I have so much catching up to do that I hardly even know where to begin!!!! We have basically spent the last several months in transition. I have some updates planned on our transition and life in South Florida, but today I am doing a fun guest post!
A friend of mine from Maryland is working on building up her writing portfolio and had been wanting to write about a little something about the topic of being a marathon spectator. Running a marathon from the perspective of the significant other….I loved the idea!!! So without further ado, here is her marathon experience.
I’m a non-runner…married to a marathon runner. I’ve made many attempts at becoming a runner, but I tend to be one of those people who always feels as though I don’t have enough time to do everything, so clocking countless hours training for the “privilege” of pushing my body to its limit ranks low on my priority list. Don’t get me wrong, I admire marathon runners. They have strength and determination I do not possess. The hard work, commitment, and mental mindset it takes to train to run 26.2 miles is truly beyond me. However, I do like to think I have a role in my husband’s success as a marathoner, and since I can only speak from a spectator’s perspective, I want to offer some insight into our experience. Perhaps it will create a new appreciation for the marathon runner supporters or at least serve as advice to newbie spectators. Here’s how it typically begins for us. “Hey, Hon. Can you get online and register me for the Chicago Marathon? Registration closes this weekend. I think it would be a great trip for the family.” Here we go…
- Try to sound excited that your runner has registered for another marathon.
- Don’t get mad when you see the registration fee and discover that he also needs to buy another pair of hundred dollar shoes.
- Purchase extra groceries and Gatorade. He will be especially hungry and thirsty for the next few months.
- Wash smelly running gear in HOT water with baking soda added to the detergent.
- Don’t get annoyed when he falls asleep early each night.
- Don’t get grossed out when his toenail falls off.
- Try not to get stressed when he asks everyone to join him for a fun-filled weekend away during a busy time of the year amidst work, school, homework, and sports.
Our most recent adventure was in October for the Chicago marathon. Due to a special event at our children’s school, we didn’t leave our hometown, northwest of Baltimore, until close to 2pm on Friday. We squeezed luggage, cooler, and three kids into the back of our Volkswagen. Chris insisted that we take the car in lieu of the roomier truck in order to save on gas. It wouldn’t have been too bad, except that our 16-year-old is 6’2” and happened to have a terrible cold at the time, so he was hacking and sneezing the entire trip. Aside from that, the drive to Boston was wonderful, as we are a family that truly loves road trips! Given our busy schedules, forced time together in a confined space is just what we need to reconnect every now and then, so we had plenty of good laughs (and a few squabbles, of course) along the way. After a few stops for cold medicine, tissues, gas and food, and a very brief overnight stay, we were excited to be in Chicago for the first time ever on Saturday afternoon.
It’s that fun event before every race where your runner gets his bib and shirt while the kids run from one vendor booth to the next gathering free chapstick, gel packs, cowbells, energy bars, posters, and protein shake mixes that sit unused in the pantry. Fortunately, there’s usually a free drawstring cinch sack giveaway to hold it all. And if we’re especially lucky, there may even be a wheel to spin to try to win a free water bottle to add to our collection. We typically spend some time roaming around the apparel section, sometimes purchasing something from the clearance rack of all the leftover shirts from previous years’ races. Finish up with a photo in front of the pretend “finish line” backdrop, and we’re off for food.
It was time for an authentic Chicago deep dish pizza. Only – not for hubby. He didn’t want an upset stomach for the race, so he chose a “safer” alternative while the kids and I guiltily consumed the cheesiest pizza ever! Chris headed straight back to the hotel to get off his feet in preparation for the big race, and the rest of us took a quick walk down “Magnificent Mile” to pick up a few souvenirs and pay far too much for a bagel and banana that Chris insisted on having for the morning. Why do we never think of these things before leaving home!?
I woke at the crack of dawn to make the trek to the start line with Chris. We joined a crowd of runners for a quiet, 30-minute brisk walk to Millennium Park. Since non-runners were not allowed past a certain point, I wished him well and walked another 30 minutes back to wake the kids. In past marathons, the kids and I have had issues getting to the right place at the right time. I was determined that this time would be different. Not only had I tracked my runner via text messages, I picked up a course map at the expo and spent an hour planning our day…the places and times we would get to see Chris along the race course to cheer him on. I even used colored highlighters. I was gonna do it right this time! I grew anxious, though, as the kids were harder to get moving than I thought (especially the sick one!). Typical…we left the hotel late, so we actually had to RUN the 7 blocks to where he should be crossing nearest to our hotel (with no medal for our efforts)! Then it was time for a routine my children and I have grown so accustomed to. Here’s how it’s done…
“SPECTATOR SIDELINE ROUTINE”
- Push your way through crowds of onlookers to get as close to the sideline as possible.
- Shove smaller children to the front. People tend not to get as angry at children as they would adults, so this is your opportunity to have the little ones wiggle their way between strangers to claim a good spot for the family. Be careful not to lose them in the process. (If you’re pushing a stroller at this point, good luck! My hubby didn’t start running marathons until my youngest was out of one, so I never had to deal with that.)
- Listen carefully to conversations around you for clues as to whom will soon be leaving their spot. As soon as you hear other spectators cheer and see them waving to their runner, move swiftly in their direction. This is your opportunity to shimmy closer to the race track and spread the kids out along the barriers to claim precious spectator real estate instead of standing on tiptoes in the back. If I could pay to reserve a spot, I probably would!
- Scan the sea of runners. Quickly glance at every runner, trying to see each and every one. This part requires concentration. In your head, recite what your runner is wearing over and over so that you’re sure not to miss him (“white shirt grey shorts…white shirt grey shorts”).
- Remind yourself that at the next race, he should wear a neon color or tie a helium balloon to himself to make this part easier.
- Remind children to yell loudly when they see dad (or mom, aunt, grandma) run by.
- Ignore your aching back as your muscles tense up when you begin thinking you may have missed your runner.
- Obsess over the fact that you forgot to put sunscreen on everyone, so now you’ll all probably get skin cancer.
- Worry more now as you go over the schedule in your head, calculating the times again and again (“The start time was 7:30…passed 10k…he should be here by now…Where is he? Why is he not here? Did I miss him? I must have missed him!”)
I was on Step #9 when I said to the kids, “He’ll be here any second because he passed the 10k mark about 15 minutes ago.”
“I think you’re at the wrong spot,” said a guy in next to me. “We’re standing prior to the 10k mark. Maybe you want to be over there. UGH! I messed up again, and there was no way to get to the next block because we couldn’t cross the line of the runners headed UPtown on LaSalle! How frustrating it was to see those runners’ heads bobbing up and down, knowing one of them was Chris’s, and we couldn’t get to him. I started to panic, fearing that this will be a repeat of the Marine Corps Marathon where we missed him completely – didn’t even make it to the finish line after a few harrowing subway rides around a very crowded Washington DC. (The subway doors almost closed and separated me from my children in the mass of people…scary!)
“What should we do?” I asked the kids. “Let’s hail a cab and catch him at the halfway mark.” Cab driver: “Nope. I can’t get you there. That’s the crazy thing about this race. See?” He pointed to the map and rambled on, but all I heard was that we wouldn’t be able to see Chris anywhere on the course except at the end! Really, our only option was to catch him at the finish, but we needed to eat first. Lest you think that this part of the day was enjoyable, let me assure you that it was not because it was time for our “Mid-Marathon Routine” where we disagree on where to eat, think we have plenty of time, and end up behind schedule. This was especially frustrating because even our attempt at finding the finish line failed due to some construction, blocked access point, or something else that I must have subconsciously blocked out of my memory. We couldn’t even see him at the finish line, so in our effort to get as close to the finish as we could, we headed to Michigan Avenue where we repeated our oh-so familiar “Spectator Sideline Routine.”
STRIKE 3…YOUR’E OUT!
At one point, my daughter dropped her cowbell onto the racetrack and couldn’t even bend down to retrieve it because we were packed in like sardines against the race barrier. My youngest was able to reach it, but it didn’t matter anyway. Chris came slowly jogging up Michigan on the complete opposite side of where we were standing, and despite our cowbells and loudest yelling, he neither saw nor heard us. Figures.
“END OF MARATHON ROUTINE”
- Feel guilty that your runner completed another entire marathon without ever seeing one familiar face to cheer him on and offer support.
- Figure out where the “reception area” is.
- Hustle in that direction to congratulate your runner.
- Plan out what you will say to your runner about why he had no personal cheerleaders and try to convince him that you REALLY WERE there.
- Locate the exit spot where runners funnel out after crossing the finish line.
- Begin another session of standing, watching, waiting, and hoping you didn’t miss him…AGAIN.
- Check your cell phone obsessively for calls/texts in case you did miss him…AGAIN.
There must have been more than one runner exit spot. I got a call from a strange number. Chris’s cell phone wasn’t working, so he borrowed another runner’s phone. “Meet me at the inflatable arch,” he said. Great! We were right near one, so we waited…and waited… We had no way to contact him and contemplated just going back to the hotel, but we eventually found him. Here’s the part where we try to act all excited, upbeat, and congratulatory when we’d just about had it! But I know better than to whine to a person who just ran 26.2 miles! The truth is, as hard as our day seemed to us, I don’t know what it’s like to put my body to the test like marathoners.
- Sympathize as your runner analyzes what went wrong that caused him to not get his PR.
- Hope that he will wise up and trade marathon running for something more sane now that he’s in his mid-40’s and has a bad back.
- Thank God when he doesn’t, but instead, says those inevitable words… “Hey, can you get online and register me for…”
So, after experiences like those in Chicago and DC, you may wonder…What’s my reason for thanking God that Chris signed up for another marathon? Well, call me sappy, but I actually cried the first time I stood at a finish line cheering runners on. It was Chris’s first half-marathon in Frederick, Maryland. I had never been to a running race before in my life, and as I stood at the finish line (yes…we actually made it to the finish that day), I was overcome with emotion. My three children quickly got on board, and my heart melted at hearing my sweet babies yell, “You can do it! You’re almost there! Don’t give up!” That day, we saw people of all shapes, sizes, nationalities, ages, and physical conditions cross the finish line. Some sprinting with fists pumping in the air… Others nearly crawling with tears running down their cheeks. Yet they all had one thing in common. They knew how to put their mind to something, set a goal, and then plan, train, work, and sacrifice to meet that goal despite the obstacles. One pushed a wheelchair across. One grabbed her baby to carry across. Couples joined hands to cross. One was carried away on a stretcher before being able to cross. They run for fitness, friendship, philanthropy. They run because they can. They also run to inspire others, which must work because just like after I hear a really good sermon at church, I leave marathons feeling like I can conquer the world, or at least make it to the finish line to cheer! After all, we all have our own goals! What’s yours?
About the Author: Dawn Wooden lives in Maryland with her wonderful husband and three beautiful children. Aside from writing, she is passionate about her faith and her family. She spends most of her free time as taxi driver, cheerleader, or motivator (i.e. nag). Her family loves sports, traveling, movies, but, most of all, simply spending time together. Here is a link to her writer’s website: http://dawnwooden.naiwe.com/
I LOVE reading about how a marathon inspires even a non-runner!!!!
Who do you have as part of your running support team? :)-My husband and kids have always been my number 1 supporters and fans, but I also LOVE all the great supporters and friends that I have met through social media!
Hope you have a great Monday!