During this past year's NYC Half marathon, I even scolded them (yes, during the race!) for not having a camera out and then took about two minutes of race time to wait until my husband fumbled around for the camera to get a pic. Well, come on. It WAS Times Square after all and traffic was stopped for me (OK...and several thousand others) to have "the moment" of running in the Big Apple. Ironically, my husband didn't capture the picture anyway so I have no photographic memories of that event.
Eileen as the one who died from cancer earlier this year. I hear her voice often and still follow her advice, so I found myself in DC yesterday. I ran the 10K and had a list of about ten other runners to track, mostly friends from a local running club.)
After running the 10K, I had ample time to walk what seemed like several miles to get my medal and pick up my bag from the UPS men who kindly kept it safe in Truck 42. I must have won the prize for the most stuffed bag because I brought all that I thought I might need for an afternoon of spectating.
So, I gathered my stuff, switched around some clothing, hit the Portajohns (with NO lines!) and meandered back to as close to the finish line as possible. Foolishly, I thought that--having participated in the 10K, the young Marines would treat me like royalty and allow me back into the finish area for runners. Um, no. They directed me to stands and a viewing area a short distance away from the finish line. Unfortunately, peons like me could only get so close because a VIP area surrounded the immediate area at the finish line. (Side note: I have not been to MCM before, but I wonder if that is a reaction to the Boston marathon bombings. I assume the highly visible police officers carrying large weapons also reflected the changes to marathon races. MCM publicly announced changes in reaction to that event in other policies that affected bag checks and what runners could carry on the course.)
|View of bottom of hill before last .2k|
Shortly before the winner arrived, the media truck came into view. The Philadelphia Duck (land and sea vehicle) dropped off the reporters and camera people at the bottom on the last hill so they had to sprint (with their equipment and probably no training) the last .2 miles of the course to beat the first finisher. And, speaking from experience, it's not an easy hill. Nor, I assume, is it a piece of cake to race an elite marathoner!
|The media race|
Luckily, I persevered and got to the fence before the first two were expected. But hold on now....everyone was leaning over the fence and I couldn't even see down the stretch. Plus, there were too many runners to be able to focus down the hill to get a heads up on who was close.
|The great pic of my friends' backs|
Yet, I still missed some of them.
Last week, I had seen two funny signs on Facebook and chuckled at them, but now know them to be true. The first is this.
A good race spectator has to be quite focused on his or her target and must stay vigilant until the runner passes by. After the race, I overheard a man say, "My wife and kids missed me THREE TIMES in this race. They were at places where it should have been easy to see me, but they didn't. One time it was because they were cold and went to get hot chocolate. She even showed me the receipt to prove it."
I get both sides of that one. I thought I had enough food but for some reason must have missed putting my protein bars in my gargantuan bag. A few times I thought about asking the others smooshed in beside me if they had any random picnic items to share, but decided to suck it up. I also knew if I left a) I would never get my spot back and b) miss one or more of the runners I wanted to see.
And I am in solidarity with this woman:
Yes, I ran the 10K (and even managed to PR), but I am stiff and sore today. Methinks it's more because of the spectating than the running!
But, with all the trials and tribulations comes the benefit of seeing the nearly 30,000 people finish the race. Each and every one of them had a story to tell.
Because it was the Marine Corps marathon, many of the runners had tribute signs for a service member who had died in combat. There were numerous hand crank wheelchairs whose mostly young drivers had lost one or both legs. Other wounded warriors ran with prosthetic running limbs. Still others carried American flags and shouted, "USA" and "America" as they went by. Although most of the runners reported high noise level, I can tell you that doubled when one of these folks passed by.
Then, there were those carrying more than just the burden of their grief or injury. There were a good number of service members who carried rucksacks that had 30 plus pounds or more in them. Or, the people who ran with full-sized flags or other mementos. Folks, it's tough enough to run 26.2 miles much less add to that by carrying an oversized object. My spectator aches and pains could never compare.
I also cheered every time a "Team Hoyt" or similar team ran by pushing someone in a specially made wheelchair. One of the boys being pushed pumped his arms and smiled so broadly, it made the crowd cheer even harder.
Two runners were tethered to another runner in the middle who had "blind runner" on the back of his shirt.
Then, there was the "regular folk" some dressed in costume, many with their names taped onto their shirts and others who ran for charity to raise funds. One man was dressed as a Redskins player and juggled three footballs as he went along. They came in all ages and sizes. Lots of the runners carried cameras and captured the crowd at the finish line to remember their victory over the 26.2 miles.
Some had so much energy they jumped and waved their arms to encourage the crowd to cheer louder. Others showed the signs of wear, including a woman who almost collapsed at the first timing mat until she was helped by two medics to cross the second mat. Another gentleman tripped and was assisted by three other runners to get up. One of those runners stayed with the man until they both crossed the line together. (As I indicated in an earlier blog article, runners tend to show many kindnesses and support to other runners.)
I have vivid pictures of many of the finishers in my mind. And, I could empathize with whatever they were feeling at the moment. It was quite emotional to see the faces and hear the support from the crowd. And, I now know that spectators have a tough job too on race day. But, in the end, it's worth it on both sides of the fence.
So, tell me--what is your favorite spectator story--as the spectator or the runner?
Catch you later at the back of the pack. (Or, maybe even in the spectator gallery!)