners, who started a minute after everyone else but still managed to catch up and surpass the majority of us within the first 400 meters, going on to set benchmarks for the upcoming season.
So, I knew I couldn’t stop. Quitting became a bully I had to conquer, and I was headed toward the 2-mile mark when it hit me: Exhaustion. I really wanted to stop. The realization that I didn’t prepare very much for this race was apparent. The night before, I logged two miles on the treadmill, wiped the sweat off my face and thought it was enough.
Then came inspiration: I was nearing the end of this journey when a runner passed me and didn’t stick out his tongue in celebration. He said, “Keep going, buddy.” Those words are worth $1 million when your throat is as dry as the Sahara Desert, when your knees ache and when your mind is saying, “Just drop to the ground. You not only get to rest but you get to enjoy this beautiful campus from the ground up. We both win.” But I kept running.
With only a couple hundred feet to go, I anticipated the finish line, the people cheering, the music, the free cups of water, the soft grass, the glory. And it was done.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.