The Miracle is not that I finished, the miracle is that I had the courage to start. John Bingham

This has been a big week for me.

After organizing Podcamps – digital media community unconferences – for the past few years, we were asked to organize the Open sessions at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York City.  This was a tremendous experience that felt a bit like graduation day.  I think we found that you can create intimate learning and sharing spaces within a big conference- and how to engage, even as others found the larger conference colder and less friendly than they may have hoped.  For those that attended, it was a smaller and more intimate podcamp-like experience with some of the most compelling content, ranging from Augmented Reality, Eric Skiff and Bre Pettis talking about NY Resistor and great projects like the Makerbot coming out of it, to talks by Julien Smith of Trust Agents fame, Mitch Joel, best-selling author of Six Pixels of Separation, JC Hutchins, Dave and Lynette Young- and more- I could list the whole schedule here, every session truly worth every minute of your attention and time.  (Special thanks to Li Evans for pinch-hitting at the last moment…)

Then, on Sunday, November 22, I walk/ran the Philadelphia half-marathon.

Having been a desk jockey for quite some time, starting to get in shape and train for this event began in August.  I started working out with a trainer twice a week, and walking almost daily on a treadmill.  I’ve made a lot of progress in a short period of time.  Today, the day after, I am reaping the benefits in any and all shortcomes in my training.  And this is all my fault, of course- not doing enough course-like road work in advance, not doing enough distance, not realizing that all the signs about “pain is a sign of weakness and fear leaving the body” would have infinitely more meaning to me today than they did when I saw the signs along the course at mile 8 or so.

At 43, the fact that I took on this challenge at all is the real miracle, as John Bingham said.  I certainly don’t expect that I’m going to become a world class runner any time soon.  But I am working my way now through physical as well as mental challenges in ways I could not have fully predicted or appreciated beforehand.

And what I’m learning from all of this is that friendship and community is REALLY important, online and offline.

Friends came to NYC under their own steam, paying for their own hotels, to speak at a conference because I asked them to.  I am grateful to all of them, because the success is the sum of everyone’s effort- I just got the opportunity to provide the platform.

The success in finishing the half marathon also had a large amount to do with friends.  Elizabeth Stitson and Letisha Baldwin were also crazy enough to sign up to do this with me, and make it to the end.  Elizabeth was bleeding through her shoe like Curt Shilling in the World Series, but still made it happen.  Jen Yuan let me stay with her in Philly and was out there to cheer us on throughout the course, which was just terrific!  I tweeted out my progress which also went to my Facebook page, and a huge variety of friends from across the country sent on encouraging messages that I got when I needed them most- those times where the temptation to sit down, to stop moving were like a siren’s song.  It’s amazing how that cheering and encouragement, from friends online, and even from strangers on the side of the course- the high fives and more- really make a difference when you are fighting pain like you have never felt before.

I have a suspicion that like childbirth, the pain I feel now will soon recede into a memory.  But the support of my community when I needed it most won’t soon be forgotten.

Like John Bingham, for me, the finishing and doing well were all about keeping momentum going once I got started.  Taking on these challenges in the first place, and the audacity to dream that they could be accomplished took more courage and replacing fear with optimism.  (Okay, sometimes also with a certain naive-ness and not knowing how difficult or painful it would be when I decided it was a great idea…)

Bu t whether the challenge has been physical, mental, or largely a combination of both, the strength to get through has been helped tremendously by my friends and community.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I truly have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and will be thinking of you all on that day when we count our blessings.  More than ever, I feel truly grateful and thankful for a community that is so supportive, giving, kind, and a fountain of possibility and encouragement.  That’s a lot to be thankful for.